They’ve got dead in their name, a management company named Six Shooter, and murder on their mind, at least in “Miss Mary” from their 2016 album, Illusion & Doubt, and “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” from 2014’s Good Company, whose video has now racked up more than 64 million views on YouTube.
Saskatchewan’s The Dead South draws you in with their unique storytelling, foot-stomping bluegrass-folk, and a 1800s pioneer-type style.
Illusion & Doubt recently hit top 5 on Billboard's Top Bluegrass Albums chart and entered the top 30 on the country iTunes chart, and like striking gold in the Klondike days, the four-year-old Good Company then entered the top 20 on iTunes' overall chart.
In their new video for “Miss Mary,” which premieres below, the band — Nate Hilts (vocals, guitar, mandolin); Scott Pringle (guitar, mandolin, vocals); Danny Kenyon (cello, vocals) and Eliza Mary Doyle (banjo) — have been fashioned into puppets. Billboard chatted with Hilts about the new video, upcoming tour, murder, nude puppets and gun control.
How do you feel about your personal puppet portrays – the one you? Any complaints? Fingers too pudgy? Not tall enough?
They are a lot shorter than we actually are, but besides that they are a pretty good portrayal. Just a little haggard looking.
Did any you ask for changes?
Not for the puppets. The only changes we asked for is more group shots for the puppets. We wanted to see more the puppets.
So the puppets exist?
Yes they exist. I’d like to get my hands on them. But I don’t know if it’s possible.
You’d think they’d give them to you.
That’s what I was hoping for, but I was talking to my friend who had a video where they had some dolls The Sheepdogs and he said that they couldn’t get their dolls either.
What is the appeal murder as a song subject? “In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company” is also about murder.
It’s not necessarily murder that appeals; it’s tragedy.
Both songs have a murder in them.
Yeah. If you want to look at that part, murder definitely plays a large part in a lot tragedies. So when we’re writing songs, a lot times, I don’t know why, it’s something that comes very naturally to us singing about these things. I think it’s because it’s weird and something we can have fun with.
How did you decide on Miss Mary’s last name? We see it when she is booked into jail.
I think, it’s Johnson they put it as. We hadn’t decided a name. They did that on their own when they did the video.
Is there a moral to the story?
Yes. Absolutely. If you want to get more in-depth about it on the outside that no one would really know about but me, it’s talking about prescription pills. You have a problem so doctors want to put you on all these prescription pills. Basically what happens is Miss Mary ends up taking too many these pills and just starts to hallucinate and gets into a very dark place and she ends up hallucinating that her husband is cheating on her and she ends up killing him. And once she snaps out it, she comes to the realization that she killed her husband and nothing was going on at all.
Right. We see him dead holding the heart-shaped box “happy anniversary” chocolates.
They portrayed that really well because I didn’t explain any that to them. They just listened to the song and that’s what they had.
You’ve got an X-rated sex scene in there.
Well, it used to show a bum. It doesn’t show a bum anymore. They took that out.
I was fine with the bum. One our bandmates thought it was too raunchy for the sake being raunchy.
A puppet’s bum is raunchy? I won’t ask which band member thinks that.
To each their own, I guess laughs].
What is your view on stricter gun control in the U.S., given that you are from Canada with stronger laws and travel across the U.S. but have guns in your video.
That’s the only time we’ve ever had a gun in our video — and it’s a cartoon gun laughs]. Besides that, I think gun control is very important. I’ve gone bird hunting. I know plenty hunters. I think that to have that stuff regulated in a responsible way is very important because unfortunately irresponsible people get their hands on guns and ruin it for everyone.
You have a huge tour in October and November in North America, and then the UK in February 2019. How are you spending this summer?
We are hopping around festivals all summer. Our next show is in Harmony, Maine, on June 15.
Things have really taken f for you. The video for “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” was from your first full-length Good Company], but you had already put out your second album Illusion and Doubt] when it went viral?
We had released it just before we released our new album. We just thought we needed to get more video content out and we did it with our friends, and everybody was so busy, so it took time to actually get it done and then edited. So by the time we released that one, the other album was out too and somewhere along the lines it just caught a lot traction and then started blowing up and up and up. It’s been out for about a year now. It still keeps going.
