The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Say Darling

When: Saturday, Oct. 28, 8 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Cafe, 35 Railroad Square, Nashua
Tickets: $10 at

Hit the switch
Say Darling returns to Riverwalk

By Michael Witthaus

 While Celia Woodsmith was earning accolades and a Grammy nomination as a member of Della Mae, she wrote several songs that were too plugged in for a bluegrass band. With the group on hiatus in 2016, she shared them with guitarist Chris Hersch, who’d left Girls, Guns & Glory after six years. 

When the two longtime friends started collaborating, things clicked immediately. “It’s probably the smoothest partnership I’ve ever had creatively,” Hersch said in a recent phone interview. “Even during our first gig,  I was like, ‘Whoa, so this is happening now?’” 
In an interview last spring, Woodsmith said, “I don’t think we had much pressure on ourselves to create something, but we had so much fun ... we knew we just had to follow it up.”
The name they chose, however, was a problem. Woodsmith & Hersch sounded like a folk duo to many bookers.  
“Since Celia came from the bluegrass scene, a lot of people thought it was acoustic,” Hersch said. 
But with a taut rhythm section recruited from Woodsmith’s pre-Della Mae band Hey Mama, and Scott Coulter on electric keyboards, it was anything but. 
“We’d show up with five guys ready to rock,” Hersch said. “It was creating confusion.”
The looming release of the band’s first EP forced the issue. After scuttling 20 or 30 possibilities, they took a line from one of the record’s songs, “Thread That Shimmers,” and chose Say Darling. Hersch mentioned an old-time song with a similar name as another reason. 
“So it has a little roots in it but it’s got rock; it can be a soft or a hard thing,” he said. “It’s a coincidence that Celia’s last electric band had a similar name.”
The new record is getting traction. 
“Once people hear it they love it,” Hersch said. “In Celia’s case, they’re surprised that it rocks because she’s been making bluegrass albums for the past few years. It’s been fun for her fans to hear her really rock out. The response has been pretty positive.” 
The group has found a welcoming home in Nashua. In September, they warmed up a chilly night at the New England Roots Music Festival, earning perhaps the best crowd response of the outdoor event. They’re booked to play Oct. 28 at Riverwalk Cafe, where they’ll  appear again on New Year’s Eve, with opening act Dan Blakeslee. 
Hersch has enjoyed Riverwalk since it opened a few years ago. 
“I immediately fell in love with the staff, the sound and the way they approach booking.,” he said. “It has a reputation among musicians ... they treat the bands well, it’s usually a good listening audience, and a good-size room.”
Leaving his old band meant starting over, but Hersch said he was ready for a change. 
“Six years of working with those guys and at that point nothing new was happening,” he said. “It was kind of used up, the relationship. I know that sounds kind of dark. But it was time to move on creatively and work with new people. Some bands are meant to last decades, some only a few years.”
Though it made sense creatively, the move introduced many challenges. 
“It’s not easy starting over; infrastructure for that band was already in place; it had some legs,” Hersch said. “But in the end you have to go where you’re happy and the music is happening.”
His friendship with Woodsmith and Coulter (the best man at his wedding) helped the decision process. 
“I knew Celia would have some extra time,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to start this band, but I was waiting for the right timing to get it off the ground. That certainly factored into my decision to change course.”
To someone like Woodsmith, who’s long had a Hammond B3 on her band bucket list, Coulter is the group’s mojo. 
“I love that sound,” she said in an interview last spring. “I think that more than anything else it complements my voice and gets me to what I’m going for.”
It will be a Halloween bash of sorts.
“We’re figuring out what to go as right now,” Hersch said. “It’s in the works.” 

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