The Dead South headlining April 4 Blenders concert at the Lyric Theatre
If you view the biographies for the four members of The Dead South on their website (www.thedeadsouth.com), you’ll learn very little factual information.
“Those bios are completely false," admitted lead singer Nate Hilts. "That was Colton [Crawford]’s mastermind, he was just sitting around and those bios just kind of came to him.” Don’t be fooled. The members of The Dead South are all native to Saskatchewan, and they’re doing everything in their power to make their home province proud.
It’s been a whirlwind two and a half years for the Regina-based group, says Hilts.
“We’ve been very fortunate – we’ve gotten the chance to play at stuff like The Queen City Rocks Battle of the Bands, so that helped push us a little bit; we were in the CBC Searchlight competition last year, so that helped get our name out there a little more. When we first started, we just had the mindset that we gotta play as much as we can and work as hard as we can. That allowed us to have our name get pushed further and further and now we have a record label in Germany, Devil Duck Records.”
Hilts says the band really enjoys working with Jorg Tresp, owner of Devil Duck Records. The Dead South will build on that relationship more in 2015.
“Mostly our work with Jorg has been in Europe, we’ve been there twice now, and we’re going back in May. We’re expanding over there, which is awesome. We have played in Germany, the U.K., and Switzerland before, and when we go back, we’ll play those places again and add in the Netherlands and Denmark this time.”
The audiences in Europe differ slightly from those in North America, explains Hilts.
“European audiences, especially in Germany, they really appreciate travelling musicians. Even if they’ve never heard of you, they’ll take the time to search you up, and learn about you, and travel to come hear you… whereas if a band you’ve never heard of is coming to Regina, and you’re in Swift Current, I think the odds of you travelling to hear that show are a little lower.”
Good news for Swift Current fans of The Dead South, though – the band is headlining a show at The Lyric Theatre on Saturday, March 28th as part of the Blenders Concert Series.
Hilts says the group is looking forward to having local artist Colter Wall open for them.
“Colter’s dad [Premier Brad Wall] actually noticed us a while ago. In our first year as a band, Creative Sask gave us a really cool opportunity, we really lucked out, they got us playing at the airport for the Junos [in Regina in 2013] for when people were coming off the plane. So through that, we got connected to the Gala for the Junos, and then we met Brad Wall there, and we told him we play bluegrass, and he goes, ‘Oh, I love bluegrass, I’ll get you guys to play sometime.’ So we thought maybe he would come out to one of our shows, but the next thing we know, we get a call from someone at the Sask-Party, and they asked us to play at the Premier’s Dinner. Anyway, he introduced Colter to us, and to our music, and he sent me some of Colter’s music a while back and I absolutely loved it, and I showed it to the guys and they loved it too. We immediately said we had to get Colter to open for us, so he’s opened for us a couple of times now.”
The Dead South blend elements of folk, bluegrass, classical, and rock to create a unique blend of acoustic music. Hilts says people often try to describe their sound, but have difficulty putting a label on it.
“It’s kind of weird, because people will often come up to us and say, ’Oh, you’re like Mumford and Sons!’ Then you say, ‘Really? We sound like them?’ And they say, ‘No, not really, but we see you have a banjo and a kick drum.’ And it’s like, ‘Ok, well that’s not really a good comparison.’”
When asked about the most inaccurate comparison to an existing band, Hilts is quick to answer.
“The worst comparison, not about the band, but about myself once… someone posted one of our songs on Reddit, and somebody wrote, ‘I kind of hate saying this, because I’m really enjoying the song, but the lead singer [Hilts] really sounds like Chad Kroeger from Nickelback.’ I felt like throwing up. I said, ‘I quit, I’m not doing this anymore.’ Then I started asking people, ‘Do I sound like Chad Kroeger?’ Everyone told me no, not in the slightest. I thought, ‘Good, because if I do, I’m never singing again.’
Clearly, Nickelback isn’t who Hilts would want The Dead South to join on tour. On their wishlist for a dream tour? “The Devil Makes Three, that’s one,” Hilts says. “Trampled by Turtles is another, or Old Crow Medicine Show. Those are some huge ones right there. Elliott Brood would be awesome as well.”
The Dead South may soon see those dreams come true. They’ve been invited back to Canadian Music Week in Toronto in May, in an expanded role since their showcase at last year’s event.
“Actually, Canadian Music Week last year is where we got signed to our German label – so that was a huge connection,” Hilts notes. “It was just good to get our names out there, getting agents looking at us. We actually signed to a Canadian label called Paquin [whose clients include Jeffrey Straker, Serena Ryder, the Sheepdogs, and Old Crow Medicine Show] and we have a manager in Toronto now. Our manager in Toronto is kind of our manager everywhere now. So we still do a lot of business stuff ourselves, but he does as lot of the bigger stuff that we have no idea how to get there or how to do it.”
That frees up a little bit of time for the group, comprised of Nate Hilts, Colton Crawford, Danny Kenyon, and Scott Pringle. Hilts says they each have individual commitments above and beyond The Dead South. “The personal-life side of things is getting harder – everyone in the band has a girlfriend – so you have to make time for that. Also, Danny is a full-time engineer, so we actually have to hire a travelling cellist because he can’t travel as much. Then the other guys [Colton and Scott] are substitute teachers, and I have one year left of school that I have not yet been able to complete because of the band.” A French major, Hilts says he’d be teaching French in schools if not for the success of The Dead South. “It’s a good fallback,” he says.
Doors open for Saturday's concert featuring Colter Wall and The Dead South at 7:30 p.m. and the show at The Lyric Theatre gets underway at 8:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Pharmasave or by calling Shann Gowan at 306-778-2686.