"Coming to America was what really started the process,” he says. "I needed new material for the showcases. After I had a few songs written, it became clear to me that everything was lining up for an album. I had been touring a lot, and I was discovering who I am as an artist and how my audience perceives me. I wanted to showcase the guitar, but I also wanted to diversify and add more R&B and hip-hop flavors. I pushed to create an expansive album that felt coherent. That was the main aim.”
From November 2015 through April 2016, he assembled these 14 tracks in his bedroom studio once again playing and recording every single note. Premiered to much fervor on Triple J, the first single "Peculiar” flaunts a hummable guitar solo between orchestral horns, slinky bass, and an urgent and chantable refrain, "Don’t it ever feel so peculiar, babe?”
"I started writing lyrics about what I was feeling that day,” he admits. "Sometimes when you wake up, something’s not really quite right, something’s a bit off, and something in the air isn’t like it was the day before. I had the lyric, ‘Colors all around, but we only see gray.’ That means everyone is oblivious to something you’re seeing that day—or everybody else is seeing in perfect color, but you’re seeing gray. It’s a relatable idea that goes both ways.”
While "Fear In Me” ponders the state of the world, the funked-up strut of "Power” gives way to an uplifting proclamation, "Power to us all,” and another display of six-string fireworks.
"It introduces the catchier side of the album,” he goes on. "There’s a complex instrumental, but it’s a pop song at the same time. Lyrically, it’s very much about empowerment and unity between other people and love for one another.”
On "Hope,” his voice careens from a lithe croon into a hip-hop-inspired bounce before delivering another hypnotic refrain over entrancing production punctuated by violin and samples. It touts a message that, "We can all achieve our dreams.” Smoke Fire Hope Desire culminates on the 6-minute plus blues-inspired odyssey "Ain’t Too Far Gone,” which respectfully pays homage to Buddy Guy and B.B. King.
Ultimately, the album represents every side of Harts. "I want people to take away a few different things,” he concludes. "I want to bring impressive musicianship back to pop. I want people to hear a message of coming together and unity in the face of crisis. I also want them to let loose and sing along. It’s about everything together.”