Delilah DeWylde is appearing in concert at the next WGVU Pop Up Concert, Wednesday, January 15th at 7:30pm. WGVU has this feature interview with one of western Michigan’s most iconic musical artists.
Delilah DeWylde has been thrilling rock'n'roll audiences for over 20 years, she's been playing the upright bass in a variety of bands beginning with Dangerville in 1998.
She's gone on to front her own ensembles and record albums of original songs. Delilah began her musical journey on piano as a child and went on to formal training on drums and saxophone but it was as a young adult when she picked up the bass and started rocking. Her music is influenced by the American tradition of country, blues and rock and in particular rockabilly and honky tonk. Here's The Price you Pay, the title track from her 2010 album.
WGVU: I asked Delilah how she took up the acoustic upright bass.
Delilah: So after the marching drums and the classical music, the symphony music, I really kind of hung up music and you know being from a smaller town in Ottawa County… you know I didn't really have a lot in common with a lot of people I went to school with, so when I went to college I came to Grand Rapids and that's where I found my people… Grand Rapids has always been very special to me, especially downtown, it's always just been so cool to me. I found musicians, I found artists, I found a lot of things I liked in Grand Rapids and I started following local bands, like the old Eastown clubs and stuff.
And I really wanted to play music and a couple guys I worked with played music.
So they suggested I pick up electric bass and figure out where the notes were and kind of learned a few songs and played with few folks… and there was a crazy band around Grand Rapids that played a rockabilly kind of style, wild music annd I really liked them, and their name was Dangerville. And they lost their bass player in 1998, and they asked me to join. So I went and bought an up-right bass, and here we are… at that’s the short story
WGVU: So in terms of going from the electric bass to the up-right, just from a technical perspective, how different was that for you?
DeWylde: Moving to the upright bass I was a little concerned about the tuning, the fact that there's no frets, I didn't know how that was going to settle out it was really worried about being precise on the notes.
And did what most beginners do, I marked the neck on the bass with a piece of tape.
So I knew where some of the notes were, but I found the bigger the instrument, the less precise you really need to be.
As long as I was wearing the same heeled shoes every time and I had the peg in the right place, I knew from holding my hand approximately next to my head, that that was about where a G would be on the lowest ring.
I found the transition to be a little daunting at first, but I really really came to love it out of all the instruments I’ve ever played.
WGVU: Now after you left Dangerville, as a leader having your own band, you've really dive ddeep into a variety of styles that center in on traditional country music, hillbilly music, you mentioned rockabilly, but with a kind of a punk energy to it. Were you listening to that music earlier?
DeWylde: Dangerville was my initial introduction to it. The other thing I remember so clearly in the 90's was all of the California bands that came through the old Intersection (bar) that had Smith booked…things like The Derailers and Big Sandy, those bands had a really big impact on me. I didn't realize it at the time, but a lot of them were in the style of the 50's 60's country.
And the more I learned about their music the more I started following things back to who is influencing whom… you know like who's influencing Big Sandy, who is influencing the guys from the 60's, who's influencing people from the 50's… it can just goes back as far as you as you can go really. So the more I learned about music and the more I learned about traditional music and the hillbilly music and the rockabilly, and the rock, everything's all really intertwined, so I find it kind of fascinating.
WGVU: In terms of live performing you you've been a mainstay in the Western Michigan area for many years now…
DeWylde: You know a lot of people really enjoy playing really big shows.
But I find a lot of joy in playing a really packed show in a small venue…there's joy to be had in both I think. Very memorable experiences of course have been playing Fredrick Meijer Gardens for 2000 people, that's been that's been wonderful. But I like really all shows, all sizes. There's something in each one, that's kind of unique.
WGVU: At the concert coming up, The Pop-up Concert, can you tell us about what the audience can expect….
DeWylde: What I like to do at shows in the last few years has really been trying to bring the history of the artists and the music into the show.
Sometimes I would feel like I was talking too much and I would even ask the audience do even want to hear this and they're like no, no we want to hear the story.
So I’ve intended to talk more as the years have gone by, and people come up and they say they really like the history…they like the connections… I'll talk about people I've met who have met artists who have passed and… or who saw Buddy Holly when they were 13, you know stories like that I like to tell.
I like to tell the audience about even unknown people who they've never heard of. I talk about Janis Martin at all of our shows, she was a 15 year-old in 1956 who was signed to RCA and she was only around for about a year or so.
But all of her recordings are great and more people should know about her… so people can expect some of that at our show, they can expect to some new songs, they can expect some old songs.
Of course we’ve got February coming around the corner, I'll be talking a lot about our Buddy Holly tribute that we're going to a Grand Rapids in February and we're going to talk about Buddy Holly we’ll talk about the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, of course and the sheer impact that those guys had at such a young age, and all the teenagers listening and all the musicians listening and how that influenced everyone from the average kid just picking up a guitar to the Beatles.
We’ll tell stories, we'll talk. we'll have a good time.