As I've been expanding the boundries of this column beyond just DJs, it's been fun to learn about other aspects of the music business. I think Jeff DeLia is the first who's been exclusively an artist manager. What he shares with all the others I've interviewed here is a deep passion for music.
Bill Frater: What got you started in the music business and when and why?
Jeff DeLia: When I was 16 years old I decided that I wanted to be an artist manager. In my years growing up, I always wanted to be around my friend’s bands and as close to the music as possible. I loved music (and still do). I had some experiences in business at a young age and realized that I enjoyed the business side of things. I thought to combine the two elements, and I came up with artist management.
I moved to NYC in 2006 after high school and began working in music in various capacities. During this time I was going to college part-time at Baruch College (CUNY) in Manhattan and working full-time in hospitality to pay the bills. My first work in management was with an indie rock band in 2009.
A couple years later I decided to give Los Angeles a try. I found a music business program at Musicians Institute (MI). I thought a full-time program for six months, with 16 classes on the music business, taught by professionals in music, would be a great way to learn more about the inner workings of the music business.
In 2011 I began at MI and took on a couple of internships: Red Light Management (Dave Matthews Band, Alabama Shakes), as well as music public relations firm Mitch Schneider Organization (David Bowie, Steve Aoki). In 2012 I got introduced to my first client, A.J. Croce, by our mutual friend Howard Bloom, a retired music publicist (Bob Marley, Prince) and now author. Seven months later, in 2013, I signed two more clients and started my company, 72 Music Management.
How do you describe your business?
I’m a music manager. I manage the careers of full-time recording and touring artists, as well as one producer. As a manager I facilitate all facets of the artists' career, including record releases and record labels, marketing, syncs and publishers, booking and agents, and more.
I feel so fortunate to have worked with such incredibly talented artists, sweet people, and on great albums with legendary artists and producers. I’ve put out 11 albums; which includes nine studio albums, one reissue, and one box set. We also released a single remix of a Bobby Rush track by DJ duo SMLE.
My current roster includes A.J. Croce, Bobby Rush, Janiva Magness, The Dustbowl Revival, and, as a producer, Keb’ Mo’. I’ve been able to work with great labels along the way, including Concord Music Group via Rounder Records, Compass Records, Omnivore Recordings, Thirty Tigers, Blue Élan Records and Signature Sounds Recordings. I also co-manage The Dustbowl Revival with Ivory Daniel of The Regime.
Some of the artists and producers I’ve been a part of collaborations with include Dr. John, Leon Russell, Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin, Vince Gill, Steve Cropper, The McCrary Sisters, Delbert McClinton, Cedric Burnside, Charlie Musselwhite, and producers: the late Allen Toussaint (Irma Thomas) and “Cowboy” Jack Clement (Elvis Presley), Mitchell Froom (Crowded House), Dan Penn (Aretha Franklin), and Ted Hutt (Old Crow Medicine Show).
What was the first artist or album that got you into Americana or roots music?
I would say my introduction into Americana came after I started managing A.J. Croce. I would spend time listening to music he was influenced by or was a fan of. I was listening to artists like Dr. John, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, and Tom Waits. Prior to working with A.J. I was listening to Americana artists, but I didn’t really know the title “Americana” or much about it. I listened to artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons as well as indie folk like Of Monsters and Men, The Head and the Heart, and The Lumineers.
Who are your favorite artists of all time?
I’ve had artists/genres that I was a huge fan of for particular periods in my life and artists/genres I’ve listened to a lot in recent years, but there are certain ones that are timeless classics, and those are what make my all-time favorite artists list.
They include: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, Dr. John, James Brown, Etta James, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Bob Marley, and Stevie Wonder.
What does Americana music mean to you?
To me Americana music is anything that has roots in it and grit. It’s most commonly associated with two or more roots music forms blended together. It can also be one single roots genre, as long as it has some grit. Styles of music accepted as Americana include folk, soul, roots-rock, blues, alt-country, New Orleans R&B, and bluegrass. It would also accept the subgenres like indie folk, newgrass, delta blues, soul-blues, etc.
Where do you see Americana radio going in the future?
The Americana radio chart is going to be making some changes in 2018. For the first time ever, the format will have a singles chart. They are going to be using a technological system to accrue spins from radio stations for the chart, for the first time in its history. I’ll let the Americana Music Association unveil more of the specifics. I’m excited about the change.
