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The Hello Darlins New Album GO BY FEEL – An “Intereview”

Image courtesy of Claire Horton PR

Calgary, Alberta-based Americana collective The Hello Darlins first showed up in early 2020 and I’m sorry I didn’t get on board for their debut, because clearly I’ve been missing out on some amazing music. With their first full-length album, Go By Feel, all ready to release June 11th, I was on-target to have a review out a few days before it dropped. I was in a good spot. Then something happened. I started typing the review and was pretty far into it when I realized I had a lot of questions. I didn’t have much time to go really crazy doing research, but I did have one other option. It occurred to me that I had nothing negative to say about the project. In fact, I was writing a glowing review, so what would it hurt to do something I never do and combine a review with an interview? If I could get an interview, of course. A few emails later, I was all set up for a Zoom interview with The Hello Darlins. The plan was working so far.

Vocalist/producer Candace Lacina and keyboardist/producer Mike Little met years ago at a recording studio. Flash forward to 2016 when they ran into each other again and decided to work together in between projects they both had with other artists. They worked with heavy hitters that included the likes of Shania Twain, Charlie Major, George Canyon and the late B.B. King.

It wasn’t long before these two began to invite other talented musicians within their circle to join them, including Murray Pulver (Crash Test Dummies), Clayton Bellamy (The Road Hammers), Matt Andersen, Dave and Joey Landreth (aka The Bros. Landreth), Russell Broom (Jann Arden) and fiddler Shane Guse. Together this group of highly-gifted individuals became the collective called The Hello Darlins, building their own unique blend of country, blues and gospel music.

That’s what I already had down as far as the background on the band and its members. That was before I actually talked with Candace Lacina and Mike Little. I’ll backtrack to that same thing right now, but it will be from them directly, rather than me rehashing the company line.

Patti McClintic: Tell me about yourselves a little bit, your backgrounds.

Candace Lacina: Well, we are professional musicians. We work right out of the space you kind of see behind us (remember we were on a Zoom video call). We have the vocal booth, we’ve got mics, I don’t know, keyboard emporium (laughs). So, we do a lot of recording on sessions and have been in the studio for a long, long time. That’s kind of what our main gig is. When we’re not here, we’re out on the road as backing musicians.

Zoom screenshot courtesy of Patti McClintic

Mike Little: We’ve primarily been sidemen for the last… well, me a little bit longer than Candace, but…

CL: ‘Cause he’s so old. (Laughs)

ML: Yes, I’m a senior, but I’ve been on the road for about 30 years working with different artists and we’re both studio musicians. We actually met in the recording studio on a session.

CL: We met in 2016 on a session. No. That’s a lie. It was 2010 that we met on a session, but he didn’t fall in love with my brilliant ideas until 2016. (Laughs)

ML: That’s right.

PM: Was the session a significant one? Was the recording something that’s still around or something that faded into the woodwork?

ML: (Laughing and looking at Candace) I’m gonna let you answer that one.

CL: On the first meeting, to be honest, I was actually a bit star struck by him because I knew his career. He was touring with George Canyon and other musicians and label artists. I don’t think he even noticed me. (Laughs)

PM: I’m watching his eyes as you’re saying this, just so you know.

CL: But the second time, for whatever reason, it was a songwriting kinda workshop and I was performing. So, I immediately recognized him and ran up to him and said, “Hey, great to see you!” I still don’t think he knew who I was, but at least that time he was like, tripping over his words and stuttering (laughs). The sessions are memorable to me anyway.

ML: I think I said, “We should get together and write some songs.”

CL: Ooh! Good one!

PM: Good line.

CL: Songwriters drop pickup lines. (Laughs)

ML: We did write a lot of songs. We also got married in the process.

CL: Yeah, we did eventually.

PM: Well, congratulations on that too.

CL: Yeah, we actually just started working together as songwriters, and the next session we did, he called me to do a background session for George Canyon and that was a good moment.

PM: So, the others that are in this particular group that made the record, who are they and what have they done?

ML: One of the main collaborators on the record is Murray Pulver. He’s an amazing guitar player that’s been around the Canadian music industry, probably for about 30 years. Where he’s also a great singer, he’s a great producer and a great writer. He used to play with a band called the Crash Test Dummies, and also with Doc Walker.

