The Deep Dark Woods hit the trifecta in 2012, receiving invites to Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival and Austin City Limits. In addition, the band completed its first European tour and is about to embark on a second overseas trip. Jambands.com chatted with lead singer/guitarist Ryan Boldt from his Saskatoon home to talk about the multiple successes of 2012, his musical influences and the latest album The Place I Left Behind. The Deep Dark Woods, which formed in 2005, is rounded out by guitarist Burke Barlow, bassist Chris Mason, drummer Lucas Goetz and organist Geoff Hilhorst. Every member of the band hails from Saskatchewan.
How’s the summer tour been going?
It’s been amazing. We’ve been all the way from Dawson City (Yukon) to North Carolina and all places in between. It’s been pretty awesome.
You guys played Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival. Those were two new experiences for the band. What was it like playing Bonnaroo?
I had been to Bonnaroo before as fan in 2003 to see Neil Young and it was pretty amazing there and then being asked to play ten years later or whatever it was – it was pretty cool. I had seen Phish, like 12 times and I hadn’t seen them since Coventry. That was the last time I saw them and it was kind of a disappointment, so seeing them again at the Bonnaroo festival was pretty amazing. I got to stand on the side of the stage. Seeing them eight or nine years ago, I never thought I would be able to stand on the side of the stage and watch them. It was pretty amazing. Just hanging out with all these people is cool and then playing for the crowd we got was amazing. The crowd loved it and it was fun.
What was it like playing Newport? Kind of a different vibe but another great place to play.
It was equally as cool – just the history of the festival is cool. We played early on in the day (Sunday). I think we were the first band on the stage. We played around 11:30 or 12 and I wasn’t really expecting many people. And as soon as we got out there, there was a ton of people. It was really cool and the people loved it.
When your set time is that early is it weird, since you’re used to playing evening shows?
It’s definitely weird. I think our music suites the evening better when it’s dark out, but it worked out well.
When you perform at Bonnaroo and Newport Folk Festival, how much confidence does that give the band?
We’re five guys from Saskatchewan, who never thought we would be at this point. It’s pretty cool to come from a small little town that not a lot of bands come from and be able to play places like Newport and Bonnaroo. It makes you think you’re doing something good.
You’re touring Europe again in late August and September. Are you going to different cities?
We’re doing a lot more cities in Holland, Belgium and Denmark as well as England and Scotland; along with a bunch of festivals. The crowds in Europe are really great. They know how to listen, they buy your albums. The first tour was really incredible, especially the Holland shows. The people there really like Canadians – it kind of feels like you’re home, plus Jeff’s family is from Holland. He has an aunt up there, so we can stay with her.
Why do you think that vibe exists in Holland?
I think it has to do with WWII and ever since WWII they really liked the Canadians. The Battle of Leopold Canal – the Canadians helped them out of a jam.
What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?
There’s not really not much of a meaning. They used Deep Dark Woods in a lot of different songs and poems. It just suited the type of music that we’re all into. We like slow ballad kind of music and Deep Dark Woods goes well with that.
How much is the rich, dark sound of the band, shaped by all of you being from Saskatoon?
Well for me personally, I’m really into Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I love all their songs, but I especially love the slower kind of ballad songs that they’ve done. I love Dylan’s “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” or “Angelina.” I absolutely loved those songs. I love ballads, I grew up loving them, and now that’s kind of what I write. I like something with a really great melody and it makes you hurt, but I also love the rock n’ roll. It’s a completely different feeling, especially when you’re playing it in concert.
How are they different?
With a ballad, it’s almost like you’re weeping but with a rock n’ roll song, a faster song, you’re soloing, you can extend your songs a little bit. I don’t know – it’s a hard thing to explain. Rock n’ roll also hurts but in a more aggressive way.
Are your lyrics or the story telling in your songs influenced by where you grew up?
I don’t know if Saskatoon has anything to do with the lyrics. I started writing songs when I was living out on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. A lot of my songs were written out there. I don’t know if I would say Saskatoon has to do anything with the sound of the music. Maybe the winters have influenced a little bit, making sadder songs. It has more to do with the music that I’ve been influenced by, more than geography. I would be writing the same kind of stuff if I was living in California.