This year marks the 40th anniversary of the seminal music documentary, Heartworn Highways, a film that captured the nascent roots of the Outlaw Country movement in the mid-70’s. Inspired by the original filmmakers’ quest, Heartworn Highways Revisited will journey into the simple heart of a similar contemporary community.
Like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and David Allen Coe, today’s outlaws make up an extended family of musicians that often collaborate and tour together, but stand distinctly on their own. This group includes John McCauley (of Deer Tick), Jonny Fritz (aka: Corndawg), Josh Hedley, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, Langhorne Slim, Robert Ellis, Shelly Colvin, Phil Hummer, amongst others.
Filming aimed to capture honest moments with the musicians in various intimate settings. Steve Young, David Allan Coe, and Guy Clark have each participated. Performances aim to be as true and nuanced as those portrayed in Heartworn Highways.
HH Revisited is currently in post production and will debut in 2016 across platforms, from cinemas to the internet.
Music films, to me, have two styles. They’re either straight up concert film, shot around a stage show, often with “intimate” moments scattered throughout as a peek inside the star of the show. Or, they’re a soap opera about a band’s rise to fame, break-up, or need for therapy. I’ve seen amazing examples of both, films that have inspired me and given me the indescribable feeling that a great song gives you. But there’s one music film that I saw a few years back which broke the mold and affected me more than all the rest.
Heartworn Highways was made in 1976 by Jim Szlapaski, and produced by Graham Leader. I don’t know how to accurately describe it. I can attempt to call it a concert film, because its full of amazing live music – except there’s only one performance from an actual concert in it! I definitely cannot call it an amazing drama about the rise and/or fall of a band, as this film really has no story. Yet it captivates from the first chord of Guy Clark’s “LA Freeway” until the last echo of then ensemble of musicians bellowing “Silent Night” from Guy’s house on Christmas Eve. This film is visual poetry. When telling my friends about it, I tell them to just defocus their brains which have now been trained to ask a million questions, trying to figure out what’s going on, and just let the music take you.
I did not expect that only a few years after seeing Heartworn, I would be finishing up post production on Heartworn Highways Revisited, with Graham Leader producing. I guess it was my passion for the original film that sold Graham on handing over the reigns on such a beloved piece of film (and music) history to an unknown director. It took over a year of brainstorming ideas with Graham before finally deciding on format and musicians on whom to focus.
Perhaps its due to where we as a culture have come as media consumers, that the most pleasant surprise for me when viewing Heartworn Highways was its deliberate, non-flashy (ie: quick-cut) pace. I simply do not see music films being made these days where the majority of the shots are on sticks, content in being a patient observer, often offering a wide frame and letting the viewer decide where to focus. I have no idea if a style like this will put an audience to sleep these days. It was a breath of fresh air for me, and one that I was adamant about revitalizing for this current installment of Heartworn.
As for the musicians, I could not have been blessed with a more talented and honest group of modern day “outlaws,” living on the outskirts of Nashville. Starting with John McCauley from Deer Tick opened the door immediately to working with Jonny Fritz. These two are at the center of the East Nashville music scene and it didn’t take long before we were shooting with Robert Ellis, Andrew Combs, Shelly Colvin, Justin Townes Earle and even Shovels & Rope, who recently moved from Nashville to Charleston. I have had the most difficult time in deciding which amazing songs wont fit into the feature edit. There’s just so much magic.
Contemporary music seems to be undergoing a Renaissance. With electronic laptop musicians commanding the airwaves, I am excited to bring us back to the “old school,” with songwriters who only need their instrument and their experience to create music. In making Heartworn Highways Revisited, I am letting these songwriters be the guide, just as the filmmakers had done 35 years ago, revealing the music, not just for the performance, but for the personality that gives it life. My hope is that you’ll handle it like a beloved vinyl, for which you’ll pour yourself you’re a glass of bourbon and sip while listening end to end.
– Wayne Price
Graham Leader & Brian Devine
Directed and Photographed by
Heartworn Highways Revisited Crew:
- Director of Photography: Wayne Price
- Editor: Wayne Price, Kelly Kendrick
- Supervising Editor: Phillip Schopper
- Sound Recording: Ron DiCianni
- Sound Mix: Tom Paul
- Production Assistant: Caleb Watson
- Co-Producer: Pamela Ryan
- Featuring: Bobby Bare Jr., Shelly Colvin, Andrew Combs, Justin Townes Earle, Robert Ellis, Jonny Fritz, Josh Hedley, Phil Hummer, Nikki Lane, Langhorne Slim, John McCauley, Shovels & Rope. With Steve Young, David Allan Coe, and Guy Clark.
- Spring 2016 (expected release date)
- Shot entirely on Canon cameras, with Canon L and Zeiss glass
- Audio recorded on Schoeps microphones
- HD Aspect ratio: 16:9
- Running time: approx. 88 mins
- Sync Sound
- Shot entirely on location in Nashville, TN, Charleston, SC, New York, NY and Newport, RI