ari hest

Ari Hest came to Pittsburgh Wednesday night to kick off his Sunset Over Hope Street tour.  The new Sunset Over Hope Street CD released only a day earlier.

Ari Hest performed 16 songs, plus a 2 song encore in about a 1 hour and 25 minute set.  It was funny to hear Mr. Hest refer to songs in his catalog that were less than 10 years old as an “oldie”.  The new songs were just that, new to him and the audience, as his CD was just officially released the day before.  His third song in was the title track of the CD Sunset Over Hope Street.  We were also treated to such new songs as:  Until Next Time (technically an oldie from 2008 when Mr. Hest wrote and recorded a song once a week for 52 weeks, releasing them on his website to his fans on each Monday that year, leading to the 2009 release of Twelve Mondays) which got new treatment; A Good Look Around; One Track Mind (Mr. Hest played the solo version); Swan Song and as part of the encore an acoustic version of Business of America (a very timely song which has the memorable line “Oh that’s the system at work, Everybody’s a jerk”).

The “oldies” included:  Reason to Believe, Morning Streets, The Weight, Anne Marie (a song about an old ex-girlfriend that he loves to sing), When and If, Ride the Break (Mr. Hest substituted his current touring vehicle a Ford Explorer for the Honda Civic and substituted Pittsburgh for St. Louis but just couldn’t find something to rhyme with Pittsburgh), Bird Never Flies (the audience was invited to sing along on the lines “I won’t give you up, bird never flies”), the wicked I’ll Be There; Cranberry Lake (he invited an audience member to come up and sing with him and Karen did a great job!) and ending the set with probably one of his best known songs Dead End Driving.  The final song of the evening was inspired by Norah Jones I’ve Got You; which highlighted Mr. Hest’s vocal range.

Mr. Hest was joined on stage by the very talented Doug Yowell on drums and percussion.  I was probably watching Mt. Yowell more than Mr. Hest (who was alternating between guitar and keyboards).  Mr. Yowell was doing amazing things, including looping the music while providing sweet backing vocals.  The duo managed to sound almost like a whole band, thanks to Mr. Yowell’s magic.

The set was fresh.  Mr. Hest was engaging, sharing stories about his songs old and new.  This was not just a dress rehearsal the first night out in front of a live audience.  The new material really was combined well with the more familiar older tunes.

I read a review on line of Sunset Over Hope Street, in which Mr. Hest’s voice was compared to Springsteen and Marc Cohn.  When I told the woman next to me at the show that I had a copy of Sunset Over Hope Street; her first question was whether it sounded like Twelve Mondays or Mr. Hest’s older material.  My response was that it sounds like a better Ari Hest.  I’ve never fully understood the comparisons of Mr. Hest to other artists.  He writes well constructed mid-tempo songs about his life experiences.  He has a dry sense of humor that is reflected in the ironic twists his lyrics sometime take (“I’ll be there to make you miserable”).  Twelve Mondays was my favorite CD of 2009.  I believe Sunset Over Hope Street will make my best of 2011 list; maybe even find itself on the top spot.  We still have 10 months worth of new releases to look forward to this year.

Opening was singer-songwriter Ali Klaren.  She is a transplanted Pittsburgher.  She plays guitar and was joined on stage for a few songs by Miguel Hernandez.  He’s a lefty who played flamenco guitar solos that garnered appreciative applause from the audience.  Ms. Klaren’s 6-song 30-minute set included:  Fall, Closer and Blood of Everyone, which highlighted Mr. Hernandez on guitar.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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Singer-Songwriter Ari Hest  opened for The Clarks June 13th.  Hest brought his band, performing for nearly an hour, just a few days prior to his 30th birthday (June 16th).  Hest mentioned he would be back in Pittsburgh this fall.  This interview was conducted prior to that concert.

Barb WYEP's Sunday Mix Host (WYEP):  Hi Ari!  Thanks for taking the time to respond to some questions via email for the WYEP Music Blog!

Ari Hest (AH):  My pleasure Barb, thank you!

WYEP:  You were in Pittsburgh in March at Club Café, out on the road promoting your newly self released CD “Twelve Mondays”.  How did the tour go?  Have you reached a comfort level yet with the songs?