Author’s note: You might remember the Crash Test Dummies best for their 1993 single, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” which is the longest title of a popular song made up of one letter repeated. (Source on that is songfacts.com). The Crash Test Dummies were also Grammy-nominated for Best New Artist in 1994, but lost out to Sheryl Crow.

ML: We’ve known Murray for a long time and when we started this project he was really encouraging with us to record some of our own songs and kind of do our own thing. So, he was one of the first guys to kind of say, “You guys should do this. You should really make a record.” So, Murray and myself and Candace co-produced the record together. He’s a huge piece of the music and you can hear him, definitely all throughout the record.

CL: So, Murray was kind of the guy who brought it all together. I’d also say he was probably a bit of like, I don’t know, a “marriage counselor,” in the process too. (Laughs)

PM: He wears many hats.

CL: Yeah. He kept the peace through the whole process, but the whole concept is we want to be able to call in the best level players that we know, that we can invite. Most of them are our friends through just working in the session and studio world. So, everybody who is on the record is a professional backing artist.

Never having heard anything from the band before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the surprises were all good ones. As I said before, I’d already written half the review before I talked to these two cool artists, but once I had them on the Zoom call, I had the added benefit of taking the review on a detour of sorts. The word, “intereview” popped into my head the minute I booked it. It was the best of both worlds for someone like me. When I told Candace and Mike what I was doing, I was a little afraid they’d think I was nuts, but they actually seemed to like it. Highlighting my best picks off the album, I asked them to talk about each of those tracks, starting off with “Mountain Time.”

“Mountain Time.” This is a more upbeat number that’s as close to a “feel good” summer song as you’ll find on this record. It might even be the “Straight Outta Lockdown” tune of the album. It’s all about feeling free. Unroll the windows and do a little rockin’ down the highway with this one. I felt a lot of country infused into the melody too. I tend to listen to album tracks in order, but if you’re feeling a little on the low side, this is a good one to kick things off with. It’s a mood-lifter.

CL: We were writing a lot of the more mellow, laid-back tracks and one of the guys we love to write with, Clayton Bellamy, he plays in The Road Hammers and he’s a great songwriter, he co-wrote it with us. So, that was exactly it. We just wanted to write something that kind of “bops.” It has a bit of a drive to it and it’s a song about how we love where we live, especially since you’re out on the road a lot of the days of the year. When you come home and you see that sunset and the mountains of Alberta, it’s kind of a magical place to be. That’s kind of what it’s about. It’s the “Mountain Time” of Alberta.

PM: There’s definitely some country infused in there. Sonically, I got that, it’s very country.

ML: Well, country is a huge influence for us. Candace’s first gig that she ever got, I think when she was 17, was Shania Twain’s backup singer. She comes by it honestly, and I’ve spent years and years producing country records and playing on country records and touring with country artists. I think both of us, kind of growing up in rural Canada, you grow up around country. It’s just kind of in our DNA, so I think that it seeps into the music whether we like it or not. It’s there all the time.

Authors note: Here’s where I got to throw my fake Canada card out again. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, I’ve decided to display it proudly. As a person who lived the first 50 years of her life in Buffalo, New York, right on the Canadian-American border, Canada, to us, was really just like another town in the area. Before the days of super-strict security, all you needed to do was drive up to the Customs booth at one of the bridges (our usual bridge of choice was the Peace Bridge) and answer a few questions. “Where are you from?” “Where in Canada are you going?” “Anything to declare?” “Have a nice day.” You were there. No license, no passport required. For whatever reason, there are people (I’m not saying it’s all downstate New York residents,, but the whole thing seems to have originated with one of them) who enjoy referring to Buffalonians as “Canadians.” I guess they think it’s a jab or an insult or something. Honestly, if you’ve ever been to Canada, it isn’t an insult at all. Canada is beautiful and they have incredible things like Labatt’s Blue beer, Tim Horton’s and for you rock lovers like me, Rush (Rest in Peace Neil Peart). So, I mentioned my honorary Canadian status to these two lovely real Canadians. I think we bonded.

CL: The genre, Americana, we love it, but we’re calling it “North Americana,” because country music influences us as much as musicians as if we did live in Nashville.

Video (audio) courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

Already released as a digital single for a while now, “Aberdeen” is a wondrous jewel. Glorious harmonies interlaced with spectacular guitar and mandolin, this is a stunner. No more words. Just listen to it.