64 million views now. How has that impacted your shows?
I’d say quite a bit. Our shows were always growing organically, but that video has helped us take larger strides outside Canada. We were always doing well in Germany but also all Western Europe quite a bit. The U.S. is welcoming us with open arms right now.
Are you finding hardcore fans will come to your shows wearing suspenders and travelers hats?
Oh yeah. Lots times people show up dressed like us. We have a lot products where they can have that accessibly as well. We sell bolo ties and suspenders and black ties.
Your last album came out in 2016. So when is your next one?
We’re starting to write new songs. I’m very excited about it. Not too sure when we’re going to release that yet. It has to be recorded, but we’re starting to write new songs and we’re looking for producers and studio time, and we’re going to go from there.
Any new songs about murder?
Not yet. Oh, you know what, not a murder, but in one the songs a guy is trying to do all that he can to make sure his partner is happy with him. All she wants is a diamond ring and a necklace string pearls. He’s a miner, so he’s got to go out and find the money. So he catches wind that somebody has a stash gold so he approaches the fellow with whatever he can to try and get that gold from him — but he doesn’t kill him.
June 15 — Harmony, ME @ Freedom Fest June 19 — Winnipeg, MB @ Red River Ex June 21 — Swift Current, SK @ Long Days Night July 1 — Ottawa, ON @ Parliament Hill, Canada Day July 6 — Yorkton, SK @ Yorkton Exhibition July 12 — Calgary, AB @ Carlgary Stampede, Knoxville's Tavern July 13 — Somerset, KY @ Master's Musicians Festival July 14 — Vancouver, BC @ Vancouver Folk Music Festival July 15 — Seattle, WA @ Ballard Seafood Festival July 20 — Big River, SK @ Ness Creek Music Festival July 22 — Edmonton, AB @ Interstellar Rodeo Aug. 17 — Invermere, BC @ Invermere Music Fest Aug. 22 — Hamburg, DE @ Sommer im Altona Aug. 23-24 — Tønder, DK @ Tønder Festival Oct. 6 — Bend, OR @ Bend Fall Fest Oct. 9 — Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot Oct. 10 — Fort Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre Oct. 11 — Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre Oct. 12 — Wichita, KS @ Nortons Brewery Oct. 13 — Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall Oct. 16 — New Orleans, LA @ Tiptina's Oct. 17 — Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom Oct. 18 — Bloomington, IL @ Castle Theatre Oct. 19 — Kansas City, MO @ Crossroads Oct. 21 — Fargo, ND @ Sanctuary Nov. 6 — Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue Nov. 7 — Milwaukee, WI @ Majestic Theatre Nov. 8 — Covington, KY @ Madison Theatre Nov. 9 — Kent, OH @ Kent Stage Nov. 10 — Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew's Hall Nov. 12 — London, ON @ London Music Hall Nov. 13 — Waterloo, ON @ Maxwell's Nov. 14 — Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre Nov. 15 — Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall Nov. 16 — Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Centre Nov. 17 — Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts Nov. 19 — New York City, NY @ Sony Hall Nov. 20 — Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club Nov. 21 — Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero Tavern Nov. 23 — Greensboro, NC @ The Blind Tiger Nov. 24 — Greenville, SC @ The Firmament Nov. 25 — Louisville, KY @ Diamond Pub Concert Hall Nov. 26 — Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall Jan. 30 — Dublin, IR @ Whelen's Jan. 31 — Belfast, IR @ Empire Feb. 1 — Newcastle, UK @ O2 Academy Feb. 2 — Glasgow, UK @ ABC Feb. 5 — Liverpool, UK @ O2 Academy Feb. 6 — Manchester, UK @ Ritz Feb. 7 — Leeds, UK @ O2 Academy Feb. 8 — Nottingham, UK @ Rock City Feb. 9 — Norwich, UK @ Banking Hall Feb. 10 — Bristol, UK @ O2 Academy Feb. 12 — Cardiff, UK @ Tramshed Feb. 13 — Portsmouth, UK @ Pyramid Feb. 14 — Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2 Feb. 15 — London, UK @ O2 Forum Feb. 16 — Cambridge, UK @ Junction Feb. 17 — Birmingham, UK @ Institute