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H.C. McEntire's new album 'Every Acre' grapples with grief, loss

H.C. McEntire's record is out Friday and there are upcoming shows at various venues across North Carolina, including Motorco in Durham in March.
Heather Evans Smith
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H.C. McEntire's record is out Friday and there are upcoming shows at various venues across North Carolina, including Motorco in Durham in March.

H.C. McEntire's new record is rooted in the soil of North Carolina and the rich soil of the heart.

The songs on Every Acre grapple with grief, loss, and links to land and loved ones. The record is out now and there are upcoming shows at various venues across the state including Motorco in Durham in March.

H.C. McEntire joined WUNC recently to talk about their latest work.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.

"Soft Crook" is about dealing with debilitating depression enhanced and magnified by the isolation of the pandemic... How did you make it through that time, and how does it look to you now when you look back at it?

"Yeah, I think shaking hands with it, you know, depression, is something that is like a companion. Getting to know it and like living with it works a lot better than ignoring it..."

Or trying to fight it.

"Yeah, right, exactly."

Does the creation of art and the songs on this record in this collection, did that help you?

"Well, I think the song you're speaking of particularly, 'Soft Crook,' you know, I wanted to write a chorus that was kind of giving myself permission to just put that out there. I'm not the only one to seek medication or seek counseling, or, if I'm already doing that — which I am and have been for years — it's okay to ask for help."

And being open about it can really help people go: "Oh, there are other folks feeling this. And I'm not alone in this struggle." And I think that's great.

"Well, thank you. I hope so."

"New View" illustrates the distances you cover on this record... Musically, you hail it as the most collaborative song on the record, how does everyone offer their contributions? And how did you decide what to keep — which take, which version, what winds up on the record?

"We went into the studio with six songs that were fully realized. Usually, you want nine or 10 songs on a record and I wanted to just keep some space and opportunity for us to collaborate like in the moment, which for me, I like plans I like to prepare, so this was keeping me on my toes."

It's a challenge...

"Yeah, but I felt like I was being guided into that experience into that challenge, and my bandmates Casey, Daniel, Luke, and the engineer producer, Missy, we just all embrace that. And this particular song, 'New View,' Luke wrote the guitar riff, sent it to me like on a voice memo, you know, a little bit of it, and I wrote a melody around it and we just kind of, we built it really while we were recording in the studio."

Did you like that?

"Yeah, I've never done that before. To me, it feels like there's a freshness like relying on instinct or that type of trust that you build. I've been playing with these guys for a long time now and relying on that and seeing what can happen if you just lean into that trust."

You sing, "it ain't easy kind of healing," on "Rows of Clover." ... Did that come from a sense of community that you get when you write with these people that you trust and know?

"Oh, 100%. You know, I was kind of lost with this song initially. And it was the first song that I wrote. Even in the studio, I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Maybe I was too far into it. And it took the rhythm section in Casey and Daniel just lay down something I never would have put with the experience I was describing — which is, you know, I'm talking about depression. I'm talking about just being in that state. And I think what's cool is the juxtaposition of that. And it really does resonate with the healing that happened for me."

That's the thing that makes you want to go back and listen again and again and again. Because there are layers to this record that you only uncover after the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth listen, or however far people are willing to go, there's something there for them.

"And I am experiencing that too. This record is still revealing itself to me."

H.C. McEntire's new record is called Every Acre. Find their upcoming shows, including performances in Raleigh and Durham, here.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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