"It was very important to me that this album be a songwriter album rather than a shredded guitar album," says the musician. "I wanted this group of songs to really be groups of ideas and groups of emotional things that you, as a listener, can relate to."
Relating to music, as Hartwell phrases it, is exactly what he was raised to do.
Growing up in Pleasantville, music was a constant in his early years. Though his father worked in publishing, he was constantly bringing the sounds of such musicians as Chuck Berry into the home and often playing in local folk groups.
Because of his father's influence, Hartwell became not simply a student of music, but a devoted disciple before the age of 10.
"When he bought me my first electric, I was just gone," he says. "There was no turning back; there was no choice of what I could possibly do with my life."
Shortly after, by 11, Hartwell began playing locally with his father's folk ensemble. It was also around this time that he began to solidify his friendship with his lifelong friends and bandmates, J.J. Clark and Rich Kelly.
By his teenage years, Hartwell was playing every battle of the bands or open-mic night he could find. While still in high school, he gigged in renowned Manhattan clubs such as Kenny's Castaways, the Lion's Den and CBGB's.
"They didn't know how young I was, so we would get a gig at one of these places and they would be like, 'What the hell?' They would make me stand outside until it was time to play," he says.