Jul 28 2014

Arséne DeLay

By: Christopher Louis Romaguera


 Having spent four years in Los Angeles as a resident of the group Vaud and the Villains, Arsene DeLay was making a living out on the West Coast. But home was never far from her mind, and when she decided to return, she came back as an artist.Since she has returned, she has booked weekly gigs, sang with multiple bands and musicians, performed at Jazz Fest, and released her debut album, Comin’ Home. Arsene and I sat outside of Morning Call and talked about her return and her music over coffee.

Where Y’at: How did it feel doing the gospel tent with your family?

Arsene DeLay: It was beautiful. It was very special this year too, because my mom was up there. She couldn’t do it last year [due to health problems]. My love of singing comes from my mom. She’s the one who was the inspiration. She has a gorgeous voice. And I know that for her to not be able to sing was heartbreaking, was devastating. It was very, very tough. For her to come back a year later, it was amazing. I was so happy to witness that and I was so proud of her. 

WYAT: How is it singing with your family?

AD: I really enjoy singing with my family because it’s quite effortless. When we sit there and talk, that’s a different story. It’s difficult to talk to everyone because big families can be big pains in the butt. But all of that melts away when we sing together. There has to be something said [for a group of people] that can blend together so effortlessly. It takes a very special group of people to sing with another person well. 

That’s the thing about group singing and singing harmonies, you really do have to listen to each other because not only do you have to be on the correct track note-wise to create the whole chord, but you have to get the blend right too because if it’s too much of one note it’s going to sound off, it’s not going to sound right. But if you have the blend right, even the most jaded of listeners will shut up because there’s something that draws them in. [They think] 'it’s something that I have to hear.' [My family] were some of the first that I learned to do that with. 

WYAT: How did it feel being able mix at Piety before it closed?

AD: Mark [Bingham] was amazing. It was really wonderful working with him because I got to sit in there while he mixed and he’s such a great teacher. Really just watching him work was a real treat. Being able to ask him questions about the technicalities, getting an education on how to make things sound really good. I’m going to miss that. The place, it reeks of beautiful memories in history, but it makes it very accessible. It cracks that whole façade of being idolized. 

WYAT: What’s next for you?

AD:Next is an album with a majority of original songs. I would like to do all originals. But there are just so many good songs that people have written out there. And there are songs that I hear where I’m just like, ‘Man, I couldn’t have said this better, I’m going to have to cover it.’ 

I also have some other projects. I’ve worked a lot with [guitarist] Matt Clark. He and I have a really great chemistry together. And I love what we’re doing with our duo, Bayou St. Funk, that’s a lot of fun. And Antoine, [Reynaldo Diel] that’s my right hand man right there. I’d love to do a duet album with him. He’s another one of those people who is super easy to sing with. We have such a good time. It’s effortless. We have been doing it for a long time. We’ve sang together for six years. We complement each other very well, and we have a lot of fun doing it. 

WYAT: What kind of music do you feel like you excel in?

AD: I really think I’m starting to move somewhere between soul and Southern rock. That’s really the direction that I’m interested in going in right now. Southern rock has been hugely underrated for quite some time. I also feel that the perspective of a black female in Southern rock is virtually non-existent —  it shouldn’t be. I really feel that the black female’s perspective in rock n’ roll has been largely ignored. 

Also, rock n’ roll, there’s kind of an eye turned away from it here [New Orleans.] It’s not something that has a solid foothold. I’ve been to some rock shows, and it’s phenomenal. But everyone always wants to focus on jazz, brass bands and funk. That’s what they think of when they come here. 

WYAT: How do you feel women vocalists are represented in New Orleans?

AD: There’s some really phenomenal women that sing in this town. Dana Abbot, Lynn Drury, Mia Borders. We’re doing some really great stuff. I feel like what they’re doing is very underrated. There’s just not a strong enough light being shed on it. 

WYAT: What do you like about performing?

AD:I love shows because of the story that could be told in them. If I’m doing a concert set, I’m very meticulous about the set list because it’s going to take everyone on a particular arc. 

I feel like I did that on my record too. I was very particular about the order. It had to create a certain soundscape so that it left the person with a certain feel and anchoring around the song "Comin’ Home." Which is really what this record was about. 

WYAT: What is your record about?

AD:Comin’ Home was about my decision to come back to New Orleans. Which was a really big decision for me. I thought Los Angeles was it. 

[I thought] maybe I don’t need to take that particular path to get to the dream itself. These two paths here, both of them are very valid. It is very hard to change course when in the middle of one, and that’s what I did, and I struggled with that.

Looking back, this was the best decision for me to make. I got tired of constantly trying to prove myself when I felt like I should have actually been creating. There’s a difference between the ‘look what I can do,’ vs. the ‘this is exactly what I’m feeling.’ The ‘let me play this piece and show you exactly how perfect I can play it’ vs. the ‘let me create this piece so I can tell you what’s on my mind.’ I was ready to create. I was ready to create things — come into the world as myself, an artist, not as a sideman working on someone else’s project.

 This is where I’m going to lay down roots. I can to what I want to, with my dreams and my career here at home. 

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