It sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s actually meant as anything but.
Preparing to chat with Ryan Boldt, frontman for Canadian roots mainstays The Deep Dark Woods, proves to be an exercise in staying awake. The band’s latest album Yarrow, which is released Oct. 27 on Six Shooter Records, is like a narcoleptic trigger, an album so warm, comfortable, Sunday and autumnal — hell, it kicks off with a track called Fallen Leaves — that you’ll want to crawl back under the covers and give up on the rest of the day, perhaps even hibernate for a season or two.
“Well,” Boldt says when informed of this, “we all suffer from something.”
Apparently the songwriter suffers from a whole lot.
Other than being all of those aforementioned things — in the most positive ways — the latest album from Boldt and his Saskatchewan trio is also a somewhat dark outing, heavy on the murder ballads and sadness with a general sense of beautifully and expertly executed ennui surrounding things.
So. What exactly was going on in Boldt’s life?
“Oh a whole lot of things, let me tell you. A lo-o-ot of things that I probably won’t get into,” he says and laughs.
“I’ve always liked the sad songs, whether it’s the Stanley Brothers, I like the waltzes that they play, and the Carter Family waltzes, and the Fairport Convention ballads and Shirley Collins ballads. I don’t know, I’m really drawn to the songs that have a melody that can make your heart feel pain.
“And that’s the way I sing. I sing best when I can really hurt when I’m singing, if that makes any sense.”
It does, indeed.
Helping sell that hurt was the recording process behind Yarrow, which saw them hit the studio with old pal Shuyler Jansen co-producing with Boldt in order to make the record “a little dirtier and more like our live show.”
Edmonton vet Jansen, the songwriter says, was the perfect choice to help bring these songs to life — or back from the grave — with the two having been friends for a good decade and a half, Jansen being a member of The Deep Dark Woods for a spell several years ago, and them having toured together frequently over the years.
“It just seemed like a perfect fit … it just seemed appropriate,” says Boldt of Jansen, who plays bass on the record and has a co-write on a couple of the cuts
“It’s good to have him back. It’s like getting the old guys back together again.”
He continues. “Shuyler and I we know the same music, we’ve been listening to the same music, we share records together. When you know the person that’s making the record with you, when you know that they listen to the same music as you, that’s really important.
“I think some of the people we’ve worked with, you show them the records you like and they’ve never really heard them before. It just makes sense to get Shuyler involved.”
And Boldt says the entire recording process behind Yarrow was conducive to creating something special, with the Saskatoon Ghetto Box Studios as comfy and cozy a place to make music as they’ve experienced in their six studio outings.
“We made sure that nobody could come into the studio that we didn’t know, so that everyone was perfectly comfortable,” he says.
“And it was really just us recording, and we wouldn’t let any friends come in and distract us. It was the band and Barrett (Ross, the engineer) — that was it. You can definitely tell.”
It was, he says, much different from previous affairs, especially their last album, 2013’s Jubilee, which he describes as too “polished” and made with far too many distractions.
That record was also made with a different incarnation of the band, most notably founding member and drummer Lucas Goetz, who left soon afterwards, the Woods entering an extended hiatus when he did.
Boldt admits it was a necessary process for the band, with some of the members “discouraged” and “road weary” after a decade in the indie trenches.
Now, though, he says they’re coming at things refreshed, with everyone fully committed to The Deep Dark Woods.
“I think everyone is really positive,” he says, pointing to the recording of Yarrow. “Even though some of the songs may sound not really positive … the band was really happy to be there, and there was no tension. Everybody was just happy to be recording and making music, and everybody was on the same page, and they knew that Shuyler was the guy in charge and these were my songs.
“It just made it a lot more comfortable.”
For his part, Boldt is happy to be back at it, especially to take these songs on the road, crossing Canada to support Yarrow, hitting Calgary for a sold-out Festival Hall show on Monday, Oct. 23, before the album even drops.
“This is the only thing I know how to do,” he says simply. “I’ve never gone to school for anything, I don’t like doing anything else, this is the only thing I like to do for work.
“If I’m working gardening or masonry I’m miserable. And even through the hard times going on the road, it’s still better than working masonry. Some people just want to stay home and build their life at home, but me, this is all I want to do, just go on the road … This is all I want to do.”
Deep Dark Woods perform Monday, Oct. 23 at Festival Hall. For tickets click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.