Grey Delisle
by Johanna J. Bodde

Transcript from audio interview, October 4th 2003

Johanna: Grey DeLisle, is that a stage name or is it your real name?

Grey: Well, I was born Aron Grey Van Oosbree, but I got married when I was nineteen, for six months, it was terrible, a disaster. But he was called DeLisle, his last name was DeLisle, so I went..., ended up going by my middle name and his last name, so it's real, but it's creative! (laughs)

J: Makes a cool combination!

G: Thank you!

J: You're part Dutch and this is your first visit here, does the country live up to your expectations? Do you feel a special connection?

G: (enthusiast) I do!! Well, I found a lot of people look like my Dad's side of the family, you know, tall and blond a lot of times. See, Robbie (her promoter) actually looks a lot like my Dad! Like my Dad's side of the family. But I'm... yeah, and I love the audiences, they're the best audience that I've found, anywhere in the world! The best audiences, in Holland. People talk about how wonderful you all are here, over here and I didn't believe it until I got here and it's true! So I'll vouch for Holland!

J: O.K.! Thanks!

J: Where do you usually play in California, clubs, coffeehouses? And have you been touring in The States?

G: We do, we don't tour too extensively in The States. We play about once a month in the Los Angeles area and we play The Roxy and The Mint and you know, some of the major clubs. But I found this great little place, right by my house called The Scene and it's very underground, you know, it's very... kind of seedy but in a good way, you know, like red light, you know and good old pooltable, so..., but it's got a really nice vibe to it. So we actually recorded my live-record there, "Bootlegger". I just said bring recording equipment down, whatever we get, we get. Let's just do it here because it's got a good feeling to it, so we played there. But we played Bumbershoot, which is a big festival in Seattle and we, you know, we travel a little bit and we go to San Diego sometimes, but this is the furthest we came to play music and we're glad we did, it's been very good to us, so...

J: Your husband Murry Hammond is also a musician, please tell us something about the things he does?

G: He's a wonderful songwriter, wonderful bassplayer and guitarplayer. And actually, it's kind of interesting for me on this visit because in The States he's the famous one, musically, he's in a band called The Old 97's and they're very popular in the U.S. So I'm always the wife that also does music, but nobody knows who I am, but here it's so fun! Here I'm getting more attention, he thinks it's hysterical, he thinks it's grand, he's happy about it, so (laughs exuberantly) I'm enjoying being a little star!

J: This is my favorite question for musician couples, how did you meet, via the music?

G: Actually, we did! I came to his show, he was playing a little show, way back, about ten years ago before they were on a label and they had no success, they were... It was five dollars to get in and I didn't have the money and I came with a friend of his, yes, we were just friends and his friend said can you put Grey on the list. And Murry said no, we don't have any more room on the list but it's o.k., I'll just say she's my wife and he grabbed my arm and we went into the club together and so... It was all a lie but we didn't realize we wouldn't be lying lateron! (laughs) We were just friends for eight years and then we finally went on a date, so yeah, music brought us together, you could say that!

J: Hummin'bird Records, is that your own label? Did you make up the name?

G: Hummin'bird Records is my own label, I really was never interested in getting a record deal, I just wanted to put out good records, so... My grandmother loves hummingbirds and so... I just used to see them at her feeder outside of her house and it just made me feel nice, so I just thought, yeah, I'm gonna put out my own records on my own label, Hummin'bird Records, I just made it up, so... But it's actually funny, because people have actually submitted records to Hummin'bird Records, trying to get us to do, you know, so I said no, no, it's not a real label, well, it's just my label, you know, so...

J: On your live-album "Bootlegger" you're singing the classic "My Dixie Darling", written by A.P. Carter. Do you like The Carter Family?

G: I adore The Carter Family! They're my favorite ever, I just love it! And I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville recently and just saw Mother Maybelle's uh, I saw the autoharp and I saw the guitar, Mother Maybelle's guitar and, oh, Sarah's autoharp, it was fantastic! I just, I could cry over it, yeah, I love The Carter Family so much! We play it around the house all the time and I grew up listening to all that roots music from my Dad's side, he loves it! What is it with the Dutch and roots music? It's good, you know, my Dad, my Dad's the reason that I listen to it. (laughs)

J: Maybe we have good taste here? (laughs)
J: You're also playing the autoharp, I heard that it gets out of tune easily, which makes it a bit hard to play, is that true?

