I hope to feel hopeful again.
These were the words that a fan chose to contribute when We Are The Northern Lights asked their audience — hailing from all corners of the globe — what they hoped for. People of all ages, colors, and nationalities came forward, sharing their greatest hopes: freedom, diversity, peace, equality. The pop-folk, husband-wife duo allowed their fans to become part of their art with their latest music video, sharing a heartwarming, intimate look at the recording session for “Hope Will Rise,” as well as a sweeping view of the unity fostered by music.
But in a time like this — with political unrest, acts of hatred and violence, and a vast divide between our neighbors that seems to grow every day — Hadar and Sheldon’s “Hope Will Rise” may seem like wishful thinking. Yet their unwavering optimism and hope for mankind have the overwhelming force of a wave, uplifting their audiences while reframing their own perspectives. I caught up with the duo just in time to talk about the story behind “Hope Will Rise,” how touring the nation brings them closer to fans and to each other, and their own hope for the future.
In the political and cultural climate we’re living in, it’s so easy to get sucked into the belief that nothing is ever going to change. With “Hope Will Rise,” you reinforce the belief that there are better days ahead. What allows you to cling to that hope, and what inspired you to share it in song?
History has shown us that you can go without food or water for weeks at a time, but you cannot survive a single day without hope. There are stories of people overcoming what seems to be physically and mentally impossible with nothing but hope running through their veins. That’s where “Hope Will Rise” comes from. We live in the real world. We watch the news and we see what people write on social media. It can be scary, and it’s easy to curl into a ball and wait for it to pass, but that’s not who we are.
As artists, we always feel the need to share our feelings with the world, especially when it’s tough and when people don’t want to listen. We believe it’s the role of artists to inspire hope and make people think. We didn’t necessarily write this song from a hopeful place, but more from a “we want to make sure we never lose hope” kind of place. We feel it’s our duty to keep fighting. As Dr. King said, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. We’re banking on that.
How did you go about capturing the theme of the song — love, hope, and unity — in the music video?
We really wanted to capture a “we’re in this together” kind of vibe, so we asked our fans to make a sign with something that they’re hopeful for, and send us a three-second video of it. We stitched all the videos together, and we think the result speaks for itself.
Some people got really personal and serious, and others wrote something cute or funny, but it was obvious that everyone took the time to think about the things they’re hopeful for, and that’s really what this whole thing is about. We knew that seeing so many different smiling faces and reading each of their hopes would perfectly capture the feeling we were hoping the song would inspire. And honestly, we can’t help but smile all the way through the video! We were really touched by everyone who participated and we can’t wait to share this with the world!
How have your travels across the country, sharing music and spreading love, allowed you to take such an optimistic stance? Have you been faced with moments of despair, or wanting to give up, in the face of the struggles and injustice you’ve seen?
Funny you ask this! On our tour this summer, we were actually debating whether or not we should change our banter from show to show, depending on where we were playing. But to quote one of the great films of my generation, The Muppets Take Manhattan, “Peoples is peoples.” We all respond to music, and we all feel love. It was surprising to us at first, but we learned pretty quickly that people felt the love in our music and our performances. It filled them up with love, which they then sent right back to us on stage and after that show, and filled us up.
The love just grows, and it makes everything else melt away. Not every person at our show will agree with our political opinions, and that’s totally fine. Not everybody in our own lives identifies with everything we believe in. That’s just life. But we think the most important thing to remember is that we are all built from the same materials. We all hurt and we all love, and as long as we can remember that — and remember to always follow love — we will be okay.
How do you combat feelings of despair, anger, and injustice towards the world we’re living in, through music and outside of it?
One of our favorite bands (who sadly just broke up!), The Stray Birds, has this really great line: “If the body is a temple / The soul is a bell / And that’s why music is the best medicine I sell.” That pretty much sums it up for us. I always say that the two things that keep us sane in this world are exercising and creating music. There’s something very healing about singing and performing your emotions; it’s almost spiritual. It doesn’t always fix the problem, but it always eases the pain. It’s the best medicine we know, and it’s free and always there when we need it.
What responsibility do you feel to offer not only encouragement to others, but to be a voice for those who have been silenced?
There’s that famous poem called “First They Came,” written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. It’s about staying silent when the war happening around doesn’t directly affect you, and how eventually, when they come for you, there’s no one left to defend you. When we look back at our history — some of which is not so distant — we know that saying nothing is saying something. We know that when we stay silent we are, in effect, accomplishes to what is happening, so as human beings, it’s absolutely our responsibility to speak up, or, in our case, sing out and sing loud, when we see, hear, and feel something wrong.
Dante said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in time of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.” We can never stay neutral; not anymore. That’s everyone’s responsibility as a human. As artists, it’s our job to remind people of that responsibility, and to use music to spark conversation and inspire action.
What do you hope fans take away from “Hope Will Rise”? Is this song meant to be encouragement for the two of you as much as it is for fans?
Absolutely! There is a lot that’s wrong in our world, but as a species, we are actually better off than at any other time in history. As MLK said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In the moments when it’s hard to see or believe that, we hope this song offers a little bit of encouragement and a reminder that we’re in this together. The truth is that hope is the secret sauce to humanity and all of our achievements. Hope helps with the little things, like getting out of bed or going to the gym, but it also put a human on the moon. It always prevails.
Most importantly, we can only move forward when that hope is burning strong inside of us. We hope this song helps people feel empowered, strong, and united, and that it inspires them to take action and go vote! We want our fans to feel the fire and the “it’s now or never” kind of feeling we’re trying to share with this song. Most importantly, we want people to believe that we can make a difference, and that we will make it as long as we don’t give up on hope and we stick together.
What’s next for We Are The Northern Lights?
So much! our next single, “Come Close,” was just featured in episode three of the new season of Startup, which was released November 1st on Crackle. We’ll also have a cool music video for that one soon. We’re starting to plan our next summer, so if you’re interested in hosting us for a house concert, email us! We’ve got two more singles we’ll be releasing over the next six months, as well as some behind-the-music interviews. And of course, we’re eager to get back into the studio for more music! One of the greatest things about being a DIY musician is that we get to try things we really want to do, like getting on awesome podcasts (check out the Tony Kornheiser show, Simon Tam’s Music Business Hacks, and Andrew Liplow’s Musician Podcast), being able to personally reach out and get featured on awesome blogs and publications (such as Two Story Melody!), and choosing a spot on the map we just really want to visit, then booking a show there just because we can. We’re excited to keep exploring and learning as we go, and most importantly to get to do it together.
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