Five Questions With… The Dead South’s Nate Hilts
The Juno-winning roots/bluegrass band has released a double live album and will soon hold a Bingo event to fundraise for endangered international live music venues. The group’s frontman discusses the record, the concept of the game, engaging with fans in a pandemic, and hopes for real shows this summer.
By Jason Schneider
The inability to play live over the past year has hit all artists hard, but it’s been particularly impactful on The Dead South, a band that’s built its reputation over the past decade through almost non-stop international touring. It’s propelled the group from its modest beginnings in Regina, Saskatchewan to having its most recent studio albums Sugar & Joy and Illusion and Doubt win Juno Awards for Traditional Roots Album of the Year.
It’s entirely fitting then that, in the absence of communing with their audience in person, The Dead South has released Served Live, a double LP set available now through Six Shooter Records. In conjunction with that, the band is holding a special event Saturday, Feb. 20 on YouTube Live called Served Live Venue Bingo, wherein fans can purchase in advance Bingo cards for $10 that bare the names of some of the band’s favourite venues from around the world.
Winners of the Bingo game will receive a range of prizes, but most importantly, the band is donating all proceeds to the organizations CIVC #SupportCanadianVenues Canada, NIVA #SaveOurStages USA, and Music Venue Trust #SaveOurVenues UK, which are working to support the live music industry.
We spoke with The Dead South’s frontman Nate Hilts about how the band has been dealing with being off the road, and for more information on Served Live Venue Bingo, go to thedeadsouth.com/bingo.
Your new album Served Live just came out. I imagine it's one of every artist's goals to put out a double live album. Was that the case with you guys?
It is quite an incredible feeling putting out a double live album. To be honest though, I do wish we had been able to finish the tour and really have the entire selection of songs for the record with all the different venues and countries. Nonetheless, we are very happy about what were able to put out there. We have always wanted to put out a live album because we feel as though our live show is where you get the energy and the nostalgia. Covid basically pushed us to release a live record.
In putting together the album, was it difficult to decide between focusing on a single show and using recordings from a variety of dates?
For this album we listened through every show we had done on the Served Cold tour up until the last date we did. We wanted to choose a song from every show, which made it a little tricky. Sometimes the best versions of multiple songs came from the same show. This also made it fun to listen to all our mishaps on stage and let them be forever on a record.
Tell me about your Music Venue Bingo fundraiser. How will it work, and how did you come up with the concept?
Basically, we are putting on a bingo game where 100 per cent of the funds raised are going to the great organizations working to support those in the live music industry in North America and the UK. We will be calling the game during the YouTube Live event on February 20, with the grand prize being dinner with all of us at a venue of the winner’s choice once we’re able to go back on tour. The concept came from our management team. It actually worked out well, as I do enjoy a good game of Bingo.
As a band that relies heavily on touring, how have you adapted to engaging with your audience since the pandemic began?
To be quite honest it has been a little difficult. We have done a few quarantine videos here and there, along with a live stream check in. This album release has also been a nice way to engage with the audience, and we are really looking forward to the Bingo livestream. But I have to admit that trying to stay up to date on social media has lost a lot of its interest for me. The older I get, the less time I want to spend in front of my phone.
You have dates booked starting in June in Europe. Some may see that as optimistic. How are you feeling at the moment about the prospects of going on tour again?
I too see it as optimistic, but why not try? There is no way to cancel a show yet for a date so far away. We wait until the shows are absolutely unable to happen before we reschedule. I cannot wait to get back on the road. Time off has been really important to recharge and get sorted. On the other hand, we are so used to grinding that it is also difficult to not push and work hard at something you love doing so much. I am also finding it difficult to sit in one spot for so long. Once the world begins to open up, touring will be nuts.