G: It's not hard to play, it's hard to tune, that's the thing. It doesn't get out of tune as easily as a guitar does but a guitar's much easier to tune, because it only has six strings. My... I have a lot of strings (laughs), that takes longer but if you have a husband who's musically inclined, it's o.k., just hand it over to him, he'll do it for you! (laughs)

J: What albums have you been listening to lately, just for your own enjoyment?

G: I love Tom Waits a lot, he's wonderful and I love that "Mule Variations"-record that he did, it didn't get a lot of attention in The States, but I think it's a fantastic record, it's one of my favorites. And uhm, I have a little of The Louvin Brothers, I've been listening to that "Satan Is Real", that's good and uhm, gosh... New records... I like The White Stripes... I like The White Stripes, yeah, and I just heard Emmylou Harris' new record, it's pretty good, pretty good! She's doing a lot of her own songwriting, which is nice to see, so... yeah! I don't listen to a whole lot of new music but uhm, I'm not completely in the Dark Ages... (laughs)

J: Everybody is asking you in interviews about your cool job as a voice actress. I'm curious, how did you get work like that? Don't tell me there was an ad in the paper? (teasing)

G: No! No! (laughs) There's about a million people in Los Angeles that would like to do that as a job and I just fell into it. I was doing stand-up comedy if you can believe that and I did a lot of impressions (laughs). Yes, I did a lot of impressions and some lady saw me, a casting director and said you should do cartoons, you'd be good at it, you do a lot of different voices. And so I thought, I just went and did it, you know, I just thought o.k., great, I'll do that. Oh, it took me forever to get into it, everybody wants to do it and you have to make a tape and it's just really hard to get in. So I had to crash my way into an audition, come without being invited and so I went and they were upset that I came without being invited, but I actually ended up getting the part! So, after that, it was good!

J: I also read somewhere that you had a quite strict religious upbringing, you said goodbye to religion for some time, but now you're going to church again. Why did you go back? Wasn't it hard to forget the things that made you leave, like disappointment maybe?

G: It's true... It did take me a while to get over uhm, just such a staunch upbringing, such a strict upbringing. But the church I go to now is a little bit... See, my parents are Pentecostal, which is very, very strict and I couldn't listen to music or you know, wear pants, or anything, but it's... See, I'm always in a dress, you can't..., you know, I can't change my stripes now (laughs), they beat it into me (laughs again), so... But it's more comfortable to wear a dress actually, I found, but uhm... Yeah, I took a little break from church for a while, but our church is so accepting now, the one that we go to, I mean... It's definitely based on, you know, definitely strong faith but not as much judgement as what I grew up with, so... I..., we're able to..., we actually play instruments at church, you know, we play..., we play some gospelmusic. But sometimes we get a little, get a little down and dirty and it's o.k.! (laughs) So I'm happy to be back!

J: (halfway switching over to Theo Oldenburg's questions) What are your plans for the near future? There will be a new CD on Sugar Hill Records, that's what Theo found out and what's its name and what can we expect from it?

G: It's called "The Graceful Ghost" and it will be out in March of 2004 and it's much more Appalachian sounding, much more Carter Family influenced and uhm, actually, a lot of people think that they're covers of old songs. But they're all original except for one, I cover Kitty Wells' "This White Circle" and she is just... I love her voice, I've always loved her voice, so... and that's such a great song and nobody has ever covered it, so... Not that I know of, maybe I'm missing something but it's a great song! So it's so sad, because I give the CD to people and they say oh I love that! Your songwriting is so good, "This White Circle" is such a good song and I say oh..., that's the only cover but... (laughs), it's o.k., so uh... but there's other good songs on it, so... But yes, it's much more roots, a lot more roots and a lot more acoustic, so we did it all in the house, we recorded in the house on vintage equipment, microphones and things, so... yeah...

J: Theo has always real smart questions... What do you expect from working with that record label, are they pushing you in a certain direction?

