INTERVIEW: Violet DeLancey

Can you talk to us about your song “Columbia Road”?

“Columbia Road” is about a flower market in London on a street by the same name.  I lived in London for a year while working on my master’s degree and made a ritual out of going to the flower market on Sundays.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

It’s mostly a fanciful imagination of a vignette that I could see occurring in the picturesque setting of the flower market, contrasting that old world charm of the market on the Sunday’s with the feeling of isolation I had often while I lived there.  It’s really about a missed connection between two strangers, and while I invented the story, I was also drawing on feelings related to relationships that haven’t worked out for one reason or another—that sense that sometimes the timing just isn’t right and for various reasons people never fall in synch with one another.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

Not yet! I think it would be a great piece for a music video.  I’m probably going to prioritize making a video for “Howlin’ Back at Me,” the second track on the record, because it’s about my dog Cracker Jack and I can imagine doing something really interesting visually with it.

Why did you name the record after this particular track?

The sliding doors theme of the narrative in the song reappears throughout the record.  The whole record is very atmospheric, and since the song is really about a city more than a person it kind of sets the stage for the rest of the adventure.  The last song is also set in/reflecting on my time in London.  I began playing music and decided to pursue songwriting as a career when I was living there, so it felt right to bookended the journey of the record with explorations of the character of the place/dream sequences that begin and end there.

How was the recording and writing process?

It was very organic.  I wrote the songs over a long period of time.  I think I wrote “Eurydice” almost three years ago, and I was working on “100 years or more” two years ago. I decided to record once I had a number of songs I felt confident and excited about, and when I could begin to see a picture of what the record would be like thematically emerging.  The recording process was incredible.  I had an idea of where I wanted things to go, but Andy LeMaster was able to bring the songs to life in a way that I don’t think anyone else could have.  He was very intuitive and had a real grasp on what I was imagining.  It was a pleasure to watch him Immerse himself in the world of the songs and begin to spin each track into something otherworldly.  It was a bit of an experiment at first—though we had a few references and a sense of what might work well, we didn’t know if we’d be able to meld that with my folk/Americana writing style but once we started it really took off and started to have a life of its own that felt very natural.

What was it like to work with Andy LeMaster and how did that relationship develop?

Working with Andy was an absolute pleasure.  HE was so creatively in tune with me and my songs that he as able to work magic on each track.    I found him through researching records I liked the sounds of and reached out to him blindly.  After speaking with him a few times over the phone, I was confident that we could make something exciting together.  I met him for the first time when I went down to Athens, GA to record the first batch of songs.  During my second trip down there, I actually suffered from a bizarre accident (fell through a plate glass window at the gym and received 45 staples and 30 stitches in my legs) which slowed down the process quite a big.  Andy was incredible during that whole ordeal, and by the time we finished the record I think that everything we’d been through in that process ultimately added to the depth of the project.

How much did he influence the album?

I  think of this record as a true collaboration depending as much on his vision and artistry as mine. It would not be at all what it is without him—I had no idea how to achieve what I wanted even though I had some idea that I wanted to go in a new direction, and with each layer that Andy added the tracks took on new character.  He is also very gifted at eliciting the best vocal performances from artists which takes a special sensitivity.   Andy’s participation was essential.

How Kate Bush has influence your music?

I was a fan of Kate Bush long before I ever started playing music mostly because I was a huge fan of the Bronte’s and always got a kick out of her song “Wuthering Heights.”  I also listened to her music constantly when I was in London, and “Hounds of Love” has always been my favorite work of hers.  It didn’t occur to me to use her as a musical reference until I began thinking about this record, partly because her music feels abstract and it seemed difficult to dissect what actually gave it that timeless and otherworldly sound.  When I started thinking about wanting to go in a direction that was more authentic to my interests outside of music and trying to achieve a sound that would correspond, she was the natural choice.  Luckily Andy was able to dissect the elements of her music that were appealing pretty quickly!

What aspect of mythology did you get to explore on this record?

When I studied mythology I was primarily interested in Goddess related traditions and feminine figures in myths.  I reference  many specific stories and characters in the record, like Eurydice, Sleeping Beauty and Wendy, but I think on the whole the record is exploring our relationship to the natural world and the divine feminine.  In some ways “100 years or more,” about the connection with the natural world that we’ve lost over time and my quest to rediscover it, is the thesis of the whole record.  I also have some songs that are meditations on the nature of storytelling or how stories play in to our lives and the way we think about our own narratives, like “Wendy in the window,” and “Edge of Myself.”  “Edge of Myself” actually is the most overtly about the Hero’s Journey.  “Echo in the Moon” is exploring my struggle to integrate my sense of connection to ancient mythology in my current life.  “Howlin Back at Me” is about my dog, and in much mythology dogs are connected to the divine feminine (which often represents the intimate connection between life and death in earthly existence) and are guardians of/emissaries to the underworld, and I think in some ways I’m also touching on that in the love song to my dog.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

“Eloise” was inspired by a perfect storm (pun intended) of events.  I was driving to Savannah one night to play a show when I heard that I was going to get there just in time for a hurricane.  Some of the lyrics from that song come directly from that scenario, and I spend some time describing the feeling in the air on the eave of an expected storm.  Savannah feels kind of haunted already, but with the storm clouds blowing in and people vacating the city it felt even more ghostly. The next day, after my it, the city was virtually abandoned.  The hurricane was still not supposed to arrive for a few hours, so I spent the morning at an old cemetery before driving back up north.  I noticed that the only women represented in the cemetery were listed as wives or daughters of whatever notable men they were related to, and it struck me as so sad.  That’s when Eloise popped into my head, this ghostly figure who might’ve lived when the city itself was more alive, and who’s story could highlight the injustice in the invisibility of women in history.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’m playing a show in New York at Rockwood Music hall next month—after that, I’m not sure!

What else is happening next in Violet DeLancey’s world?

I am getting ready to move up to Washington DC, where I will be shifting gears a bit and attending Law School this fall. I plan to continue writing songs, playing music and making records!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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