Grammy nominated string band Della Mae was busy in Nashville last week, performing at 3rd & Lindsley and cutting tracks for a new album. The sessions mark another step back to full-time status for the group, following a roughly two year hiatus.
"We had been on road 220 days a year for five years and we just thought maybe it was time to take a little while off the road and see what we could find," singer Celia Woodsmith told WMOT during a break in recording. "Each one of us went and did our own projects. We all went into different genres and bands. It was like a sabbatical. You go out and you study different things, and you come back and you are so much more excited to get together and create again."
Della Mae formed in Boston in 2009, spearheaded by fiddle player Kimber Ludiker. She, Woodsmith and mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner represent that original core in today's band, which also includes 2015 recruit Zoe Guigueno (formerly of Joy Kills Sorrow) on bass.
As an all-woman bluegrass band who put high level picking and original songwriting front and center, they were somewhat novel. They were named IBMA Emerging artist of the year for 2013 and released two albums on Rounder Records.
Also notable were numerous tours overseas sponsored by the US State Department's American Music Abroad program. They visited Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Brazil and a number of other countries, building on what Woodsmith says is an informal mission statement. "We are standing up for the rights of women and girls all over the world," she said. "And standing up for representation for women in music."
Midway through 2016, Della Mae announced it would round out that busy year then take a break to let the members stretch in new directions. Ludiker formed the trio Ms. Adventure with guitarist Avril Smith and bass player Vicki Vaughn. Gardner released a solo album with her husband Kyle Tuttle on banjo and an all-star cast.
The Dellas played a handful of shows during their time off, but found their way back to being busy together with this winter's Butcher Shoppe EP, featuring mostly covers, including the Allman Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and Merle Travis. Now with a new manager, the band has a solid summer of touring ahead.
The new album is being recorded by rising star roots producer Dan Knobler (Maya DeVitry, Caroline Spence) and will be the farthest afield release yet, according to Woodsmith. Last week at the studio, guest keyboard player Jen Gunderman was playing organ and Avril Smith was playing electric guitar. There will be drums throughout. The Rounder release is planned for early 2020.