Elvis Presley is dead, and Jerry Lee Lewis is to blame.
OK. The blame isn’t entirely on Lewis. Cary Ann Hearst and her husband Michael Trent can also shoulder a bit of the responsibility for Elvis’ death.
See, Hearst and Trent raise chickens on their Johns Island home, and a while back, they had two roosters, Elvis and Jerry Lee. It was a bad move. “Jerry Lee Lewis beat Elvis Presley to death,” Hearst says. “And now Jerry Lee Lewis has been redubbed Cain.” Unlike Cain and the late great King of Cock ‘n’ Roll, the couple hasn’t bothered naming their five hens. They just call them all the same thing, “chicken.”
Hearst and her husband — the pair make up the duo Shovels and Rope — decided to try their hand at animal husbandry shortly after reading the work of Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. “We’ve had a few different breeds as pets just to get eggs, and we have found that certain breeds of chickens do not thrive in the wilds of Johns Island and certain chickens do really well to avoid varmints and foxes,” Hearst says. “Our chickens run wild — five or six of them. They live in the trees. We feed them and give them water, and they are pretty much wild animals.”
The singer-songwriter and all-around roots-rock badass says that one day she and her husband will be able to give the farmer’s life a shot. “It’s something that, Michael and I, as we get older and we don’t have to travel as much, it’s something that we are excited about exploring,” she says. “But as much time as we are spending on the road, we just don’t have a garden and we don’t have time to expand our animal farm. Someday. That’s our dream.”
Right now, the one thing that Hearst is exploring is the highways and byways of the U.S. of A. They’re currently on tour with Butch Walker, and the husband-and-wife duo has been doing their best to keep up with the Atlanta rock vet. “We’re chasing a tour bus,” she says, adding that her and Trent have to do all of their own driving. “Every day has been like a fucking eight-hour drive.”
Over the course of their travels, Hearst has caught a few Occupy Wall Street-inspired events in action in Athens, Ga., and at the Vanderbilt University campus in Nashville, Tenn. “I’m not terribly politically oriented,” she says. “They’re catching a lot of flak for not necessarily being very well organized. In the times we live in, the only thing that is particularly organized is the way that we’re being robbed blind by really rich people.”
But while Hearst is inclined to sympathize with the Occupy crowd, she’s not a commie pinko. “I’m a capitalist. We’re out here trying to make money,” she says. “It’s not about making money. It’s about at what point how many billions of dollars do you need and at what cost to everybody else?”
In fact, Hearst is no stranger for hustling for a buck. For years, she has been a waitress at Jestine’s Kitchen, although she no longer has to solely depend on her tips to get by. “Jestine’s Kitchen has been really good to me. I’ve been there for 13 years. They’ve always made it so that Michael and I could go away and we could come back when we need the money,” she says. “When I’m home for any more than a few weeks at a time, I’ll let them know because it’s fun to me and it’s like stress-free money.”
She adds, “I will always keep a clean apron in my closet.”
One of the things that has made Hearst’s life just a little bit easier is “Hell’s Bells,” one of the stand-out tracks on her most recent release Lions and Lambs. The song was featured on an episode of True Blood last year. However, she has mixed feelings about the song.
“Michael and I laugh at how much of a financial windfall it’s brought us and how much attention it’s brought us, but it’s also dangerous,” she says. “I’m glad people like it. It’s a fun song, but I certainly hope it’s not a reflection of my best songwriting, and I hope that as good as that is maybe we can shoot a little higher and write equally tough but maybe more important or clever songs.”
Hearst adds, “Obviously, it has a certain power, and singing it always feels empowering too.”