Interviews Shovels&Rope.kidssinging-1_resized

Published on February 22nd, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Shovels and Rope Look Mighty Young in the ‘Birmingham’ Video

Shovels and Rope fans were delighted this week to catch a glimpse of their new music video for the duo’s song “Birmingham,” the lead-off track on their recent album O’ Be Joyful (Dualtone), online at and

Nashville-based production company Moving Picture Boys, the independent production group that’s working on a Shovels and Rope rockumentary titled The Ballad of Shovels and Rope, shot and produced the new music video last month. Jace Freeman and Sean Clark handled the cameras, direction, and final edits.


The “Birmingham” video follows two kids playing the roles of Shovels and Rope’s Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. The wardrobe for the young duo is spot-on as they embark on their musical adventure. Hearst and Trent have brief cameos, and West Ashley rock club The Tin Roof enjoys some screen time, too.

Metronome Charleston caught up with Moving Picture Boys’ Sean Clark this week.

Metronome: How are things going with The Ballad of Shovels and Rope these days? Where are things with filming, editing, and production?

Sean Clark: The Moving Picture Boys are done with the principal photography for the Ballad of Shovels and Rope. We’ll need to make another trip to Charleston for pick-up shots this spring to fill any holes, but that’ll be it. This is a big project for us with a couple hundred hours of raw video, so it’s a challenge, but we’re chipping away at it, one day at a time — and excited to do so.

Metronome: Have any of the band’s recent events — like their appearance on Late Show with David Letterman on Jan. 30 — altered the film in any way? Any last-minute re-edits?

Sean Clark: This movie has been in and out of production since November 2010. We had no expectations other than Shovels and Rope recording an album with the idea to support their lives through music. We’re ecstatic for every success, but the heart of the story remains the same. On the same note, big moments are still big moments, and we’re excited that we were there for some of them.

Metronome: Since you started documenting Shovels and Rope last year, do you feel like you had a unique perspective on their meteoric rise in the last six months?

Sean Clark: I’m not sure that we have any perspective relative to their rise. I’m partially kidding, but everything up until the Letterman performance felt like the natural progression of a good pair of songwriters working hard, building bridges, and catching a break or two along the way. The Letterman performance felt a little surreal, but I think that if someone is going to play that show, it may as well be Mike and Cary Ann, right?

Metronome: Were you surprised by how much attention and praise they earned in the media and music press since the release of the album?

Sean Clark: I read good press about some really bad bands and don’t hear anything about some really great bands, so I guess I don’t really understand the media. That being said, they deserve the praise they’re getting now, and I’m not surprised by a couple of head-nods pointing in their direction.


Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels and Rope (photo by Leslie McKellar)

Metronome: Looking back, what was it about Shovels and Rope that inspired you to start working on the documentary in the first place?

Sean Clark: Basically, we shot a few simple videos and just got along really well. They had a pretty cool story. Soon after a marriage of heart, they take a stab at the marriage of careers, making it on their own terms by recording their own album. Plus, we fell in love with their music. That’s pretty inspiring for a couple of guys just starting their own independent production company.

Metronome: When and with whom did you and the band start working on ideas for the music video for “Birmingham?”

Sean Clark: The idea came to us on one of their trips to Nashville last summer. It was no more than a kernel of an idea to caricaturize Mike and Cary Ann using kids, like the Little Rascals or something. We had no song in mind at that point, but we had a couple of good laughs about it, and that was it. A couple of months ago, they approached us with the opportunity to put that idea towards “Birmingham.” Following a couple of treatments and few drinks to boot, we had a story. We received some input from the band and Dualtone, but they really let us do whatever we wanted within budget, and we just went from there.

Metronome: Where did you shoot the scenes for the video?

Sean Clark: The majority of the video was shot on Johns Island, and the lovely people over at the Tin Roof hosted us for the musical performance and bar scene.

Metronome: Was the basic concept and direction a collaborative effort, of did you and the filmmaking team sort of call the shots?

Sean Clark: Everything we do with Shovels and Rope is a collaborative effort especially since we were characterizing their lives. However, they gave us the reigns and said let us know how we can help. I think they were just happy to not be the ones on camera for a change.

Metronome: Who are the youngsters portraying Cary Ann and Michael, and how difficult or easy was it to direct them to act and perform like Shovels & Rope?

Sean Clark: One of the actors is the child of a good friend of Mike and Cary Ann, and the other is a relative. Both of them were great, and we had no problem working together. We had a lot to do in a short amount of time, and they nailed it.

Metronome: Where and when will “Birmingham” and The Ballad of Shovels and Rope find a broad release, online and elsewhere?

Sean Clark: “Birmingham” premiered on and, and we’re not sure what’s next. The release for The Ballad of Shovels and Rope is tricky because we’re very open-minded about the whole thing. We’re releasing our first feature, Nashville 2012, in a couple of months, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot about what not to do from that movie.


The kids in the “Birmingham” video (courtesy of the Moving Picture Boys).

Metronome: What do hope to achieve with the release of The Ballad of Shovels and Rope?

Sean Clark: Honestly, the main goal we had when we started this movie was to finish it. Due to the increased interest in the band, our goals are shifting, but mostly, we’re sticking our heads down and trying to get this thing done.

Metronome: Music-wise, what’s next for the Moving Picture Boys?

Sean Clark: We’re starting a band called Death Horse Grenade, and we hope to sign to Shrimp Records by 2015. If that doesn’t work out, we probably won’t jump into another music documentary right away because we were so spoiled by our friends Shovels and Rope.

Shovels & Rope will share the stage with Bill Carson at the Charleston Music Hall on Sat. March 2. The show has officially sold out. Visit and for more. Click the button below for a peek at “Birmingham.”





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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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