Interview: Darlingside

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Formidable folk quartet Darlingside will be performing at The High Watt in Nashville this Thursday, December 10th.  The band released their latest album, the critically acclaimed Birds Say, in September; I had the chance to catch up with band vocalist and banjo maestro Don Mitchell right after Thanksgiving, and we began our chat by discussing our favorite Turkey Day treats:

He: “I’m a stuffing guy.”

Me: “In the South we do dressing instead of stuffing, but I’m assuming it’s similar.”

He: “Well, does it go on top of the bird or does it go inside?”

Me: “It goes on the side, it’s like a casserole dish of stuff, it doesn’t go inside the bird or on top of anything, it’s a side dish.”

He: “Gotcha. In a very cursory Google search, it does look like it’s the same stuff, it just a matter of whether you cook it inside the bird; it definitely seems more humane not to stuff the bird full of things and then cook it, you know?”

Me: “Did you just Google ‘dressing’???”

After I recovered from a serious fit of laughter, we discussed another very important topic, Don’s alter-ego called “Doug.”  “The alter-ego was based on a simple misunderstanding.  My name is Don, but that’s not a common name for a younger man, I think. The combination of that and a little bit of alcohol…a woman we’d recently met came up to the band and she said, ‘You know what your band needs? More Doug.’  So that became a code among the band for whenever someone says we need something different in the music.  It’s our code for whenever we like something that someone else in the band is doing or if it’s something we want. So when it came time to name our record label, which is effectively just us working with Thirty Tigers on distribution, we had to come up with something really fast, so of course we called it ‘More Doug Records’,” he explains.

In the first five minutes of our conversation, it became clear that the secret ingredient to Darlingside’s ability to create some of the most exquisitely ethereal music I’ve heard in a very long time (besides their undeniable musical talent) is their connection to, and the ability to have fun with each other.  The foursome used to be a fivesome, and after the departure of their drummer, the band had to figure out how to proceed. “Our first full-length was recorded with a different lineup and format, and without a drummer, we were experimenting with a way to make the new configuration work in a live setting,” explains Don.  Since everyone in Darlingside contributes vocally, they decided to circle up around a microphone and sing to each other, which is how they practice.  The result, Birds Say, is intimately acoustic, with some experimental textures and layers sprinkled into the mix. “We recorded the album during the snowiest month of Boston’s history,” Don recalls. “It was a good time, on the one hand, not to be on the road touring, but on the other hand, it was almost impossible to get three miles across town to the studio.”

The show this Thursday will be Darlingside’s third trip to the Music City this quarter; the band performed at AmericanaFest this fall, and went on a national tour with the legendary Patty Griffin, which gave them the chance to perform at the historic Ryman Auditorium in October; “In general, I don’t personally get nervous before shows, and in general we don’t have a problem with nerves,” says Don.  “We do our thing and we hope people respond; four best friends standing around a microphone on a stage feels very supportive, and the format doesn’t change based on the venue.  The added weight of the history of The Ryman, though–I don’t think I realized I was nervous until the end of our set, when folks were starting to pound their feet in the balcony, and it makes a big rumbling noise.  I didn’t realize how many people were actually there until that happened.”

Be sure to grab a ticket to this show, y’all.  You won’t be disappointed. Tickets for the 18+ show are only $10.00! Molly Parden will be providing opening support; doors are at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm.  To tide you over until Thursday, watch the amazing video for their song,”God Of Loss”, which was inspired by the book The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy:

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Susan Hubbard

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