Since their formation in 2012, the Canadian ensemble of Nate Hills, Danny Kenyon, Scott Pringle and Colton Crawford have taken their brand of rockin’ stompin’ bluegrass all the way from Regina, Saskatchewan right across the globe. Their own website bio describes The Dead South as “A rock band without a drummer, a bluegrass band without a fiddler” which evidently after a pair of Juno Award wins is a sound and style that is really captivating the imagination of their ever-growing audience. The quartet played at Black Deer Festival in 2019 and returned again in 2022 to close out the event. Prior to their mainstage appearance, we spent some time with the guys to talk about the festival and their latest project “Easy Listening for Jerks”.
What is it about playing in the UK and in Europe that keeps you guys wanting to come back and put all the effort in over here? “It’s your crowds! The audience in the UK is worth coming back for repeatedly.” (N) “I agree with what Nate said, that the English crowds go crazy and it’s awesome that they are so enthusiastic.” (C)
Talking about Black Deer specifically, you played when the festival last happened in 2019 and returned this year to close out the festival once more. What makes this event so appealing and how does it compare to other festivals back home in Canada or down in the US? “Black Deer reminds me a lot of folk festivals back home in Canada. You have a beautiful spot with very nice people. The atmosphere is very welcoming, and you put your artists close by to each other so that they actually have the opportunity to interact, it’s not like it’s a closed off space, there’s a big green space which is one thing. I think also how much the audience is so appreciative of what’s happening and where they are as well.” (N)
Since you last played Black you all came back to the UK in February 2020 just before the world got a little crazy, where your London show was at one of my favourite venues in town that I wish more people would play at. Brixton is such a great place for so many reasons and to see you guys packing out a room that size is awesome. “It’s such a cool venue. Queens of the Stone Age, who are one of my favourite bands and they did their live album from Brixton. I had to buy that DVD twice when I was in high school because I watched it so much that I wore it out.” (C)
Currently we have a pair of EP’s that were released earlier this year at the same time, why do we have “Easy Listening for Jerks” part 1 and part 2 separated rather than it just being one “Easy Listening for Jerks” album? “The idea of that and Easy Listening for Jerks is that you can make as many as you want to.” (N) “With these, they are separated into more classical bluegrass songs and then we did another one that were punk songs and like Nate said, there are an infinite amount of jerks.” (D) “We’re not like a rock band, a bluegrass band, a metal band, a punk band or anything. We happen to play bluegrass instruments but we kind of stretch the bluegrass genre in a bunch of different directions, we wanted to showcase what influences us. We’re influenced by traditional bluegrass and folk, but we’re also influenced by the heavy metal, the punk and you name it, whatever.” (S) The last record of original tracks was “Sugar & Joy” which came out in late 2019, why did you decide that the project that would be the result of the pandemic would be your interpretations of other songs rather than working on brand new TDS tracks? “We had planned to tour for like eighteen months and then everything was just shut down and we had to figure out something to do.” (D) “We started touring “Sugar & Joy” basically when we released it in October 2019 and got as far as March, when the Juno’s in Canada were cancelled which was like the beginning of the end where all of a sudden everything is cancelled. We were stuck at home with nothing to do, so we learnt some songs, have got some home recording studio equipment and had a lot of fun creating some covers.” (S) “The whole of Part 1, none of us got together to jam that out, Scott actually lives about sixteen hours away from us. I’d do a part, Colton does a part, Danny does a part, Scott would do a part and that’s how we would do all of the songs on the first EP, so it was like learning how to engineer at the same time which was really fun.” (N) “There was nothing live at all, so a lot of trying to get the tracks lined up right up next to each other in different places and we’d never done anything like that before, so it was very cool.” (D)
We’ve talked about how the pandemic brought a lot of challenges and prior to the onset, there were a lot of musicians and people in the industry that would have appreciated a couple of weeks off the road just to chill out but obviously it was quite a bit longer. The fact that you were still able to record and work on music remotely, would probably not have been as accessible fifteen year ago say, but was the whole process easier and more straightforward than you had expected? “Especially at the beginning, like you said it was really nice to take that break. I noticed and this is outside of music in general and more on the Zoom world where we were having a lot of Zoom hang outs with friends for a while. The first couple of weeks were like heavy Zoom calls and every week you start noticing one or two guys not showing up, getting tired of this and needing to see real people but yeah it was a little easier.” (N) “Making those records didn’t take that long honestly. Once we figured out Pro Tools and got the basics down, got some good mikes, amps and stuff it wasn’t too bad. It was pretty fun.” (C) You had said that for the first EP you had all recorded your parts separately and then pieced it together, now you are back out playing live shows, was it strange at first to be playing these tracks that you had already recorded but may not have been as refined from a performance standpoint? “Honestly, we don’t play too many of those live. We play a couple of them live but this was totally different because for all of the first three albums and all the originals, we would write a song, play it live hundreds of times and then go into the studio to record it so we would already have it totally dialled in. When we went into the studio, we didn’t have to learn them. With these, there are some like “Matterhorn” that I have like no clue how to play that song, it’s the last song on Part 1, we stitched them together and recorded them first, then we haven’t performed them live so it’s like a completely different relationship that we have with those songs than our other ones, so there are a couple that we play live and there are some that we are like we actually need to learn how to play that so we can play it live.” (C) “With one of the songs “Saturday Night” I thought that I had a mandolin part, and I was trying to figure it out during soundchecks or jamming it, then was like guys I don’t know what I’m doing here, it was really slow to learn the whole song. I eventually got it down and then one night I was listening to it in my headphones, listening really closely and was like wait there’s no mandolin in there! I was just singing vocals on that song and that’s it, which probably made sense why it took so damn long to learn it.” (S)
The way you have talked about writing songs and predominantly playing them live before recording them is cool but from the perspective of the initial creative process do you work on things on the go individually or have you found that things come together more when you are bouncing ideas around collaboratively? “It happens more fluently for us like that. When we sit down together and start jamming, things start happening.” (N) “We collect ideas for sure and store them and when it’s time to take them out, we take them all out of the bag and start throwing things down and playing with everything.” (D) “We tried to write an album for like three years now, it must be that we haven’t got to sit down but when that moment happens, it will just happen!” (N)
The latest “Easy Listening for Jerks” EP’s from The Dead South are out now through Six Shooter Records, where you can listen to Part 1 HERE & Part 2 HERE. There are no further confirmed UK tour dates on the horizon, but the guys told me that the intention was for summer 2023 but they are back in Europe in November for dates in Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria and The Netherlands. You can full tour details on their WEBSITE and keep up to date with the band socially through TWITTERFACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM. Black Deer Festival will return to Eridge Park in 2023 on 16th, 17th and 18th June with very limited Early Bird tickets available HERE whilst you can find all the latest on next year’s festival by checking out their WEBSITE or getting social on INSTAGRAMTWITTER or FACEBOOK.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks