MEET THE BAND: Nate Hilts (guitar, vocals), Scott Pringle (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Danny Kenyon (cello), Colton Crawford (banjo)
BLUEGRASS-ISH: Hilts grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, listening to his parents' music. "I listened to Neil Young and Meatloaf and Neil Diamond," he says. "When I got out on my own, it was Zeppelin and the Doors. After classic rock came punk and grunge and the world kept opening up more each time." Originally, Hilts played with the Sea Creatures, which he refers to as "an alternative rock band more than anything." The Dead South came together when Hilts began jamming with Crawford, who had just started to play banjo. "The band formed with different members, but they all moved away and then Scott [Pringle] and Danny [Kenyon] came along," says Hilts. "When I was at university, I was really into Trampled by Turtles and Old Crow Medicine Show and then started doubling back and listening to the old school stuff like Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The idea began to play bluegrass-ish music, but we weren't good enough, so we played what we could."
AN UNEXPECTED HIT: "In Hell I'll Be in Good Company" became a hit thanks to its music video. "We released that album in 2014 and Illusion & Doubt in 2016," says Hilts. "That video picked up steam right as we released the new album and the old album overshadowed the new album because of that video. It really took us by surprise."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The band went to Muscle Shoals to record its latest album, Sugar & Joy. "That was our first time recording away from home," says Hilts. "There's something in the air there. As soon as we got there, we couldn't stop recording. We knew nothing about [producer] Jimmy [Nutt], and he knew nothing about us but it was a nice match made in heaven." One album highlight, the twangy "Snake Man," includes two parts, one of which is instrumental. "The first part of 'Snake Man' is a banjo piece that Colton [Crawford] had written," says Hilts. "We wrote the rest of the song after someone had wronged us. We jammed to the banjo part and mixed some sour notes with it. It was perfect and in the same key of 'Snake Man,' so we intertwined them into 'Snake Man Part 1' and then that leads into 'Snake Man Part 2.' It's all rosy and then gets really sour and aggressive in the second half." Hilts promises the band's live show will feature lots of that aggression.
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: thedeadsouth.com.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: The Dead South performs with Legendary Shack Shakers at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5, at House of Blues.