Back to where it all began

Vanessa Kuzina of Oh My Darling talks band beginnings, return to the festival and more

Oh MY Darling photo by: Etienne Bauduin

Oh My Darling (OMD) has certainly come a long way since their first gig at Festival du Voyageur six years ago. At that time, they didn’t have a band name yet, going by the moniker Fill’d’Riel, which means daughters of Riel. That seems like a distant memory now, as the all-female bluegrass/Appalachian band have gained traction, becoming a well-known name locally and abroad.

All four musicians have impressive resumes. Allison de Groot (banjo, vocals) is studying banjo at Berklee College of Music in Boston on a full scholarship; Hannah Read (fiddle, vocals) was accepted into the highly regarded City of Edinburgh Music School at age 11 to study Scottish fiddle; Marie-Josée Dandeneau, a self-taught bass player, is a veteran of the music scene, having played with Xavier Rudd, Ben Harper, and The Wyrd Sisters, among others; and Vanessa Kuzina (guitar, vocals) was mentored by country artists such as David Francey and Heather Bishop.

OMD’s music incorporates the background and influences of every member of the group. “Allison has always been in love with that music of the old time, that Appalachian style. MJ has that tradition francophone, Franco-Métis background. Hannah brings some of that Celtic style, and myself, I’ve just always loved bluegrass, country music,” Kuzina tells the Manitoban. “That’s sort of how our sound came about.”

The energetic group has received their fair share of exposure. They have toured all across North America and Europe since 2008, including a performance at Trafalgar Square in London on Canada Day.

“Playing at Trafalgar Square, it was the biggest crowd we’d played to at the time. It was a smoking hot day, right in the centre of London, England representing Canada, which was really exciting. Sharing the afternoon with Blue Rodeo, the whole thing was more than we could have imagined,” says Kuzina.

While that kind of international experience and publicity has been huge for the female quartet, Kuzina emphasizes the importance of the local scene, and how it has shaped the group.

“Being from Winnipeg we all love it here so much,” remarked the guitarist. “Winnipeg was a big part of how we got started. The community here is so strong and so vibrant that it’s been a big part of forming our sound and supporting us as we got out there locally, nationally, and then eventually heading overseas and playing.”

As Kuzina looks back to that first performance at Festival in 2008, she remembers the energy that the crowd brought. “When we had the opportunity to play it was really exciting and made us all a little bit nervous, but the community was so warm and so welcoming and everything erupted into a dance party. Returning every year you get that excitement again, and this year feels really, really wonderful.”

Catch Oh My Darling performing at Festival du Voyageur on Friday, Feb. 14 at 9:15 p.m. in the sugar shack.