Van Plating
Photo: Sarah Brewington Baarnes / Sweetheart PR

Country’s Van Plating and Elizabeth Cook Fly with “The Heron” (premiere)

Van Plating teams up with Floridan country icon Elizabeth Cook for “The Heron”, an upbeat, forward-driving ode to her musical history.

Orange Blossom Child
Van Plating

Florida singer-songwriter Van Plating brings her essence to country music on her third album, Orange Blossom Child, which she aptly calls “Orange Blossom Country”. A distinctive mix of Southern Americana sinew, old-school bluegrass, and vintage folk-rock, Orange Blossom Child is a nod to the songwriting and musical essence of Gram Parsons, Tom Petty, and Elizabeth Cook, the latter of which lends her voice to the record’s debut single, “The Heron”.

She recalls that the song that ushers in Van Plating’s Orange Blossom Child era was the last to come into being. Plating tells PopMatters, “This song could not exist without the other ten. The other ten songs on the album were mixed and completed by the time I sat down to materialize song 11, ‘The Heron’. I’d wanted to wait until I knew where the record was going and what it needed to round out the story I was trying to tell. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew the album wasn’t complete without an 11th song.”

It’s an upbeat, instantly infectious tune that sings to the spirit of musical collaboration, from Van Plating’s work with Cook and Jon Corneal to growing up with a bluegrass-picking family. Lyrics tell a tale of wonderment and appreciation towards each of her artistic inroads, married perfectly to gorgeous, pop-driven melodies that wouldn’t feel out of place on Top 40 country radio but would sure give it a considerable overhaul with its presence.

Plating states, “‘The Heron’ is a song of longing for home; maybe a home that’s long gone and only exists in the hearts, the memories, and even the DNA of those living in the here and now. It’s a love song to those who’ve come before. Quite literally, the first verse is inspired by the time I spent with Jon Corneal (Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds) leading up to his contributions to two of the songs on Orange Blossom Child. He’s ‘the soul of country rock ‘n’ roll.’ He invented it. Jon personifies so much of what is unique and lovely about art made here, and his wildly original style and perspective on life had a huge impact on me over the months leading up to writing this song.”

“It got me thinking about the pickin’ circles I used to sit in as a small child, the wild fields, and the sense of home I had playing music with my elders in the front yard after a fish fry. Family. Slower times. Long hat days with the bluegrass band.”

Van Plating continues, “It got me thinking about what I wanted to take into the future from those times and what I hoped would stay in the past. Have we learned anything since then? This song also owes a debt to John Anderson, whose work I came across on CMT as a kid in the 1990s on my grandparent’s TV. ‘Seminole Wind’ was the first time I saw my homeland represented as a sacred place in the song. I learned that fiddle part sitting on the sun-scorched linoleum floor in Eustis, Florida.”

“My grandad, a twinkle in his eye, would say, ‘Keep practicin’; you might make money at it one day’, and then he’d hoot and holler at the idea of making money at music. A joke from one broke musician to another– that the money isn’t why you do it–it’s the love. And place, If you truly love a place, you stay. You honor what is good. You work to make the ugliness retreat. Holding space for dark and light. Looking the truth dead in the eye and living the story passed down to you, your own way, with all your might, with all your love, with all your grace.”

She reflects on her collaboration with Elizabeth Cook, saying, “I’m joined on this song by one of my home-state sheroes, the inimitable Elizabeth Cook. She’s inspired me since the early days of my career as a songwriter, and to have her singing with me. I wasn’t there in the studio the day she tracked her parts in Nashville (thank you, CJ), and when I received the session from the engineer, I cried. What a moment. I’m so grateful. I hope I get to thank her in person one day for lending her voice to an unknown kid from Florida.”

“The production style is right down the barrel 1990s-inspired country. We’ve got all of it: fiddles, pedal steel, guitars, Nashville guitars, electric guitars. It’s lush, like the landscape I grew up in. It’s honest, like the folks who raised me. A thread trying our ancestors to now, holding hands with the ghosts we carry. Clear eyes. Hopeful hearts. We go on into the future, come what may.”

Van Plating The Heron