Recently named a “New Artist You Need To Know” and one of the “50 Best Things We Saw At SXSW” by Rolling Stone, Della Mae has earned a lot of acclaim over the past few years. 2013 brought them their first Grammy nomination, while 2014 saw them play in 15 countries as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.
Some people call Della Mae “country,” others “bluegrass,” and others “Americana.” However you choose to classify the Nashville-based quintet, the harmonies and musicianship are unique and grabbing. The group’s new self-titled album — their second for Rounder Records and third full-length overall — was released on May 12th, following a stand-out set at Stagecoach (think Coachella for country music).
Lead vocalist Celia Woodsmith kindly took some time to talk to Downtown and clue us in on what’s to expect from their upcoming New York City area shows: June 8th at Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 2 (196 Allen Street) and June 9th outside City Winery (155 Varick Street) as part of the Hudson Square Music Series.
What do you wish more people knew about Della Mae?
Della Mae’s Celia Woodsmith: There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into this job! When we’re not on the road we’re usually writing, practicing, and preparing for the next tour. And when we’re on the road, it’s not always as glamorous as it may seem from the stage. But we love what we do. We love the people we play for and they give us energy to put our music out into the world. This is a job just like any other, and in many cases much more extreme! We have to work our butts off to make it all work.
Having toured extensively as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program, yet also played Stagecoach and similar gigs, you’ve played for all sorts of people. But is there a typical Della Mae fan? Or a common link between your fans?
C: There is no typical link between any of our fans. We play for young and old folks, people who don’t speak English, people who say they don’t like “country” or “bluegrass,” we play in dance tents and theaters. We have fans all the way from Ohio to Brazil to Pakistan to NYC.
Given that your music is very stripped down, how does one of your live shows compare to your recordings?
C: Seeing music live almost always gives it more energy and emotion and our show emphasizes that. It is important for us to be able to replicate our albums on-stage, so what you hear on the album, is what you’ll hear live, but bigger!
What do you hope to accomplish with your new album that you didn’t yet achieve with your first two albums?
C: It has taken us a couple albums to finally feel that we have settled into “our” sound. The original songs on this album have all been written over the last two years on the road. In that time, we toured 500 days, played a couple hundred shows and experienced so much together. That comes out not only in our songs but in our sound. We are thrilled to put this album out into the world! Another Grammy nomination would be a pretty cool achievement!
A lot of major artists are gloomy about the future of the album, given the popularity of both piracy and playlist-based streaming. Do you foresee a time in which Della Mae is releasing EPs or singles rather than albums?
C: We definitely won’t rule anything out in terms of getting our music to reach as many people as possible. However, a single is not a replacement for the art of making an album as a whole. We won’t be giving those up anytime soon!
Beyond the non-stop touring which I see booked through August 1st, what is ahead for Della Mae?
C: More non-stop touring! We are excited to be going to Europe for an album release tour, and also looking forward to another international music diplomacy trip in the fall.
Finally, Celia, any last words for the kids?
C: Keep going to shows and supporting artists! It’s up to all of us to keep live music and art afloat.
by Darren Paltrowitz