Seven years in, The Deep Dark Woods are quickly becoming one of the pre-eminent roots music groups in the country. Fresh off the release of their fourth album, The Place I Left Behind, which garnered the band their first Juno Award nomination, The Deep Dark Woods are heading into Toronto for a show at The Great Hall on Friday, April 6. We caught up with organist Geoff Hilhorst to get the scoop on what the band’s been up to in recent weeks.
The album garnered the band its first Juno Award nomination. I’m assuming you were in Ottawa for the festivities?
Yeah, we lost. Thanks for reminding me.
[Laughs]. Yeah we were there, and in fine form. We were in Ottawa from Friday until Monday morning and we had a fantastic time. The whole experience was really great. And I still feel just as good having been nominated, to be honest with you. But it was nerve wracking when they were announcing the winner, I won’t lie to you.
Listening to some of this stuff for the first time, one might get the impression that you guys are a pretty sad lot. What would you say to dispute this claim?
I wouldn’t, I would not dispute that. Some of the best music out there should hurt a little bit to leave some sort of an impression on you. Besides, if you’re happy and you hear a sad song, you’re even more happy because you’re not that person in the song.
So you’re doing a service for people?
From my own personal experience listening to old blues songs, even some of the best country, often the ones that hurt — the ones on the melancholy side that have that sad element — are the best. It is just a particular era of songwriting that certainly isn’t in the mainstream and that’s fine with us. As Ryan [singer and chief songwriter Ryan Boldt] would put it, the weepers are the ones that get you.
The band produced the new record itself. How did that process affect and change the sound of this album compared to previous efforts?
Well, we wanted to do it ourselves because we’ve always been after a specific sound. We like using all kinds of vintage reverbs and stuff like that. In our experience with producers in the past, they tended to run things a little more tried and true. We decided the best way to get the sound we were after was to produce the record on our own and have the freedom to try whatever we wanted with nobody, you know, saying that might be better this way or that way.
Your album was released internationally by the legendary Sugar Hill Records (Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Nickel Creek et al). That must have made you guys very happy with the company on that label, am I right?
We are super excited to be with Sugar Hill, absolutely — they just released the album in Europe.
Is there a large fan base for roots music in Europe?
There really is, and we almost got the feeling that being Canadian lent itself to the fan base we generated. I think there’s a lot of people following Canadian music in particular, at least where we were. And the crowds there, for the most part — and especially in Holland — were real listening crowds. You could hear a pin drop in some of the venues — that was very refreshing.
So what can we expect at your show on Friday?
Fun. It is going to be a blast. We’ll have Kendal Carson, the fiddle player, playing with us that night, and Old Man Luedecke, who also played on the record. It’ll be the first time playing together since the recording with them, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’re just going to do what we do and go as hard as we can.
The Deep Dark Woods are:
Ryan Boldt – vocals, guitar
Lucas Goetz – drums
Geoff Hilhorst –organ
Chris Mason – bass, vocals
Burke Barlow – lead guitar