Sean Hoots

For an artist, change is like oxygen. Without it, you don’t last long.

When Hoots & Hellmouth’s first record came out almost a decade ago, the backwoods stomp-folk revival of it was somehow provocative and comforting all at once. Calling on an acoustic bluegrass tradition coupled with sing-along lyrics that warranted a deeper listen, the self-titled record won the Best College Label Album of the Year from the The Independent Music Awards. It also won throngs of fans drawn word-of-mouth to their wildly fun live shows.

And with any type of success, particularly in the music industry, the natural pull might be towards repetition. Luckily, songwriter and front man Sean Hoots has been more interested in following where his deep passion for music of all types takes him. In the last few years, he’s stepped back from the band, exploring healing modes of spiritual music and even creating electronic soundscapes.

The gift of that evolution is Hoots and Hellmouth’s latest, In the Trees Where I Can See the Forest, their fourth full-length record. It’s the band’s most compelling work yet, particularly in its diversity, its power, and its tension. Like all of the band’s work, the choruses leave you singing softly to yourself for days—Sean Hoots writes really good hooks—but it’s the mood of it that you come back to and can lose yourself in.

That atmospheric sound is one of the many things Hoots and I talked about in his West Philly studio, surrounded by the tools of his trade—both acoustic and otherwise. We also talked about the risk and the necessity of pushing yourself.

I tend to share his opinion that the most compelling artists are always the ones trying to push things forward—and I admit, I was curious to what his band had left to show me. As it turns out, plenty.

Get In the Trees Where I Can See the Forest at hootsandhellmouth.com.

And please read our full-interview over at No Depression.