Blending their voices and talent

  • Isaac Eliot and Isabella DeHerdt are the duo, High Tea

Published: 11/26/2020 7:00:41 AM

If there’s a silver lining to this dark period we are living through, it’s that there has been an abundance of new music being released — and I should emphasize that I’m talking about good music.

One of these projects birthed during quarantine is “Hell of A Ride,” the debut from High Tea, the indie-folk duo of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Isabella DeHerdt and vocalist/percussionist Isaac Eliot.

DeHerdt, 21, of Ashfield, is the guitarist/vocalist for the indie pop-rock band Kalliope Jones, she met Eliot, 21, who is from Jamaica Plain, when they were teenagers attending a summer music program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, However, their musical partnership didn’t take off until years later and it took a pandemic for “Hell of a Ride” to come to fruition.

Both DeHerdt and Eliot grew up in musical households and have both been involved in music from a very early age. Eliot has been interested in singing and songwriting since he was a child and attended high school at the Boston Academy of Music.

DeHerdt was playing both violin and guitar while in grade school and started songwriting around the age of 10 years old. She attended the Institute of Musical Arts in Goshen, where she co-founded Kalliope Jones with Alouette Batteau and Amelia Chalfant when she was only 11. (The band remains together and plan to release some new songs soon.)

She was 16 when she attended the summer music program at Berklee and met Eliot. They became friends, but it wasn’t until 2019 that they started to get serious about singing together.

“We are such good friends and we realized how much our music sensibility clicked and how we thought the same about writing and composing and arranging,” said DeHerdt in a recent phone interview with High Tea.

“I’m really into harmony and like how notes sound together especially when they are just sung,” added Eliot.

They started making music together and called themselves Mabel. They played their first show at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton. As DeHerdt recalled, the audience was mostly friends and family but the show proved a turning point for the duo.

“When we did our first show together, we realized that this is something that people would respond to,” said DeHerdt. “As an artist, you write for yourself and tell your own stories and you hope it will resonate with other people and once you get that feedback that it does, it feels very validating.”

Eliot had taken some time away from music following high school. Playing the show “was an affirmation that you could be on a stage and be yourself and people will like it,” he said. “I hadn’t performed in awhile, and that small show at Bishop’s Lounge was super fun and really important.”

That show sparked their desire to do some recording, but school, jobs and other musical endeavors got in the way. They are both college students; DeHerdt is a senior at Wellesley College majoring in music and Eliot is a student in the online program with Southern New Hampshire University studying to be a mental health counselor.

So life is busy, but when the pandemic hit and most of their other plans were off, they had a chance to dive into their musical relationship. Eliot came to Ashfield to quarantine and they ditched the name Mabel, became High Tea and committed to creating music as this new duo.

“We decided to use this summer to do our own artists residency and work like crazy on these songs. We did all the arranging, writing, recording and mixing,” said DeHerdt. “We did everything. It’s been an insane learning curve.”

The songs they recorded were mostly written by DeHerdt, who delved deep into the songbook she has amassed over the years. She would play songs to Eliot and if they resonated with him and he felt he could contribute to a tune’s growth, they considered it for the album.

They also wrote the title track and the first single, “Long Gone,” together. Then it was on to the sometimes arduous task of home recording, something brand new to both of them.

“Bella is very very good at just driving things and just working and I’d like to think I contributed in a moderating way by saying let’s take the space and time,“ said Eliot about the process of making the record. “These songs are for us even if they are for other people. This is an emotional project, as well as professional.”

“Hell of a Ride,” which is Eliot’s first time releasing a record, was released on all streaming services on Nov. 20. On this strong debut, High Tea lures the listener in with 11 indie folk-rock tunes that feature their sweet soulful vocals and poignant songs that frequently explore growing up and finding one's place in the world.  

The disc opens with “Long Gone,” a mid-tempo pop-rock song that features DeHerdt and Eliot swapping off on lead vocals before bringing their voices together on the chorus. It’s a perfect introduction to the album as it highlights their rich, powerful voices and the way their vocals beautifully complement each other.

A rocking tune like “You Know (She Knows),” which features some killer guitar, adds some fun to “Hell of a Ride,” but it’s the quieter moments when the duo draws on their shared love of Americana/folk music that this music really resonates.  

Songs like “Homegrown” and  “Heather,” which feature only their voices and acoustic guitar, bring to mind artists like the Civil Wars, while on tunes “Hell of a Ride,” they sound like a full-out rock band.

“We chose “Hell of a Ride” as the title track because it’s the hook that encompasses the entire process, said DeHerdt. ”This is a hell of a ride we are going through what with this pandemic and musically, artistically, politically … it’s a wild ride but it’s still fun and it’s what being in a band is like.”

Eliot added, “I loved it as the title because there are a lot of different connotations.” 

High Tea has already played a couple of online performances including one recorded for Club Passim in Cambridge. They also recently recorded a show at the Pushkin in Greenfield as part of the “Resonate Sessions” concert series presented by Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center. This show is slated to air sometime in December.

Also, on Dec. 1, look for a video for the first single, “Long Gone,” which was filmed by Tobias LaMontagne, of Ashfield. High Tea is already at work on a new EP which will be an all-acoustic project with more emphasis on the lyrical content.

“We are working our butts off but it’s the time to do it,” said DeHerdt. “We are blessed to be able to do this to do our part for the world right now if we can.”

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at


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