10 Questions With Aaron Hartling (Heartbreak A Stranger)

AAron Hartling (Heartbreak A Stranger)
photo by Tiffany Naugler

Heartbreak A Stranger is Aaron Hartling, a one-person band based in Halifax.  Earlier this year, Heartbreak A Stranger released the debut album titled Trenton EP –  an album full of stories about Hartling’s hometown. 

Hartling is a storyteller and the songs he writes are reflective of the world around him.  You can listen to “This Town” from the Trento EP at the end of this post.

Heartbreak A Stranger will be performing two free shows this weekend.  An outdoor show on Friday, September 20th at Squiggle Park (corner of Gottingen and Falkland St. in Halifax) from 5:30 – 7:30; and then an afternoon matinee on Saturday, September 21st at Cempoal Café (2374 Agricola Street) at 2:00.  

In advance of these shows, I had an opportunity to catch up with Aaron Hartling for  “10 Questions With…”.

1. When did you first decide you wanted to be a musician?

A: I had been playing for years but I got to a point where I didn’t put enough effort into my music. I would say 2 years ago I made the decision to put more time and more effort into my music. I have all these songs written over the years and thought that they shouldn’t lay around collecting dust. I wanted them recorded and heard.

2. Who are your biggest musical influences?

A: I would probably say Neil Young and Bob Dylan. But there’s a long list that includes Bob Mould, Lou Reed, David Baerwald, Graham Parker, Elvis Costello.

3. What is your all-time favourite song/album?

A: Favourite song: might be Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’. It was one of the first songs I wanted to learn on guitar. Favorite album: damn, depends on the day. Today I’ll say Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’

4. Tell me about the name “Heartbreak A Stranger”?

A:  ‘Heartbreak A Stranger’ is a song written by Bob Mould, former member of Husker Du and Sugar. My friends know my favorite artist is Bob Mould. I decided to use a moniker that was a tip of the hat to Bob and sounded cool and catchy to folks who were not familiar with Bob’s work. Plus, I don’t have a cool rock n roll name.

5.  You wear a playing card in your hat. I think it’s the 2 of clubs.  What does that represent?

A: In this instance, the two of clubs doesn’t mean anything. I just like putting playing cards in my hats. An old roomie was tilling a backyard garden and found the card in the soil. I cleaned it off and put it in my hat. Reminds me of old card players with cards in their hats. I have other hats that have the Queen of Hearts and the Ace of Spades.

6. What has been your favourite moment of your musical career?

A: I think it was the whole process of releasing the Trenton EP. From writing/recording, organizing a crowd funding campaign to the release of the EP. I learned it takes a lot of work. I learned a lot about myself and I’m a better person for the going through the process. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

7. What would your dream concert/festival line-up look like?

A: Whiskeytown/The Jayhawks/Daniel Lanois (playing ‘For The Beauty Of Wynona’ in its entirety)/Richard Thompson/Wilco/My Morning Jacket/REM (with Bill Berry)/Elvis Costello/Neil Young/Bob Mould with myself sitting in to play some songs with each band.

8. If you could invite two people to sit in with Heartbreak A Stranger (living or dead), who would they be and why?

A: I think I should pick people still alive, ’cause you never know…..Bob Mould would be one musician. I think any musician would love to play with his/her musical idol. Maybe Daniel Lanois. He could pick up the Les Paul or sit down with a pedal steel.

9. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

A: Hopefully something that pays the bills and doesn’t suck the soul out of my body. 

 10. Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

A: is ‘hopefully alive’ a good answer? That’s my answer.

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