Roots Music Report’s charts have also been a useful tool in seeing how singles and albums are doing when they come out. The success on the charts helps shape the story of the album that we use in marketing; and the information we gather from radio reports about airplay helps us with booking and targeting the marketing.
The Americana genre, radio format, and community has grown exponentially in its nearly 20-year history, and even in the past five years that I’ve been active in this space. In recent years, the genre has added multiple Grammy Award categories, an Americana/Folk Billboard chart, and various events throughout the world. I think there are more Americana festivals now, too. There are artists who have been mainstream pop or rock artists in each decade of the past six that have made Americana records recently. It’s definitely moving the genre further and further into mainstream music. I could write a whole blog on the format. I’ll close with this: I feel very fortunate to work in this field and rub shoulders with so many great people that are both coming up and veterans in the business and on the artist side. I look forward to the future of Americana music.
What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
Of course my clients and their albums I’m most excited about, but I’ll also share other favorites. First, A.J. Croce’s recent album release, Just Like Medicine; Janiva Magness’ recent blues release, Blue Again; The Dustbowl Revival’s self-titled album;, and the remix we put out on Bobby Rush’s “Funk o’ de Funk” song by SMLE.
Some of my favorite Americana artists and albums of 2017 include Chris Stapleton, Conor Oberst, Curtis Harding, David Ramirez, Delbert McClinton, Eilen Jewell, Fleet Foxes, Jackie Greene, Pokey LaFarge, Darlingside, The Milk Carton Kids, Sturgill Simpson, Brent Cobb, Parker Millsap, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Nikki Lane, Rose Cousins, Sugaray Rayford, and TajMo. I recently saw soul singer Curtis Harding live in L.A. at The Echo. He’s really incredible.
What are your most memorable experiences from working in the music industry?
Some of my most memorable experiences or memories working in the business include talking to, hanging out with, or listening to stories with some of the legends of music. One of the first calls I made on behalf of A.J. Croce was to producing/songwriting legend, the late “Cowboy” Jack Clement, who was a house producer at Sun Records and most notably produced Elvis and Johnny Cash among others. A couple hours later he called me back. I spent an afternoon in the house of Richard Perry and Jane Fonda for A.J. to play through his songs with Richard, whose rich history in music includes producing platinum records for Barbara Streisand, Harry Nilsson, and Rod Stewart.
I was in love with the sound of Leon Russell and the Shelter People. While we were working on A.J. Croce’s Twelve Tales album, I asked him if he’d be into writing with Leon. He said “of course, Leon is a hero of mine.” I sent a note to Elton John’s management company, who had managed Leon, and it eventually got to him. Leon wrote me an email about the collaboration. I couldn’t believe it. He’s one of my favorites.
In 2013 I spent a few days in New Orleans, where we filmed the music video for Blinddog Smokin’s “Another Murder in Orleans” with the Nite Tripper himself, Dr. John. That almost didn’t happen … but it did and I sat in the green room with Dr. John and Bobby Rush talking about women they both chased in the late '60s.
Finally, by some miracle, Seymour Stein and I ended up talking about the blues and Houma, Louisiana, and became friends. Seymour is a true A&R and industry legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who signed Madonna, The Ramones, Depeche Mode, and Lou Reed, among others. Subsequently we’ve hung out several times, including a special event during MIDEM in Cannes, France. I have had to pinch myself many times.
What projects are you working on next?
We have a new Janiva Magness album coming out in 2018 with some really special guests. It’s her most Americana album to date, very gritty and rootsy. There are six protest songs on it and it really speaks to what’s happening in the world right now. We are currently setting that up. My other clients are thinking about their next albums and writing, but it’s too early to talk about.
What inspires you or what keeps you going?
The music and artists inspire me. I’m very excited about everything my clients are doing, the potential for them to be doing, the music they are creating, and their live shows. I get excited about climbing to new heights with each of them. I’m very driven to be wildly successful so I can help people and the world.
What are your most proud accomplishments?
I’m most proud of getting to work with the artists that I’m currently managing. With regard to accolades I’m most proud of the Grammy Award for Bobby Rush’s Porcupine Meat, as well as the Blues Music Awards and nominations, the other Grammy Award nominations, and the chart success on Billboard, Americana radio, blues radio, and abroad.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or interests you wish to share?
I love to travel and am into spirituality. I study and practice the spiritual system of Kabbalah.
How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who really cared about people and used his success(es) to make change in the world and in the lives of many other people.