Video courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

CL: Oh, “Aberdeen!”

ML: Oh, yeah.

PM: I definitely detected mandolin in that one. Gorgeous.

ML: On that particular track, that’s Tammy Rogers King from Nashville playing the mandolin on it. She’s from The SteelDrivers. She’s an incredible musician. She’s also an amazing fiddle player and an amazing singer, but yeah, she added mandolin to “Aberdeen” and it was kind of like a final piece. We knew it was missing this one thing. Sometimes songs are missing this one little puzzle piece to make them perfect, and when she put that mandolin track on it, it just added this pulse to the song and made it move in just the right way. It just finished it. It was just perfect.

PM: It’s gorgeous. Who’s singing on it?

CL: That’s Joey Landreth. There’s a band here called The Bros. Landreth and he’s played on some of our songs, and we’ve done a lot of sessions, Mike’s done a lot of sessions with him. He’s out of Winnipeg. He sang it and we wrote it, the two of us wrote it. As a songwriter, you always hear that you’ve gotta “dig the ditch” and lyrics come easily. “Aberdeen” was truly one of those songs where we sat down at the piano and it just kind of fell out of the air. I said, “I wanna hear Joey’s voice. If Joey loves this song and he digs it, I would love to hear his voice on it.”

PM: What was the idea behind the song? It seems you could interpret it about a million ways.

CL: Yes, and that’s kind of the essence of it too. It’s the story of a horse and a rider and the relationship and the friendship of a horse and a rider. The true story behind it is actually there was a girl named Vanessa (Neufeld) from Calgary, and she was a photographer and a storm chaser. She worked for the Calgary Stampede, loved horses, took tons of photographs of horses and the finish line of all the stampede rodeo races. She got sick really suddenly and she passed away. The ripple-effect of Vanessa’s life was I was seeing these groups of people in Saskatchewan that had no connection to anybody that I knew from British Columbia, and they were all kind of grieving her loss. It just touched so many circles of people. After she passed away, one of her photographs, oh my gosh, I’m gonna cry…

PM: I’m gonna cry, this is actually amazing.

CL: One of her photographs actually got selected to be in Reader’s Digest and that just would have been like a dream come true for her. It’s a picture of a storm. So, I actually included that photo at the end of the music video we did of “Aberdeen,” just as a bit of a tribute to her. The storm clouds just kind of took my breath away, but that’s the true story behind “Aberdeen.”

I thanked her for sharing that incredibly moving story. Be sure to watch the video and now that you know the story behind the song, really drink in those lyrics.

Another of my choices for best songs is “Catch That Train.” Nothing monumental here, just a breezy track with a cool energy. A timeless tale of moving on with sweet vocals and a kicky beat.

ML: That one’s been around with Candace and me for a long time. That’s one of the first songs that we started writing together. Candace actually had it worked out. She would sing and play it on the ukulele. It was quite a bit different, completely different chorus. We really liked the idea and we had a different name. We brought Murray in and he’s one of those guys that’s really a great songwriter and he’s a great arranger.

CL: We call him “The Finisher!”

ML: He does find that missing puzzle piece that I was talking about. He’ll just go, “What about this?” and he sang the chorus to “Catch That Train,” which is completely different than what we had, and the song just popped. It’s a song I feel, that’s about starting over or leaving a difficult situation. I think for both of us, we’ve been through relationships in the past that have been difficult to navigate your way out of. It’s kind of about finding the light at the end of the tunnel.

Video (audio) courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

If you’re looking for something on the grittier side, something with a touch of hostile lyrical kickback, then you will love “Smokin Gun.” With a “spaghetti western” style melody, this is my kind of country, Americana, North Americana, whatever you want to call it.

ML: Well, first of all, I think Candace was raging about something, about a business deal gone wrong, and I think she wrote a lot of the lyrics, you know, kinda gettin’ something out.

CL: (Laughing) Yeah, and it was one I was kind of feeling almost tentative to put on the album, and then it’s the one that seems to get the best feedback. So, that, for me, feels so great and just freeing. I wrote it when I was just rippin’ mad (laughs) and if you haven’t had your heart broken in the music industry, you just haven’t been in it long enough. That’s what happened. It was one of those deals that kinda went sour and I don’t know, yeah, I just needed to find an outlet for saying something. I feel like I’m over it now, but I love the song (laughs).

