August 4, 2020

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Duhks' original lineup has 'something magical'

Beloved local folk band ready to get quacking on new phase

SUPPLIED</p><p>The Duhks circa 2014 (from left): Jordan McConnell, Tania Elizabeth, Jessee Havey, Leonard Podolak and Scott Senior.</p>

SUPPLIED

The Duhks circa 2014 (from left): Jordan McConnell, Tania Elizabeth, Jessee Havey, Leonard Podolak and Scott Senior.

A year ago, almost to the day, Grammy-nominated folk outfit the Duhks played a reunion show at Festival du Voyageur as part of the event’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

It had been more than four years since the band had played together, and even longer since the original lineup shared a stage. The performance felt good, they said, so they picked up a couple of other gigs and began to address the possibility of touring again.

While a Duhks reunion and tour aren’t formally in the cards, things seem to be heading in that direction. The group, with its original lineup mostly intact, have already locked in several shows this year, mostly for charitable fundraising events, including one Friday, Feb. 21, with Sierra Noble and fiddling duo Double the Trouble at the Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre. The concert will raise money for the Seven Oaks Educational Foundation.

"There hasn’t been a plan or much of a discussion, really; it’s just time doing its magical thing. When four out of the five band members live in town here, a fun opportunity arises," says Leonard Podolak, one of the band’s founding members and the son of late Winnipeg Folk Festival founder Mitch Podolak.

"I think that’s kind of the dream, is just that we can play a handful of shows here and there and just have a good time," adds vocalist Jessee Havey, another original member. "But something magical happens with this group of five people especially."

The music scene is a different place than when the Duhks burst on the scene in the mid-2000s; this was mostly before social media and streaming services had disrupted the music business, which in Havey and Podolak’s eyes, is both a blessing and a curse.

"I think in some ways if our band was starting out now, it would be a lot easier and more fun to get known," says Podolak.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Duhks founder and banjo player Leonard Podolak </p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Duhks founder and banjo player Leonard Podolak

"We were coming in at a time when the whole music scene was transitioning and so everyone was freaking out and having their hands in the air and, in fairness, even the band was like, ‘What the hell is Twitter? Why do people want to know one sentence at a time?’ But it has sort of settled down now."

And touring, too, is different. The road in 2020 is no less challenging than it was in 2003, but the band’s dynamic has changed. In 20 years, the Duhks have become a roomful of 30- and 40-somethings and there are other people — spouses, children — and other things, such as day jobs and mortgage payments, to consider.

"Half of us were living with our parents when we started the band," laughs Havey, who was still a teenager when she started singing with the Duhks.

"And all we needed to do was make sure we could fuel the van, put food in our bellies and get the next gig" Podolak says. "And make enough to pay the bills at home, which were rent and a couple things; it wasn’t mortgage payments and car payments, daycare," he adds, noting the group is mindful of band members’ commitments at home.

Havey and Podolak say the Duhks haven’t written any new material, but it’s only a matter of time until that creative itch becomes too intense to ignore. There are no plans to "shop around for record deals," but ideally, the band would love to take advantage of some of their friendships with other musicians to start collaborating and recording when they can, releasing singles for fans who have stayed loyal these past two decades.

"There’s a huge audience out there who still cares; they remember us," Podolak says.

"They miss us and we miss them," Havey says. "It’s like there are people who were there right at the beginning and it’s as much of a reunion for the fans and the promoters that have been with us for almost 20 years.

"When we started playing again, there were people coming with their teenagers towering above us and they’d say the only thing that would get this kid to sleep was (playing) our first record in the car as they drove around. Just to realize that there are people out there that we have been the soundtrack of their whole life, I think it’s important to stay connected to those people and to honour that."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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