Needless to say, one of the things I love most about living my mostly under the radar kind of musical life is discovering so many talented artists who I feel need to be heard. I’m fortunate that I have a few different platforms to make this happen and this blog is just one of them. As is mentioned in this interview, Andrew Delaney came into my universe at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival this past summer. He was one of the Emerging Artists. I was riveted. I got to hear him at a late-night song circle again during the weekend and …yes…that same magic was present. Andrew Delaney, of Arlington, Texas, needs to be heard. Check out all his music. He’s a gifted lyricist and storyteller.
To learn more about Andrew, check out his website.
Here’s a video of Andrew singing his song “Lina.”
Andrew Delaney will be appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on February 1, 2019
Andrew, you’re a self-described “unorthodox” voice in the songwriter scene. Unorthodox can mean a variety of different things. Would you say that your unorthodox ways are more related to your creative process or the content or your songs or the way you promote yourself?
I think that word comes up with me because I have maybe a different approach to folk music. The genre seems to dictate to some degree what subjects one should write about or a certain kind of attitude or a manner of dress. All I want to do with my music and my show is put across something that is just me and less about tradition. I’m a storytelling folk singer and I am very serious in that role, but I also grew up an 80’s kid and a goth and a horror film enthusiast and just a silly person – and yet – for a while, I was a guy in a plaid shirt singing about mining or something and it didn’t feel right. It’s better for me to be jokey and non-serious but maybe still a little morose. It’s more genuine for me wear horror movie t-shirts and sing about Andre the Giant.
Along those lines, I happen to love the fact that you describe yourself as “fearlessly neurotic indie-folk.” The “fearlessly neurotic” part probably resonates with many creative people. Does your creative spirit go far back to your childhood? Were you always creating songs or stories? Or did that begin a bit later on in your life?
I was an imaginative kid. I feel like I’ve always been a person who made stuff and I’ve always been super into narratives of one sort or another. I started writing songs at 11.
You were a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk finalist several times. To those in the folkie world, that’s a major deal. Did you feel that adding that accolade to your resume changed your life in any way—big or small? So many musicians vie for that recognition and it must feel like a dream come true in some respects.
I have done just about every major songwriting competition there is in the US. Kerrville was a thing I did the first time having no idea what it was. It ended up being the place I found my personal “tribe”. It’s a big part of my life now because I go down to that fest every year in a mentoring role for the new class of New Folk. There’s a whole community built around it and I stay plugged into that year round. It’s where most of my lasting artist friendships have come from. The accolades are mostly minor things for the press kit. The community is what matters to me, and no other song contest seems to have that going on.
In addition, you performed as a finalist in the 2017 Rocky Mountain Song Contest at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival–another great addition to your musical resume. When you go to events like Kerrville and Rocky Mountain Folks, is it rewarding to be surrounded by other musicians from other parts of the country who are working hard to get their music heard above the din of so much mediocre mainstream music? To me, you and the others out there living the troubadour life are the ones worth listening to rather than manufactured music that seems to be everywhere.
I love pop music. I think it’s important as a barometer of what’s going on on the larger scale. I’d never want to write that off. It’s rewarding to meet and know my peers and to have a community that’s supportive of what I do. My stuff isn’t for everyone, so I find that meeting other artists that are into my specific thing and want to do shows with me wherever I travel is the only way for me to make a living. I think it’s easier for me to find friends and peers and collaborators through the contests and festivals than it is for me to find fans. So I have my music friends who I would do anything for and they would do anything for me and we share the good shows and we share our fans and we all lift each other up.
I’ve got to ask you about being an Official Selection at the 2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. I admit that I’m not well-versed in Lovecraft but there is a Marblehead connection to him since he wrote about a house that is a mere few yards from the me&thee coffeehouse. You may need to arrive in town early to check out the various Lovecraft sites if you are a fan. But do tell me about your connection to him and how your film “Howard” fit into the festival.
“Howard” is a song directly about H.P. Lovecraft and specifically my visit to his grave in Providence, RI in 2015. I made a weird little video for it wherein a guy is kind of haunted by this odd little claymation creature. It’s pretty silly and a little bloody. I have always been a horror fan and a big part of that was Lovecraft’s work. But I found out later in life that he was kind of a bad person and that’s addressed in the song. It’s about how heroes can disappoint you, but their contributions can remain. The festival is mostly an amateur film festival. Lots of short films you’d never see anywhere else. Horror nerds abound. It was a good experience and it was cool to see something I made in my house projected 30 feet high in an old school movie palace.
