The Honest Heart Collective talk origins & Ale House

Openers for The Wilderness hold their own at eighth Kingston show

The Honest Heart Collective. 
Supplied by Ally Bottero

The Honest Heart Collective returned to Kingston on March 21 for the eighth time. 

After headlining in Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern—where The Wilderness opened for them—they returned the favour. 

From the band’s conception in 2013, The Honest Heart Collective evolved from a one-man operation to a four-piece rock ensemble. 

With two albums, a Johnny Cash cover-song stacked EP, and six singles, they’ve put out content steadily over the years. 

In the beginning stages, The Honest Heart Collective was made up of brothers, Ryan and Nic MacDonald, who weren’t even living in the same cities at the time. 

While at school in Ottawa for audio engineering in 2012, Ryan would record songs on his own and send them to Nic to add bass recordings. 

This system worked for a while, but soon Ryan moved back to Thunder Bay. That’s when things fell into place. 

Originally putting out music under the name RM and the Honest Heart Collective, Ryan thought he’d have a rotating group of musicians working with him and his brother, rather than a committed full-time band. When this changed, he didn’t bother cutting “collective” from their name, but he did cut “RM.” 

It was no longer a solo project. 

“I didn’t think I’d be able to find a full roster of musicians that would play full time,” Ryan told The Journal. 

He was pleasantly surprised when he found drummer Jay Savage and guitarist Kevin Heerema to join himself and his brother, Nic. 

They’ve been working together ever since. 

Playing together in Kingston for their eighth time, it’s undeniable they’re a perfect fit.

Ryan and Nic playing their guitars live huddled close to each other, is a heart-warming display of brotherly affection. When Ryan and Heerema do the same thing, it’s proof of their synchronicity. They play well together, and it shows.  

Even though The Wilderness were the focus of the night, The Honest Heart Collective held their own. Performing for a crowd celebrating the band, who’ve come to be top dogs in the Kingston music scene, they showed up with a strong stage presence and even stronger lyricism. 

Their song “I’ve Got You,” was not only emotionally moving, but interactive. With lyrics, “I can’t go through this I cannot lose you again,” Ryan asked the crowd to repeat after him. It made for a somber but unifying experience. 

This wasn’t the only time the crowd sang back to Ryan. It’s one of his favourite parts of being a performer. 

“Looking out and seeing the whole crowd singing back, I could stop singing in that moment and the entirecrowd would keep carrying on,” Ryan told The Journal. “That’s the coolest moment. It blows me away, when you can stop and the crowd takes over. It’s still very shocking to me that it happens.”

Even while singing about failed relationships and the desperation to make them last, there was never a lull in lead singer and guitarist Ryan MacDonald’s energy. 

Whether he was passionately belting out his lyrics with pained expressions or dancing around the stage, he was consistently a captivating performer.

His passion comes from an effort to connect with people. 

Talking about the band’s song-writing process, Ryan says they draw from personal experiences and stories that they think people will find familiar. 

“We have this song called “Debt” and the first line is, ‘I lost my job today at the railyard,’ and I spoke to somebody at a show and she told me that song really means something to her because her dad just lost his job at thefactory he was working at,” Ryan told The Journal. “So, it’s all about finding things that resonate with people.”

Singing about personal experiences is  a vulnerable thing, but knowing other people can relate makes it all worthwhile.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.