Frontman James Hart Discusses Burn Halo’s Rise ‘Up From the Ashes’
Frontman James Hart and his band Burn Halo have much to be proud about with their second studio album, ‘Up From the Ashes,’ featuring the single ‘Tear It Down’ and the recently promoted track ‘Dakota.’
Music fans may know Hart from his lengthy career with rock band Eighteen Visions, but he continues his passion for music with Burn Halo as they promote their new and very collaborative album by going on the tour with Drowning Pool this summer.
While on the road, Hart checked in with Loudwire to discuss, music, friendships, influences and the difficulties of picking a band name.
Tell me a little about your new song ‘Dakota’ musically and lyrically.
Musically, that song came about kind of when we were in our early stages of writing the album. Our guitar player Brandon [Lynn] had a band that he was in a few years ago that was just a band for about a year and he had written this song and recorded music for it and he showed it to us back in May of 2010 and we really, really liked it.
There were some things that we needed to change about it just to fit what we were doing, but it was a good breath of fresh air because we were trying to force these songs that maybe you would have heard on the first album that weren’t us as songwriters collectively. We thought we were really holding ourselves back but this song really opened the door for us to be creative and be individuals, musically and artistically.
Lyrically the song is about depression, despair; it’s about somebody that lives inside their own prison and can’t get out; they refuse to accept the help of anyone around them that cares about them; they just continue to draw themselves into the dirt.
Do you guys have another single picked out from the album?
We’ve got a couple of really good ideas of what we would want to go with next in terms of radio. One song would be the title track, ‘Up From the Ashes.’ I feel like that’s a great rock song with high energy; it’s a really easy listen. Two other songs that come to mind are ‘Threw It All Away’ and ‘Stuck in a Rut.’ Both of those songs lyrically are just so relatable to your everyday person. We feel that they would be successful and maybe help people get through some things in life that they’re going through.
How would you describe the music of Burn Halo versus the music of your former band Eighteen Visions?
The first album was night and day different than anything I had done in Eighteen Visions; it was more of a standard, very traditional rock album with some very little metal influences on some of the guitars. On the new album, I really feel like it could have been the next Eighteen Visions album or it could have even been the Eighteen Visions album of 2006. I think it’s just got that edginess to it, it’s much much heavier than the last album and it’s just got that aggressive side to it that Eighteen Visions had, kind of like a metal swagger to the music. I think that’s a big part of who I was and who I still am today. I’m glad we made this album because it’s brought out a lot of those characteristics in me that I had bottled up for the last two years.
What inspired ‘Up From the Ashes’ and the cover of the album?
The music behind the whole album was just inspired by us individually, we really wanted our personality to shine through. The album name comes from what we’ve been through as a band in the last two to three years, a couple of member changes, we’ve gone through some peaks and some valleys, the ups and downs in life and just music in general, it’s tough out there sometimes, situations are thrown your way that you’re not always prepared for. You feel like sometimes you want to give up and throw in the towel but we really came together as a band and really rebuilt the name and what Burn Halo is and what we’re about and I don’t think we would have been able to do that with just another songwriter and the same approach we took on the last album. We just kind of feel like that we’ve been through all these issues and had all these troubles along the way and they really helped develop who we are as a band, individually and musically.
As far as the album art, we felt like we wanted to do something visually that gave the concept of good and bad or despair and hope and the middle icon of the girl being torn in two. One side goes into this very stable, cool, relaxing forest and it’s all about nature and the other side of her is being pulled into this hellish world which we all live in. We’re constantly being torn in two and you just have to stand your ground in the middle and hold tight.
What do you think is the biggest difference between this album and your self-titled debut?
The biggest difference is we have a real band. There was no band behind the writing process of the first album; it was just me and a songwriter with a couple of friends brought in here and there to write some riffs but it wasn’t a full on group effort. You only have two, maybe three tops, of musical influences individually on that entire album and with this one there are four songwriters and five musicians that played on this entire album and we’re really able to come together creatively and expose who we are. I think that’s important for a band and for an album. I feel better moving forward with this album and playing these songs live is just a great feeling and people love them, they really translate and come across.
You collaborated with Synester Gates of Avenged Sevenfold on the first record, how would you describe your relationship to Gates and the rest of Avenged Sevenfold?
He was great to work with, when I first started Burn Halo and I didn’t know what it was going to be, I talked to him about writing music. He called me and we were talking one day and he said he had some music for me and I really really liked it; the song became a track called ‘Anejo’ on the first album which we made some minor changes to it but that’s one of our better live tracks off that first album that we do play that people really love. Working with him was great; he came into the studio and we thought it would be cool to have him track like a lead guitar on the song and he was all for it. We had him play on our single ‘Dirty Little Girl’ which was great, as well, had him in the video and everything so my relationship with those guys in general runs really deep.
Just back from my Eighteen Visions days, growing up, going to high school with Matt [M. Shadows] and Zack; I met Matt before any of them, I had guitar class with him and hung out with him at school and outside of school. We kind of grew up playing music together, we always try to look out for each other; me for them when they were coming up and they’ve always definitively had my best interest at heart.
What band or musician would you like to collaborate with whom you haven’t already?
It would probably have to be Dave Grohl. If I was going to write a song with anybody and have them record it, it would be him. He can play guitar, he can plays drums and I’m pretty damn sure he can play bass, too, so I think that would be really cool. He’s an icon of my generation.
Just wondering where the name Burn Halo came from?
I was going through names, picking a band name is such a hard thing to do, unless you’ve got something that means so much that isn’t already taken or doesn’t sound too ridiculous. I was originally going to call the band Burning Halo, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the halo on fire or anything like that; it just means that it’s illuminated, it’s lit up, it’s glowing. It’s usually something angelic and pure and it’s a sign of hope. Our manager suggested that drop the “ing” and just call it Burn Halo and it sounds a little bit meaner.