AH:  The tour was one of the best I've had in a long time. I hadn't been out with a band in a couple of years. I almost forgot how much fun that can be. The long drives from city to city don't seem as long when you're in the right environment. My only regret is that we didn't stay out longer. I think musically we were getting better and better with each show and unfortunately it had to end right when things were really going well. The crowds were great and I was pleasantly surprised at their knowledge of songs from 52, some of which i hadn't played live before we left.

WYEP:   Please tell us more about the ‘52’ Project that you embarked on during 2008 which led up to the recording of “Twelve Mondays”.  It was quite an ambitious project to write, record, produce and release one new song per week, for 52 weeks in a row and have your fans vote for those that would end up on “Twelve Mondays”.

AH: After leaving Columbia Records I knew I had to do something unique to stick out among the droves of singer/songwriters out there. I've always written a lot of music in my career but was never able to release it as quickly as i would've liked. An album every two years just didn't work for me. When i came up with the idea, i realized it was gonna be very difficult, but something about the challenge appealed to me. So for every monday of 2008, I recorded a new song and released in to subscribers to 52. For $20, anyone was able to get access to these songs as well as comment on them on the website built by my management. Earlier this year the subscribers voted on their favorite 12 songs and those songs appeared on "Twelve Mondays" remixed and, in some cases, re-recorded.

WYEP:  You wanted artistic control over your music, so do you have a new sense of freedom now?  Will you continue to self-release future recordings?

AH:  Definitely. I love the control as I am a control freak. As far as future recordings go, i'm open to seeing what's out there, but right now this system works for me and i have no intention of changing it up.

WYEP:You were on the inaugural Cayamo songwriters cruise in 2008, any chance you will return as a performer in 2010?

AH:  I really hope so. I had such a great time in 2008 and was bummed to miss last year's trip. What a great idea that boat is. It's the perfect vacation for music lovers. I wish it were up to me but I know the powers that be want to give some other musicians a chance to play as well, so we'll see.

WYEP:  Your next record is being produced by Alex Wong, who co-produced and arranged Vienna Teng’s most recent release “ Inland Territory ”.  When can we expect to hear some tracks from this effort?  Also how do you have anything left to write about after the ‘52’ Project?  You will also be doing some shows with Vienna Teng this summer, will this open up the chance for some collaboration on stage?

AH:  The time schedule has not been worked out yet but all i can say is I am truly excited and challenged to be working with such a talented musician as Alex. Vienna and I had our first show together last week and sang a bit on each other's material which was a treat. She's also a tremendous musician that I'm honored to play with each time.

WYEP:  The Amphitheatre at Station Square is situated along the Mon River and some railroad tracks. Well, sometimes trains go by during a performance. Do you have any songs to sing about trains?

AH:  "Dead End Driving"? "Ride The Brake"? Not exactly train songs but some of the lyrics fit. "The Weight" has a train beat, so hopefully the train will come by while we're playing that one.

WYEP:  I’ve always wanted to ask a singer-songwriter what it was like to record someone else’s song, especially when it was a hit for the other artist.  You do this amazing version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies “ on “The Green Room Sessions EP”. How did you choose that particular song to cover?  It really suits your style.

AH:  I didn't plan on it. I happened to hear "Little Lies" earlier that day on the radio and thought it might sound cool given a darker musical mood. It also happened to be around the time I began to do some home recording. Fleetwood Mac is a big influence. I learned to play guitar right around the time "The Dance" came out and it got me to listen to a lot of their previous albums. Incredible songwriters.

WYEP: Thanks for your time!

AH:  You got it Barb, thank you again!

Ari Hest belting out his last song 06.13.09 at The Ampitheatre at Station Square:

ari hest

Previous posts:

"Twelve Mondays" - A CD review: http://musicblog.wyep.org/2009/03/27/%e2%80%9ctwelve-mondays%e2%80%9d-%e2%80%93-a-cd-review/

03.17.09 Ari Hest concert review: http://musicblog.wyep.org/2009/03/17/ari-hest/

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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