G: I really wanted to make sure that my artistic freedom was kept intact, because I'm so spoiled by putting out my own records for so long. So I, before I went into the deal, I told them I can't be told what kind of records to make and they respected that. So I said, you know I'm not even sure what kinda record I'm gonna make. I mean, if you heard "Homewrecker", it's all over the place, so it could have gone into any direction! (laughs) I could have made a Latin record, I could have made, you know, a punk record but uhm, so they supported my artistic, you know, vision and uhm... What I expect from a record label... Well, I expect to relax a little bit more and as in terms of like packaging up all my own CD's and things, because it's been a full-time job. I mean, I go to work all day long and then I come home at seven o'clock and then I'm packing up CD's and sending orders to people and it's so... I'm tired of being a record label! (laughing) So I'm looking forward to handing over the work to someone else, so that will be..., that will be nice! it's already been helpful, you know, they've already helped me with a lot of mailing and stuff like that, so... it's good.

J: You still have your day-job as a voice actress but suppose the new record will be a major hit, can we expect you then as a full-time performer?

G: (emphatic) I love my cartoon work so much that I don't think I can ever leave it... I just really want... I would really hope..., my hope is that I could just do both of them forever, because I love acting, it's fun and it's a creative outlet all on its own. And it also helps me very much with the music, as I've said before, I think when you have an income, you know, other than music, it helps you be just an artist and not a business person, you know. I love to perform and everything but I don't wanna think about a single or what's gonna be marketable, you know. I just wanna go into the studio and uhm, just create whatever I think is good inside, you know, not what I think people are going to like. So, I think that having a steady income... helps you to be not influenced by economy rather than art, so...

J: You said in an interview, that the sadder a song is, the more cheerful you feel yourself, how does that happen?

G: I, you know... I don't know, it's a mystery because my father used to sing me these really sad Appalachian songs, about children dying and everything. And I don't know, I just liked the feeling of being sad, I liked the feeling of being touched, you know, always. I would cry on his lap and then I'd tug his shirt and say sing me another one, sing me another one! (laughs) So I don't know..., maybe I'm a masochist! (laughs exuberantly) But it does that, just to feel that deeply makes me happy, I don't now... (laughs)

J: Well, it seems that you are more popular here, than in your home country, can you explain that?

G: Ah, gosh! (sighs) Well, you know, it's wonderful with the radio here, that it's not controlled by corporations. Because in America it's hard to get your records played on the radio, because the corporate influence is so overwhelming that it's really... You have no chance to get your record played unless it's just on small, tiny little independent stations. So it's... what's wonderful about this country that people are able to play the music that they love, you know. And so, uhm, I think that's that been able to get me a lot more exposure here, plus Robbie Klanderman (her promoter), he's been so great and Bas from Belmont Bookings, they saw me in Nashville and took me under their wing and helped me so much. Because I didn't know, I didn't even know that this market existed, you know, it's such a far away place, I can't believe it, I can't believe people know who I am here! (laughs)

J: If you could do one musical wish, what would that be?

G: Oh, we're in the process of building our own studio right now, so I'd love to finish it, finish our own studio. And I really would like to find artists that I really believe in and just love their music. There's so many wonderful artists, that don't have the finances or don't have the resources to make a record and it's just such a blessing to be able to put together a record of... you know, just the time in your live and your inspiration. So I'd love to just take artists and bring them in and just say let's make a record, you know. It's no money involved, just get in there and make something, so... (laughs)

J: Do you think you have a chance to go and see some other artists here at the Take Root Festival?

G: I sure hope so! The people we've been travelling with, Tim Easton, just by happenstance. Because he was taking a train and we happened to be going the same way he was and we have a van, so I got to be familiar with his music. And I'm even..., just through the doorways I'm hearing some really great things, so I'm hoping to wander around a little bit and hear some good things...

J: Well, thanks very much for the interview, it was fun!

G: It was my pleasure, I'm glad to be here, thanks!

Interview by Johanna J. Bodde, with Theo Oldenburg's technical assistence.
Parts of the audio interview were used in Alt.Country Cooking; Flemish translation by Benny Metten previously published on CtrlAltCountry, Belgium.