The ‘Delia Bop’: Local musician finds her place as a performance artist, returns to studio to record debut album
WILMINGTON – Delia Stanley is an artist, make no mistake about it. She paints, she plays music, she writes, she plays. Despite frequent concerts solo or as a group with “Delia and Friends” – her next show is Friday at the Cheese Board at City Market – it is only since last year that Stanley has realized his power as a performance artist.
âDefining myself as an ‘artist’ has only come more recently,â she told Port City Daily on a phone call last week.
And it didn’t really come from a scene per se – more of the cobbled streets of Wilmington.
During the pandemic, Stanley took on a gig as a tour guide, guiding visitors along the downtown Wilmington Ghost Walk. Known for employing many local theaters in town, Ghost Walk guides bring supernatural stories to life from the belly of the port city. Stanley said she feels she is evolving and settling more to become an artist on each tour.
âThe Ghost Walk is different from playing music, but it’s similar,â she described. âIt’s still a performance – you tell stories, but in a different way. And I realized, ‘Oh, I like it for the same reasons I love live music: the interaction with the crowd, the fun, the entertainment.’ “
Before Covid-19 changed her world, Stanley was teaching Painting With a Twist (she studied art at the Art Institute in Boston) and performed at least eight concerts a month. In between, she wrote book reviews for Forward Reviews and Publishers Weekly, while raising a toddler with her husband, harmonica player Michael Arrigo.
âI have five side pushes and a trench coat,â Stanley joked. âI took all the creative things I loved to do as a kid and turned them into a life and a career. And it is as difficult as it is rewarding.
The Ghost Walk was the only performing avenue Stanley had consistently had during the pandemic. She has done live broadcasts, as part of Wilson Center’s Ghostlight series and her cousin’s show, Monday Night Muses, in which Stanley still appears occasionally.
âI got involved with some musician friends during the pandemic, and we did song swaps,â she said. âWe would give ourselves a theme, and then we would try to write a quick song around it.â
She also posted a “Rona Bonus” on her Bandcamp site, with a live performance of the track “Pretty Little Head” played at the now defunct Wilmington Tasting Room.
But nothing better than having a live audience.
These days, Stanley is once again making his way onto local stages – putting on his “Delia bop” (“That’s what my friends call when I start dancing while playing”) in full force, playing music. old and new on guitar and ukulele.
âI definitely feed off the energy of the crowd and vice versa,â she said. âSo I definitely missed that.
Stanley mainly does solo concerts, as many venues, bars, and restaurants operate on social distancing measures and within capacity limits. âIt makes it more difficult to book as a group,â she says.
Three local musicians, JJ Street on drums, John Hussman on bass and Adam Carswell on guitar, often join Stanley. They performed with her on her debut EP, âBrokedownâ, recorded at Hourglass Studios in 2016 and 2017. The release came from a place of mourning, as Stanley and her husband moved from New York to North Carolina to care for his ailing father, who eventually died of cancer.
Stanley was studying ethnomusicology at Empire State University before the move and said she ended up finishing her studies after her father passed away. The change of life also fueled the desire to record her debut EP.
âI think when you go through something like that it kindles the fire beneath you to do the things that are important to you right now,â she said. “Like, ‘What are you waiting for? What are you going to do with the songs – you have to record them, you have to do something with them. ‘”
Stanley had worked on many tracks in New York during his debut at a wine bar. She also recorded a track, “Delia and the Devil”, on a whim after attending a music conference called “NERVA”.
âThe Northeast Regional Folklore Alliance,â she recalls. âI remember grabbing my phone and singing in it, and when I got home I put it on the guitar. So it was an interesting writing experience.
She wrote two more âBrokedownâ songs in Wilmington after finding a welcoming fellowship among the local open mic musicians.
Stanley brought Hussman, Street and Caswell to Hourglass Studios to record âBrokedownâ in less than a week. Hourglass’ Trent Harrison produced the songs.
“One was called ‘Sinking into Sadness’ – written pretty much about the experience with my dad,” Stanley said.
Because her father was also a huge music fan, Stanley released the first five-song EP on her death anniversary in 2018. Most of the album stays true to the blues genre, although it also relied on the strengths of some of his fellow musicians.
âThere’s a song over there called ‘Too Late Tonight’ that Adam – a little more country – gives that country swing to. So we arranged it a little differently, we played with that dynamic.
So far, his music has appeared on various streaming platforms, as well as on WHQR’s âSmooth Landingsâ.
âThe success of ‘Brokedown’, for me, was getting into the studio for the first time, putting something together from start to finish, and collaborating with some of the best musicians and still some of my best friends at Wilmington, âStanley said.
Stanley returned to the studio with Harrison just before last year’s election to record âOnwardâ. She wrote it in response to the harsh division of the American political climate.
âIt was a response to feeling left out and feeling a little nihilistic about the political climate – seeing this growing activism, taking matters into your own hands,â Stanley explained. “And that’s where ‘Onward’ really comes in, like an anthem, that we don’t have to do it the old fashioned way, we can create new ways of looking at it and new ways of doing it.” do things.
for her debut album, “Come On,” Stanley said she would work with Hussman again. She plans to make it a more barebones album, recorded in her home studio, full of DIY.
Stanley has new music and fleshed out old songs, about 16 tracks in total, over the past year. She is currently reducing it to 12 or 13, all stories of angst and love. Stanley said that “Come On” will be stripped: “Think about the white stripes.”
âWe want to have a little more of a garage band, a rock ‘n’ roll vibe,â she explained – âto be a little dirtier.â
While Stanley said she played some of the songs live, nothing was fully worked out.
âIt’s not overly complicated, though,â she said, âjust fun music, energetic stuff that I hope people want to dance and play with.â
Delia Stanley’s next shows:
Friday April 9, The Cheese Board, 7-10 p.m.
Sunday April 11, Catawba Brewing – Wilmington, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday April 15, end-of-day distillery, 6.30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Saturday April 17, Low Tide Tiki Bar & Grill, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, April 24, The Cheese Board, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
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