Dead Horses Premiere Robert Frost-Inspired 'Swinger In the Trees' Song

David E. Jackson
Dead Horses

Dead Horses' Sarah Vos drew on the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost for the group's new song "Swinger In The Trees," premiering exclusively below.

The song is the earliest one written for Dead Horses' third album, My Mother The Moon, due out April 6 (pre-order here), and it jumps off from the final line of Frost's "Birches," "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches." "The poem is kind of sad," Vos tells Billboard. "He's suffering, looking back on his childhood and youth. But it's a kind of beautiful thing, too. That inspired the song, and it fit in well with the (album) in general because so much of the record is me looking at my childhood and adolescence, the way I perceive that and my memory, talking to my former self. It felt similar to Robert Frost's idea in 'Birches,' so I went with that."

Vos' upbringing has been well chronicled. She was raised in a strict fundamentalist home in Oshkosh, Wisc., where her twin brother as well as an older brother were diagnosed with mental illnesses and cognitive disabilities. Her father lost his job as a church pastor and the family wound up "kicked out and completely abandoned." Vos has both chronicled and come to terms with those events in Dead Horses' songs, but My Mother The Moon finds her looking more outward and applying her perspectives to the world at large.

"A lot of the songs are combinations of empathy for myself or my memory of myself from childhood and empathy for the current modern climate of people, what they're going through currently," Vos explains. "A good chunk of the songs I wrote during the (2016) presidential election. I guess I feel more confident about my perspective on people and the country from reading and from our travels and kind of seeing it first-hand. I feel fortunate to have gotten to travel to a lot of rural places, mostly in the Midwest. There's so much to be learned there, so a lot of this (album) is about taking my own experiences as well as what I happen to be observing politically and culturally."

Vos and her musical partner, bassist Daniel Wolff, are also happy with My Mother The Moon musically, which she feels benefits from working for a second time with producer Ken Coomer in Nashville. "We knew him very well and he knew us very well and we had an idea at least of how we were going to approach the recording even though we really didn't decide on the songs until we were actually in the studio," Vos says. "I think there was more confidence, certainly." Dead Horses also recorded different this time, she says, laying down basic tracks with vocals, guitar and bass -- employing a click track for the first time -- and then building the rest of the track.

My Mother The Moon is sending Dead Horses back on the road for what Vos expects will be heavy touring, including an appearance at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival on Friday (Jan. 26) in Michigan, the group's first-ever stop at South By Southwest and a full-scale spring tour starting March 29. But there are more new songs coming all the time, so Dead Horses doesn't plan on staying away from the studio for too long.

"I've always approached it from the perspective of I want to make a lot of records and I want to work on a lot of records," Vos says. "So to some degree this is the third record, but I think there's many, many more to come, so I just really enjoy the process and am always working on new stuff."

Dead Horses’ tour dates include:

Mar 29 - Appleton, WI – OuterEdge Stage

Mar 30 - Viroqua, WI - The Ark

Apr 4 - St. Louis, MO - Old Rock House

Apr 5 - Milwaukee, WI - Colectivo Back Room

Apr 6 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark

Apr 7 - Columbus, OH - Woodlands Tavern

Apr 8 - Toronto, ON - The Drake Hotel

Apr 11 - Boston, MA - Cafe 939

Apr 12 - New York, NY - Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Apr 13 - Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle

Apr 14 - Washington, DC – Songbyrd

Apr 15 – Charleston, WV – Mountain Stage (w/ M. Ward, The Sea The Sea) 

Apr 18 - Athens, GA - The Foundry

Apr 19 - Nashville, TN - High Watt

Apr 20 - Asheville, NC - Ambrose West

Apr 21 - Ocala, FL - Reilly Arts Center

Apr 22 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Broward Center for the Arts

Apr 23 - Tampa, FL – Straz Center

Apr 24 – Decatur, GA – Eddie’s  

Apr 25 - Charlotte, NC - Evening Muse

Apr 26 - Athens, TN - Sue E Trotter Black Box Theater

Apr 27 - Carrboro, NC - Cat’s Cradle Back Room (co-headline w/ Front Country)

Apr 28 - Wilkesboro, NC - MerleFest

Apr 29 - Wilmington, NC - Greenfield Lake Amphitheater (w/ Mandolin Orange)

May 1 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Tavern

May 2 - Pittsburgh, PA - Club Cafe

May 3 - Frederick, MD - The Weinberg Center for the Arts

May 30-Jun 2 – Morgantown, IN – John Hartford Music Festival

May 31 – Chicago, IL – Schubas

Jul 12-15 – Navarro, CA – Redwood Ramble Festival

Jul 19-22 – North Plains, OR – Northwest String Summit