The boys of Boots & the Hoots were most definitely born to hoot and holler.
From humble beginnings as a solo songwriter, Mark ‘Boots’ Graham now leads the trio completed by Tyler Allen (banjo, lead guitar) and Sean Vandenbrink (upright bass, supporting vocals).
Recently, the group stopped in Red Deer for the Pinecone Opry event at Fratters Speakeasy, but is back on the road again promoting their newest album, Too Hot to Hoot.
“You never know what to expect when you release an album of original songs and are a relatively new band to the scene, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the response,” said Graham.
“My mom’s review was the most important and she gave it her stamp of approval,” he joked.
Two years passed between the release of Pinecone Cowboy and Too Hot to Hoot that allowed the group to put a great deal of effort into the production quality of the new album. Graham said the first album was released almost by accident and that this time the band had a lot more control over creating an album that truly represents their sound.
“The two years between Pinecone Cowboy and Too Hot To Hoot gave us a chance to save some dough, rehearse our songs and put us in a position to record at Edmonton’s Riverdale Recorders – one of the finest recording studios in western Canada. It gave us the chance to work with two bona fide professionals, Kurt Ciesla (Corb Lund Band) on production and Scott Franchuk with engineering (Corb Lund, Tim Hus),” Graham said.
“We also had some hired guns to fill out our sound, Matt Hotte on the fiddle and Gary Okrainec on pedal steel.
“It was always been my intention to make an honest country album and I think Too Hot To Hoot captured our live sound better than we could have imagined.”
The live sound of Boots & the Hoots is truly a well-rounded performance. The whole group plays with near tangible energy, even through their down-tempo songs.
Graham leads the band with his trademark hollers and both Allen and Vandenbrink play their parts with similar enthusiasm.
Graham said he is most at home while on stage and that each performance is a chance to share in a variety of experiences.
“Home is a feeling, and it’s all relative. One man’s home could be his wife and his son and his backyard. My feeling of being at home is being on stage – there is nothing else like it in the world. You feel so welcome and people are there and happy to see you. You tell a joke and folks laugh and it’s great,” Graham said.
He said although he’s done a lot of traveling, Alberta has a steady hold on his heart.
“If I could be anywhere in the world, it’d be Alberta. I’ve seen a lot of the world and I’m just so attracted to this landscape and the types of people in small towns around Central Alberta, and heading out towards Drumheller,” he said.
“That said, home is a frame of mind. It’s who you surround yourself with. It’s all relative and who you meet and who you know and how you take the situation.”
The group is currently taking time to showcase their music throughout the province, but will begin a British Columbia tour in October. This new tour will cover from Vancouver all the way to Fort St. John, with a couple special gigs in Saskatchewan.
Graham truly has the heart of a traveling man. He said he loves the opportunity of getting to take his music from place to place and experience a variety of people and lifestyles.
“The reason I do this is because I get a free chance to meet strangers. When I started doing it, I’d show up in a brand new town without knowing anybody and nobody cared to meet me. I’d get on stage, sing a few songs, get off the stage and all of a sudden everyone wants to talk to you. There’s no better way to meet people,” he said.
“Every single possible type of person that I knew existed I have met – and then I’ve seen everything else. I see dentists, lawyers, very wealthy people and then hillbillies who brew moonshine and feed their families strictly off of the land. We end up getting hired for weddings where all of the food is homegrown and homemade and then we go to private parties where food is flown in from around the world. We get to see both sides of the spectrum.
“You can reflect and look at everything in perspective once you’ve been included in those scenarios.”
These experiences have helped shaped the men of Boots & the Hoots and the music they share. Follow them on facebook and Bandcamp to keep up with local tour dates.