So tell us about your latest recording “Whatever Still Remains.” This is the full deal–you wrote the songs, played them, and produced and engineered the entire album. That sure sounds like a lot of work. Was it more challenging than you thought after having worked with a top-notch Grammy-winning producer, Steve Christensen, in the past? Would you do it again?
I’d produced and recorded my first records myself. This was kind of a return to that. I have made 9 albums of one sort or another. I did three of those with Steve and I decided to try and apply what I had learned. Producing yourself and performing things yourself and recording everything, etc. is a really lonely process. I find that I work happier with collaborators. But this was supposed to be a stripped down, personal kind of record, so I did most of it on my own. A lot of that was just being budget conscious, too. I write a lot and I release a lot of material, so I can’t always go big on the production of it. I like working small and fast and low to the ground, though. If I’m going to spend $20k on an album or $2k on an album and in the end, I’m going to sell the same number of copies – I may as well spend the $2k. If I find a real, pragmatic advantage to spending more, then I’ll spend more.
Let’s hear about how you create your songs. Are you the kind of writer who makes appointments with yourself to write songs or do you wait until the muse comes? Are you a notebook scribbler or iPhone narrator kind of lyricist? What inspires you to sit down and write?
Inspiration isn’t a big thing for me. It used to be. But now I’m a crafter kind of writer. I sit down and tell myself I’m going to write and maybe I have a prompt or something or just a subject I want to explore, and I just sit down and shut out as much of the outside world as I can, and I hack away at my computer til I have lyrics I like. If my lyrics show up with a melody, that gets sung into my phone so it doesn’t get forgotten. Writing music is almost an afterthought for me. I just try to get some working chords going and embellish those as much as necessary to feel like things are finished. I’m a fast writer. I feel like I see the trajectory of a thing pretty early and then it all comes out pretty quickly. Sometimes I toil over a thing for a while, but that’s rare.
When I heard you sing “Rise and Shine” at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival this past summer, I knew immediately that you were the kind of songwriter that I most enjoy. Your set-up story about the genesis of that song and the perfect way you evoked the images and concept of the story was magic. Can you tell the short version of how you discovered the topic of the song and how it all came about for you?
There is so seldom a “short version” with me. I’m a talker on stage and in life. The shortest version is that one day I read an article about this 2,000 year old seed from an extinct plant that was found in the real-life tomb of a biblical figure and how it was germinated and managed to grow and is no longer extinct. That stuff sticks in my head and later on it spills out in conversation or on the page. The song itself came about in a joking conversation with my friend Wes Collins. Someone said something about seeds and patience and then I ran off and wrote that song in about 15 minutes to try to entertain and impress my friend. I’d say most of my best work is just me trying to show off to one person or another. It’s not the most noble reason to write, but it works well for me. I’ve always wanted people to like me. Writing made that happen. So I’ve spent my whole life trying to be good at that and get people to notice I was good at it. Thanks for noticing me.
You produced a couple of albums this past year–for Justin Pickard and Emily Barnes. How did those collaborations come about and what did you learn about being on the other side of the board and working with other musicians?
Justin has been a friend around the Dallas / Ft Worth music scene for years. I produced his last record and he decided I should do this new one too. We’re moving along nicely, but still have a long way to go. I met Emily Barnes at NERFA and then later and more thoroughly at Kerrville. I can’t remember how I talked her into hiring me to produce her record, but the whole team is all super proud of it. It’s called Rare Birds and we’re in the midst of a kickstarter for it www.tinyurl.com/rarebirds2019
Do you have any projects coming up that you’d like to share with us?
I have a few songs finished for a new album of some kind. Maybe a side project thing. I have no idea yet. I’ll wait and see how it takes shape. But more importantly, I worked with a fantastic California artist named Alice Wallace this past year on a bunch of songs for her new record, Into The Blue, which is out as of January 18th. Alice is one of those once-in-a-lifetime vocalists and she really liked my writing and we started writing together and ended up collaborating on about half the songs on that album. She’s a treat. Go listen to it. Or just mail her boxes of cash.