“If you haven’t had your heart broken in the music industry, you just haven’t been in it long enough.” ~ Candace Lacina, The Hello Darlins

ML: It was fun to record that one too, because Murray came up with that “spaghetti western” kind of thing.

PM: Yes! I was gonna say that! I think I already used that, “spaghetti western,” in my review. I’m glad you just said that because it confirmed what I thought I heard.

CL: Have you seen the show Godless?

PM: Heard of it, I’ve not seen it.

CL: It’s on Netflix, but the vision, the image of Godless is like, this country girl and she’s got this hat on, it’s like , maybe from the 1930’s or something. She’s got a big shotgun, just waiting for the riders to come in and she’s gonna protect her turf.

Image courtesy of Godless on Facebook

ML: I’m glad you flagged that “spaghetti western” thing. That’s exactly what we were goin’ for, and I think that was such a fun vibe for the musicians to jump on, you know?

CL: That lyric, “You’re gonna run your snake oil, but I hold the smokin’ gun,” it’s like to say, “You know what? I’m gonna let this go, but I’ll always be able to know in my head that I’m holding something over you.” Or that, “I have power in this situation even if you’re taking back your power.”

PM: Also, “I’m gonna remember you. If you’re name ever comes up, I’m gonna tell everyone you’re just a snake oil salesman and this stuff always comes back around.”

CL: It was a “girl power” thing. You don’t wanna tick off a songwriter.

PM: Taylor Swift has made gazillions from people who’ve ticked her off.

Video (audio) courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

Beginning now, is where I had not previously written anything on the remaining highlighted songs. I’d taken notes, but that was it.

Jumping to the final track on the record, “Farewell River Rouge,” only because my notes were so scattered, and to be honest, this song, at only 1:08 long, is not one to be skipped over, even if it is the last one on the album. I knew even before I talked with Candace and Mike that it must hold some special significance. It’s a stunning instrumental, or so I thought. I’ll leave this right here and let them tell you about it.

ML: The last track is “Farewell River Rouge.” It’s a special song because it’s a tribute to Candace’s grandfather who was a fiddle player. He was from Prague and he was a very, very good musician. He started her off singing harmonies in a legion band and was a huge influence. He worked at the Ford factory in Detroit, which runs along the Red River (River Rouge), and he ran rum across the border. He ended up getting himself into trouble and he had to hide in Canada, which is why he ended up in Canada. His fiddle is right behind me on the wall.

Zoom screenshot courtesy of Patti McClintic

Authors note: I was really in awe and loving this story.

CL: The only thing he left Detroit with was the fiddle he bought in 1921 for $100.00, which was all of his paycheck. So, he brought it with him, and he worked as a musician in Canada so he could get enough money together to buy a farm.

PM: That is incredible. Now, did that fiddle get used on the album?

CL: I wish it had. It has been played here in the studio, but actually Shane Guse is who played the fiddle part on that. He did it remotely because we were in a pandemic.

ML: Something you should know about that song is that Murray and I came up with the chord progression, or the music on the piano and the acoustic guitar, and we needed a melody for it. So, we said, “Candace, we need a melody for this.” So, she went out in her car, went for a drive, came back, and I don’t know, half an hour later, walked into the vocal booth and sang that melody that you heard on the recording once. Only one time. That’s the first time that she tried singing it and we just kept it. Then we asked Shane to go in and double the vocal melody.

CL: We weren’t gonna keep the vocal. It was just an outline to say, “something like this,” but he mirrored it exactly. So, we just kind of left the vocal that was there.

Author’s note: So, it is not an instrumental after all. Listen to this one closely. When I put the headphones on again and really listened hard, there it all was. Amazing.

PM: People are brilliant. People are geniuses and it never ceases to amaze me.

CL: Yeah, and Shane, yeah… and the fiddle for me, it just sounds like a voice.

Video (audio) courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

If I was handing out prizes, the winner off Go By Feel would be the heart crusher “Never Get over You.” (The lowercase “o” in “over” is not a typo, by the way. That’s the way the song is titled.) A hollow, haunting melody that flawlessly reflects the anguished lyrics, this is supremely stunning. The instrumental parts are carefully arranged so they never interfere with the emotion that’s being projected, but lend a feeling of empathy.

