It’s a fair question considering we’re a duo with a band name that uses a conjunction. I’m a songwriter, singer, pedal steel player, welder, motorcycle restorer, and advocate for the indigent. Carolyn is a singer, writer, ukulele player, oncology nurse, Ph.D. researcher, non-profit founder, college athlete, and former Homecoming queen. Carolyn always wears an effervescent smile, and I’ve cultivated a poker face, a habit that is hard for me to shake. Carolyn will task-master like a red-headed General, and I have defused strangers in a New Orleans’s parking lot in the middle of the night. We met on an archeological cave expedition in Israel during the scalding July of 1999, because we studied religion and love high adventure. We laugh as much as we can and hope that good, hard work makes life a little brighter.
But who we are––as individuals and partners in life and music––isn’t a mess of nouns. It’s a process, we hope, between being hard enough to hold an edge and soft enough not to break. Sometimes we have light feet on the tightrope. Other times we hang on to the pendulum with white knuckles, twine, and duct tape. The name, Hardened and Tempered, sums up for us that dynamic and delicate balance.
Every once in a while, there are pivot points that throw us in unplanned directions better than any dream. I have a distinct memory about staring at the Dixie Chick’s “Wide Open Spaces” billboard on top of the Tower Records store, which was across the street from my dorm room. Carolyn remembers singing that song at the top of her lungs as she drove through the vastness of the Nebraska prairie. Those two kids never imagined that, in time, they would collaborate, work with Lloyd Maines as their producer, and call Susan Gibson, friend.
You can ask either of us, “are you Hardened or are you Tempered?” The answer is, “it depends!” Now you’ll have to ask Susan why she answers to “Noonie.”