Drawing inspiration from Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, and Gillian Welch, Eva packs her sets full of confessional, candid lyrics, stacked harmonies, and smoky smooth vocals. Following performances at the Edmonton and Canmore Folk Festivals this summer, Eva released her album Funeral Walking which came out at number 1 on the Earshot charts and was nominated for 3 Edmonton Music Awards. She is currently studying at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal and hopes to record summer 2018. You can find her music on iTunes, Spotify and wwww.evateresefoote.bandcamp.com - and follow along on instagram, Facebook or twitter @evateresefoote.
Ken Stead has spent the last two years playing over 200 shows, including such festivals as Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Canmore Folk Festival, North Country Fair, and Come By The Hills.
After releasing a couple of EP’s over the past few years – projects he himself describes as more developmental than commercial in purpose - Stead has truly hit his creative stride with his first full-length album, Fear Has No Place Here.
Recorded at Little Island Studios on Bowen Island in B.C. by producer Winston Hauschild (Hannah Georgas), the album sees Stead going through a process of self-examination and revelation as he explores the ups and downs of life that, but ultimately with fortitude and optimism.
“It’s about looking at my own human condition and what I have experienced in life over the last few years. About 2 years ago I was living in Michigan and went through a divorce. I moved back to Edmonton and started playing music again with a real sense of purpose. A couple of songs were written just after I got back. But then I met someone and there’s a whole other part of the story now. So I am writing about love and about the transition I went through,” said Stead.
“For this album I had to really look at myself in the mirror and face the choices I have made over the last five years. So I came back here and wrote introspectively about what happened, and in a way that isn’t all dark and sad. I like to put a positive spin on things and I try to stay optimistic. That’s my personality and I want that to come through in my writing.”
Born and raised in Edmonton, Stead excelled at Track and Field and started to show an interest in music when it was cool to listen and appreciate rap and metal in the locker room. But he has his mother to thank for his now burgeoning career as a folk musician.
“My mom made me go to the Edmonton Folk Festival one year as a punishment. It was a brilliant piece of parenting. I don’t even remember what I was being punished for. She was also sick of all the rap music I was listening to so she said, ‘I’ve got these tickets and you’re going to come with me and my middle-aged friends’ and we ended up having a grand old time. It was fantastic.”
Riveted by a performance by American-born blues/folk musician Eric Bibb (who now lives in Finland) the experience changed Stead’s life.
“He totally transformed the way I looked at music. I also discovered a singer/songwriter from Ireland named Foy Vance. Those are my two biggest influences and the ones who crossed me over into folk music,” Stead said.
Stead’s repertoire of influences continues to be quite esoteric and includes a number of his fellow Edmonton singer/ songwriters.
“Edmonton has a really great music scene and I find that I am now more influenced by the artists around me. Scott Cook, Braden Gates and Lucas Chaisson – they are all great musicians and songwriters. The music community here is really strong,” he said.
As a songwriter, Stead says he has a very organic and spontaneous process which sometimes means his artistic output is firing off in many different directions.
“Sometimes I am too spontaneous because my songs come out in different genres. I have some blues songs and some reggae songs that came out at the same time as the songs for Fear Has No Place Here. When I write it’s always guitar first and then melody and those two things evoke the emotional tone and then that’s when ideas from my life start to come out as lyrics.”
The title track is touching and hopeful, and personalizes a more universal message to anyone plagued with truly debilitating fears and anxieties.
“My stepdaughter had terrible social anxiety – and I do too sometimes – and she was paralyzed by it. We used to sit in her room and repeat this mantra that fear has no place here until she was able to take on her day. I sent her the track and she loves it. So it’s a sweet thing, but I wanted it to be about more than social anxiety because I think ‘fear has no place here’ has a lot of different applications in people’s lives,” he said.
I’m Going To Love You Anyways takes a hard, gritty look at families and how it isn’t always easy to love them.
“My parents think it’s about them but it’s not. But at the same time it is influenced by the concept of family. Family is a tricky thing and every family, including mine, has some imperfect stories. So this song is about a hypothetical family created to make the point that there is so much that can go on in families, but you’ve got to love them anyways. Sometimes love is a choice and not something that comes easy. You have to choose to love these people despite what’s going on,” he said.
Oh Carolina is the most existential and self-conscious song on the album. It hearkens back on that fateful decision to pursue a marriage with someone who was bent on changing almost everything about their partner.
“I wrote this on my 18-hour drive back to Edmonton from Michigan and was asking why I always ended up with girls like this. It was a pretty humbling experience. In the song, Carolina is the girl I thought I ultimately should have ended up with, but ‘Pretty Tina’ was the girl I was actually with. And on the way home I realized I was always trying to pass the blame for the bad situations I’ve found myself in, but these decisions were all mine,” he said.
Conversely, the enchanting tunes Your Love and Big Blue Eyes are at the other end of the relationship spectrum, as Stead expresses appreciation and gratitude for his current partner.
