Paul McDonald Reflects on Heartache in the Digital Age with "Modern Hearts" (premiere)
Paul McDonald explores the deepest trenches of modern heartbreak on "Modern Hearts".
Paul McDonald's artistic soul has labored itself across all manner of peaks and valleys to get to where it is today. He's seen high highs, performing alongside the likes of Stevie Wonder and Emmylou Harris between gigging on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, and Parenthood. Although, this singer-songwriter has also proved that finding success in the realm of modern music is not all glitz and glam, having had to deal with a highly-publicized divorce and a band breakup all around the same time. Rather than seek pity, however, McDonald got to work.
Modern Hearts is the full-bodied expression of McDonald's diligence in the face of such adversity. All at once a reflection on where he's been and where he is now, McDonald's most compelling songwriting comes from off of this body of work.
Before the album's 1 June release, McDonald is premiering its title track with PopMatters. He tells us, "'Modern Hearts' is the title track from the album. This song kind of summed it up for me. I wrote this one when I was going through a breakup. It was the first time I had experienced heartbreak in the age of modern technology."
"In past relationships, the time and space away after a split allowed for both parties to heal and grow from the experience much faster, but now with social media, you can't really hide or getaway to allow that proper healing to take place. I learned that modern technology can put a few bumps in the road when it comes to trying to get over someone. This song is about that exact thing."
Stylistically, the song represents a culmination of all of the avenues McDonald has traversed as a musician thus far. The breakup anthem's searing overall arrangement evokes a contemporary rock vibe, though not without its obvious moments of deep Americana introspection. Considering McDonald's own story that comes around as the focus of "Modern Hearts", it comes as no surprise that the emotion he evokes in this performance feels as palpably heartbreaking as it does empowering.
Despite his hardships, McDonald seems to have come out on the other side of adversity as a human being more whole than he was before. Most notably, "Modern Hearts" is an unrelentingly raw, realistic perspective on how public any breakup could be in the digital age. Sharing the cold hard truths of his experiences in such a song has McDonald wearing his heart on his sleeve for the world to see. In doing so, it feels like a final step in his past where it belongs. Having exposed these harsh realities for what they were, he steps forward, head held high, towards a brighter tomorrow.
Modern Hearts is currently available for pre-order. It was produced by Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Andrew Combs) and tracked in real time at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina, with additional recording taking place at Nashville's Sound Emporium. The studio musicians who played with McDonald on the LP have previously worked in the studio with Cage the Elephant, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, and a slew of other Americana notables.