For fans of the CW series Reign, last night’s ending may have struck a chord. A song that set the tone for a pivotal ending, leading the series to its weekly conclusion. The song acting as the backdrop? “Don’t Let Me Go,” new single from Bandit Heart, the latest project from Nashville’s song-maker Troy Akers.
No stranger to the music scene, Akers has spent a good portion of the last year working on honing his songwriting talent, which led to a cut on Amy Stroup‘s record called “Dark Runs Out” and the title track of Neulore‘s new album. Most recognizably though, Akers is one-third of the pop act The CO, who delivered their last full length album in 2013. While the band has focused on writing for more television and film projects, Bandit Heart was born. An honest, emotional project that retells the story and leftover emotions of a prior relationship.
I caught up with Troy recently at one of our favorite Nashville spots to talk about Bandit Heart, the plans for his upcoming music and the inspiration for “Don’t Let Me Go.”
Chris Vetrano: You released your first single “Don’t Let Me Go” this week. Where did the inspiration come from for that song?
Bandit Heart: I’m a hopeless romantic. This song is about when you hold on to the very last breath of someone…not knowing whether or not you are going to lose them. Personal experience can be highly assumed. Love can bring a lot of hope…and I think at the base of this song, that’s what resides.
Chris: The music video includes vintage clips of scenery and movies, which is very reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s early career visuals. Was there any influence from the “Video Games” singer in this project?
Bandit Heart: I definitely love my LDR. I wanted the video to really be an experience of it’s own. Since it is my first song, I didn’t want it to be very much about my own image. I wanted the song to take the viewer somewhere. When I hear other people’s work, I close my eyes sometimes… and it’s as if clips of images and memories rush by as it’s playing. It takes you somewhere. I wanted the video to do that visually for whoever watches it. Lana has definitely been an influence of sorts in the sense that she very much embraces nostalgia. And for me, that is exactly what my songs are. I can pinpoint the exact moment…feeling…emotion that was the culprit for what the song stands for.
Chris: “Don’t Let Me Go” was featured on The CW’s Reign last night as the closing song. How did it feel to hear/see your first single on such a big platform?
Bandit Heart: Pretty surreal. I have to say I’m a huge fan of the show and I don’t even mean that as a guilty pleasure. You can’t be guilty of something you enjoy…right?
Chris: Now that the single has been released, what is next for Bandit Heart? An full length?
Bandit Heart: “DLMG” was only a pre-cursor to what is next. There is already a record ready to be recorded…which will be made this year with a long-time friend of mine in Nashville. It will be the focal point of what the single was about and take you through several late nights of, what I would say, are like love letters that someone never heard.
Chris: You’ve been a part of other bands and projects in music before. What is different about this Bandit Heart project?
Bandit Heart: It’s full honesty. Unfiltered. I say what I need to say…and not in a way that I think is necessarily the pretty way to say it or how it should be. Over the last 15 years there have been millions of moments where I was writing songs I needed to write to detox myself in some way. In some ways, it was like breathing in and out… writing was and is necessary to let yourself walk through and away from experiences you go through. That’s what Bandit Heart is—it’s just entirely raw…and there’s no other way I can say that.
Chris: There’s such a focus on songwriters in Nashville right now. Who do you look to as inspiration for songwriting? Is there one songwriter that you hope to work with (more of for the first time) in the future?
Bandit Heart: I’ve always listened to lyrics before I included the music inside of a song. Stevie Nicks is the queen of that in my opinion. So many of Fleetwood Mac’s songs are simply her journal writings put to music. “Silver Springs” kills me. It’s my favorite love song of all time. To be in her presence would be incredible. I feel like Sufjan Stevens and Lana Del Rey are that way as well. When it all boils down…I think those artists mean to make their story about what the song stands for.
Chris: You’re a passionate music fan with varying tastes. What are the top three songs on your playlist right now?
Bandit Heart: “The Only Thing” by Sufjan Stevens / “Hot Dreams” by Timber Timbre / “Still” by The Japanese House
Chris: You’re based in Nashville, which is rapidly growing and bringing tons of tourists to Music City. For those who might be visiting the city soon, what are some of your favorite spots in town?
Bandit Heart: I have the habits of a 95 year-old man. I go to the same places everyday. Most of those places are on 12th South. I like running over there, too. Portland Brew for coffee. Burger UP for every meal. I did go to the Johnny Cash Museum downtown which is a rare “tourist” act for me, especially being from here, but it was incredible. Cash is a huge inspiration to me, and seeing all of those artifacts… things you read about only in books literally took my breath away.
Chris: Where can people find more about you?
Bandit Heart: The single is up everywhere that music is/can be on the internet… iTunes… Spotify, etc. You can follow me on twitter (@BanditHeart) as well as on YouTube. My songs live on SoundCloud… as that’s my soundboard usually for demos I put up when I write. For now, I’m letting the songs be my presence for the most part and anticipating working on the new record.
Get Bandit Heart’s single “Don’t Let Me Go” now on iTunes. While you’re there, check out all the great music from Troy’s band The CO here.