The Deer’s Cry – “Heal the Heart”
Americana Highways presents this video premiere of The Deer’s Cry’s song “Heal the Heart,” which is also the title track for their recently released album. Heal the Heart was produced, engineered and orchestrated by Nick Bullock with assistant engineer Ethan Howard. It was mastered by Adam Grover.
Musicians on this track are Karen Ballew on vocals and folk harp; Patrick Atwater on upright bass; Bryan Brock on drums and percussion; Will MacLean on electric guitar; Kristin Weber on violin; and Austin Hoke on cello.
We had a chance to chat with both Karen and Brad Ballew about the video. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: What prompted you to write this song “Heal the Heart”? What was the inspiration behind it? What is its message? What was the songwriting process like?
Karen Ballew: What prompted me to write this song is the increased negativity, herd mentality, and insensitive behavior exhibited by people on social media. Some of the things people type, hiding behind a computer, can have devastating consequences. Even if a person is justified in defending their position, does that warrant hating and seeking to harm another person? Wouldn’t moral strength, respectful conversation, and kindness be more effective in bringing about real change that is better for all of us? Something to think about… This is what prompted me to write “Heal the Heart.” Returning to love as the guiding force in life is the central message of this song. The theme and melody for the song came first, followed by the lyrics, and it was inspiring to collaborate with my bandmates Patrick, Bryan, and Will on the arrangement!
AH: What kind of a vibe were you going for on this song? How does the final version differ from what you imagined it might be before you went into the studio?
KB: Initially, I was going for a kind of Celtic folk-meets-’80s rock vibe, but it evolved over time and acquired other influences, which I love! I think Patrick’s idea for the instrumental bridge with Will’s electric guitar playing and Bryan’s auxiliary percussion bring a bit of a 1960s vibe/experimental jazz feel. Our producer Nick’s string arrangement reminds me of some of the string parts from that era as well. The outro for “Heal the Heart” was a nice surprise from the studio—Will’s electric guitar part has so much personality and was a completely spontaneous improvisation! It became one of my favorite parts of the song.
AH: Whose idea was the video treatment? Who directed and filmed the clip?
KB: The video treatment idea came from my husband, Brad Ballew. He’s also the one who directed, filmed, and edited the video! We’ve been collaborating on music videos for many years now, and since he knows me so well, he’s very in tune with the themes in my songs. Brad loves music and has developed an eclectic range of visual storytelling techniques. After listening to our song (and all the various mixes along the way!), he developed this story and visual treatment.
AH: How was the video actually created? There are some special effects and CGI used in the video. How did that all come together for the finished product that we see?
Brad Ballew: “Heal the Heart” has this warm and quirky sound, and we really wanted to capture that in the video’s aesthetic. I envisioned two different environments: one a beautiful, lush landscape where the band would play, and the second being a dark, foreboding, dead forest to contrast and represent the despair we all can find ourselves in. The song inspires these sort of spirit clouds to free themselves from bondage and come into the light to form a heart in the sky. They come together in love and compassion to mend their collective heart. I also started playing around with giving the shots a unique drawn, almost cartoon, look. I wanted the video to have a bit of a dreamy, surreal aesthetic that I thought would fit the vibe of the song.
The CGI environments you see in the video were created for a game engine called Unreal by the talented creators at “Mawi” and “RealBiomes.” Despite being designed for game making, the Unreal Engine has gained popularity in the film industry in recent years due to its ability to render realistic environments in real time. It has been used to create environments for various shows and films, most notably on the first season of Disney’s “The Mandalorian.”
This video wasn’t a particularly big production and involved setting up a green screen in our living room and having the band play through their parts one at a time. There wasn’t a real need to book a larger studio since we just needed static full body shots of each band member performing their part. So we made it a dinner/music video shoot and had a lot of fun hanging out. The footage was then brought into the Unreal Engine where everything else, including the clouds, was created and animated.
Once the shots were rendered out of Unreal, they were sent through Photoshop to add the drawn style to the image. Only a few still images from each shot were given the drawn style in Photoshop. Those few still images were then fed into a program called EBSynth that then applied the style from those images to the rest of the video. The whole process took a couple of months, but we are very excited to now be sharing it with others!
AH: What is your favorite moment from or aspect of the video?
KB: My favorite moment from the video is when the spirit clouds first emerge from the burnt forest into the sunlight! I think we all can relate to that moment when a heavy burden has been lifted from us. That burden and those chains come in many forms: hatred, guilt, sorrow, a grudge we’re holding, or an abuse we’re tolerating. It feels amazing to be finally free of them!
AH: What is coming up next for The Deer’s Cry?
KB: The Deer’s Cry is looking forward to performing more live shows here in Nashville and the surrounding area! We’re also applying for festivals and are thankful for opportunities to connect and share our songs with people.
The video was produced, directed, and edited by Brad Ballew. It has rich throwback echoes of 1960’s folk style with gorgeous natural backdrops handled in a very surreal way. You need to watch to see for yourself. The band’s playing style is sensitive and genuine, and includes Karen Ballew on harp. Truly delightful. The beating heart….
Find the Deer’s Cry music here: https://ffm.to/v5ag7v
Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: The Deer’s Cry “Heal the Heart”