This is an exclusive song premiere, part of The ARTery's effort to highlight ascending New England musicians.
For the first two lines of “In The Morning,” Taylor Holland and Heather Scott sing in unison. Then, like tributaries winding upriver, they separate, tracing parallel arcs before merging again at the top of the next verse. Neither voice takes the lead; instead, they travel in tandem, companions on a shared journey.
Holland and Scott, who together make up the Boston-based folk duo Hawthorn, are vocalists of vastly different origins. Scott, 27, is a classically trained opera singer and Holland, 25, grew up singing folk songs with her mother. Alone, they sound quite distinct. But when they harmonize, the edges of their voices bleed together like watercolors on paper.
“The reason that it blends so well… has to do with the fact that our vision is really clear,” Scott says. In other words, that merging is by design. Sometimes, in order to achieve the desired balance between their voices, they will chop up the melody and redistribute it between themselves, rendering melody and harmony indistinguishable.
“In The Morning” is the second single from the band’s sophomore album, “Maggie Willow,” which comes out March 6. The songs touch on life-changing events: “Childbirth, divorce, death, the evolution of family relationships,” Holland says. She and Scott like to imagine that their uncanny ability to blend voices can be traced back to a shared ancestor. They named her Maggie Willow. “We found that in everything that we were writing, that there was, for each of us, something to connect to with what the other was bringing,” Holland says. “And so it really reinforced this idea of this guiding concept of a shared relative.”
To assist in the writing process, the singers interviewed their families. “Recently I was talking to my mom, and she was talking about the things I did as a child, and I could hear this ring of joy in her voice,” Scott says. “And I thought, you know, maybe she really misses that.”
“In The Morning” is about the shifting dynamic between parents and children as time passes. It opens on an empty nester wistfully anticipating a visit from his daughter: “At home he sits and waits/ Counting the days ‘til December/ The holes in her sweater.”
The song, a lilting waltz, is hushed and melancholy. It ends with a promise: “I will call again in the morning.” Though the last notes rise hopefully, they are tinged with ambivalence, even regret.
The band cautions against reading such tenderness as softness.
“As two female artists, female folk artists in particular, people expect and tend to see us as really kind of beautiful and soft. And because we make music that is traditionally deemed harmonious and pleasing to the ear, [people think] there’s somehow a weakness in that,” Holland says. “[But] there’s so much strength that comes out of all of that beauty, and all of that pain.”
Note: The audio for The ARTery's music premieres comes down after the track is released. You could still listen to the track via the streaming service embed above.
"Maggie Willow" comes out March 6. Hawthorn plays the Lizard Lounge on April 12.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post swapped the ages of the musicians. The post is updated with the correct ages.
This article was originally published on February 13, 2019.