ML: We have this really good friend who will not be named, but he’s a really great drummer. He came over to our house and he was going through some horrible relationship stuff. He was just devastated that day. Of course, Candace was like, “Oh, yeah, tell me more (mimicked taking notes). And then what happened?” She was documenting this guy’s grief.

PM: (Laughs) Well, it was a song.

ML: I think she really captured it in the lyric.

PM: Oh, it’s emotional.

(Candace and Mike both laughed)

ML: It’s a sad song. That’s Brett Ashton in that song. That’s our bass player. Every night when we play, he’ll get up and sing, like, two songs, and the audience will just be blown away. Because for him to step up out of the shadows and sing, he’s got the most beautiful high voice. He did a beautiful job on the song.

CL: Brett plays on a lot of Christian music and he often times is so “in the shadows,” and I kind of pushed him to take the lead on it. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the record.

Video (audio) courtesy of The Hello Darlins and YouTube

I then asked them if they’d be touring to promote the record. I know Canada is different as far as pandemic lockdown rules go, but they were excited to talk about that for a minute.

CL: Yeah, and that’s where we’re at right now. Canada’s just starting to open up, but we definitely wanna get on the road and be able to tour the record and collaborate more. We’re already working on kind of what’s coming next because we have some other songs that are in the cue, ready to go for album number two, but we wanna see this through. I’m definitely excited about the record, but I actually think that the live show is ten times the record, because live music is just so magical anyway. The level of musicianship on stage with the studio players and the harmonies and everything, it’s high energy. You laugh, you cry, it’s great.

I expressed my great desire to see this group play a live show myself. I simply can’t imagine how fantastic they must be with such a heavy load of talent combined into what I’d call a Canadian music industry “dream team” of sorts.

ML: We’d love to come down there. Candace and I do spend a good amount of time in Nashville when we’re not in a pandemic.

Time was ticking, but there was one last important question. When The Hello Darlins “Think Country,” what do they think?

CL: I think stories. I think lyrics. I think the roots, the heart and the bones of a song. For me, country music was kind of a starting place.

ML: I think being a studio musician for many, many years, and playing on a lot of country songs, that the lyric is king in country music. It’s the most important thing. You’re always trying to honor it, not step on it and support it. So, yeah, the story and the lyric, that’s totally what I think of.

“I think being a studio musician for many, many years, and playing on a lot of country songs, that the lyric is king in country music. It’s the most important thing. You’re always trying to honor it, not step on it and support it.” ~ Mike Little, The Hello Darlins

We thanked each other and said our goodbyes, but what a terrific way to spend 30 minutes of my life. These were two highly-talented musicians, that’s obvious, but I need to stress how gracious and funny they were too. They expressed such gratitude for me listening to their music. I explained to them that it was good to be able to tell them directly how much I loved it. Finding new music is something you could do forever and not stop, there’s so much of it out there. It’s when you find something that really, really speaks to you, and you know it’s music you’ll never get tired of, that’s when it counts most. This is music that’s in one of my many wheelhouses for sure, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the tracks we didn’t talk about are all stellar as well. I can’t make anyone listen to it, but I can tell them about it. If The Hello Darlins gain even one more fan out of this hybrid experiment I’m calling an “intereview,” I’ve done my job and I’m happy with that.

For the latest on The Hello Darlins, please visit their website at thehellodarlins.com and on their social media sites too. Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Photo courtesy of Claire Horton PR

Go By Feel Track List:

  1. Catch That Train (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  2. Lonely in Las Vegas (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  3. Go By Feel (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  4. Aberdeen (Candace Lacina, Mike Little)
  5. Still Waters (Candace Lacina, Clayton Bellamy, Mike Little)
  6. Mountain Time (Candace Lacina, Clayton Bellamy, Mike Little)
  7. Smokin Gun (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  8. Never Get over You (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  9. Prayer for a Sparrow (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)
  10. Where You Are (Candace Lacina, Mike Little)
  11. Farewell River Rouge (Candace Lacina, Mike Little, Murray Pulver)

For more news, interviews, reviews and features that always bring country closer, please visit thinkcountrymusic.com.

*Featured image courtesy of Claire Horton PR


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