“I think they’re both thanking her for loving me for who I am and not expecting me to change, or not trying to change me. And that’s a foreign concept to me because I have always seemed to be attracted to women who wanted to change me. So to go from that to someone who is not trying to change you but simply loving each other for who we are is amazing,” he said.
Having already played numerous folk festivals in Western Canada, including that same Edmonton Folk Festival which changed his life, as well as a popular Canmore Folk Festival – where he has shared the stage with the likes of Bahamas, Craig Cardiff, and his idol Foy Vance – Stead hopes that Fear Has No Place Here will be a launching point for broader musical horizons and more life experiences which will ultimately turn into song.
The title of the latest album from The Deep Dark Woods, Yarrow, is derived from the plant of the same name, which produces a small, aromatic white flower. It has long been prized for its medicinal qualities, never more so than during the Civil War when it was employed as a readily available means to stop bleeding.
In that sense, yarrow came to symbolize how The Deep Dark Woods’ front man and creative force Ryan Boldt managed to survive the past couple of years by putting his faith in the natural healing power of his own songwriting ability. Although long regarded as one of Canada’s finest roots rock bands, The Deep Dark Woods, for various reasons, ceased activities after touring in support of their 2013 album Jubilee. Boldt was left to decide his next move and ultimately chose to continue under The Deep Dark Woods banner.
“I’d worked for 11 years to get to where I was, so it didn’t make much sense for me to try to start over as a solo artist,” Boldt says. “I always had this vision of the Woods being an ever-changing band, so I see this new album as part of that evolution. I’d always written the majority of the songs, so no matter what I did, it was going to end up sounding like the Woods.”
Yarrow was laid down in October 2015 with Boldt’s fellow Saskatoon native Shuyler Jansen handling production duties, and Clayton Linthicum (also half of the acclaimed duo Kacy & Clayton) as the only member of the last Deep Dark Woods line-up to take part. Boldt points specifically to the song “Fallen Leaves”—Yarrow’s first focus track—as one of the signposts for his new direction. The Woods had tried recording it several years earlier to no one’s satisfaction, but through the input of a fresh set of ears, the combination of ancient themes and a modern production aesthetic helped “Fallen Leaves” set the album’s overall tone.
Boldt gives a lot of credit for finding this balance to Jansen, whose own music has always pushed the boundaries of roots rock far beyond the traditional norms. “Shuyler’s role was huge, from getting the right sounds to helping me write parts when I was stuck,” Boldt says. “He’s always been a pal anyways, turning me on to new bands that I never would have listened to. I tend to keep coming back to the stuff I’ve loved best, folk-rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s and earlier.”
The sense of being unbound by the constraints of time takes hold immediately on Yarrow. This is not just “roots” music; these are songs—like the nearly nine-minute “The Birds Will Stop Their Singing”—connected more to the elements and the Old Testament, songs based on primal emotions that remain within us, buried under layers of pop culture triviality. At the same time, Boldt’s effortless vocals carry the melodies like a breeze passing over a still lake, leaving only ripples as evidence.
Music, of the sort Ryan Boldt draws from, was once just as ephemeral. It was made for the sole purpose of telling a story. We have returned to that in some ways here in the 21st century, and the stories told on Yarrow will resonate as long as people have the desire to pick up wooden instruments and sing.
It’s been a decade now since The Deep Dark Woods released their self-titled debut album. Although very much a DIY project, it contained the seeds of everything that
would come in its wake. Signing with British Columbia-based Black Hen Music, the band’s next two albums, Hang Me Oh Hang Me and Winter Hours put them firmly on the national map, with producer Steve Dawson bringing out the traditional elements of their sound.
The Deep Dark Woods were named Best Roots Group at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards and Ensemble of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards, accolades that boosted the creation of their next album, The Place I Left Behind, released in Canada on Six Shooter Records. Featuring keyboards for the first time, and guest turns by Old Man Luedecke and fiddler Kendal Carson, the album would go on to earn a JUNO nomination and land the group opening slots with Blue Rodeo and legendary Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen.
Their 2013 album Jubilee raised the stakes even higher, as the band teamed up with producer Jonathan Wilson (Father John Misty), who brought a shimmering Laurel Canyon vibe with him from California. In turn, The Deep Dark Woods continued to make serious in-roads in the U.S., performing at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and elsewhere. Yet, the pressure to keep pushing things further eventually caught up to the band, setting the stage for Yarrow, released on Six Shooter, with Shuyler Jansen’s label Big White Cloud Records handling the vinyl.
“Throughout everything, I think my musical vision has remained consistent,” Boldt says. “The thing that always set us apart was that our primary influences where folk songs and artists from the British Isles. I think whatever I do will reflect that in some way. I feel very fortunate to have played with a lot of people from Saskatchewan who shared my passion for that music, and I’ve tried to maintain a community around that. I think with Yarrow especially, we’ve done something really special.”