Interview: Kelly Winrich of Delta Spirit

Interview by Haley Earl-Lynn

I got a chance to talk with Kelly Winrich of Delta Spirit last week. Delta Spirit was on the last leg of their coast to coast tour when we spoke. They finished it all off right here in San Diego at the House of Blues last Friday night. Their live show proved to be even more incredible than playing Bushwick Blues on repeat in my living room all weekend was. Kelly tells us more about how the band got together, what their musical influences are and even what the future holds for this up and coming group. Not to fear, a new album is already in the works with a potential release date set for late next summer.

Well first off, I know you guys are wrapping up your tour this week. How has it been so far?

Well we went back to a couple places that we had already been to on our last tour. And our last tour ended recently so we were a little apprehensive of what it would be like in places like New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, etc. But people were still showing up so that was great. I guess people are digging what we are doing. Every time their manager asks them who they want to take out on tour with them they always say Delta Spirit and their manager is like, no, you can’t take the same band out every time.

Who have you most enjoyed touring with/meeting on tour?

Wow. Ok well those are like two different questions. We have most enjoyed touring with Dr. Dog and those guys. We have done three tours with them. We were hoping to tour with them again this fall but logistically it didn’t work out. Those guys are such a fun band. We have met some pretty insane people on tour. In particular, we met Robert Plant in the UK. It was great; he came out to one of our shows at this little hole in the wall spot in Camden, which is where he’s from. Luckily none of us knew he was there until after which was probably good because none of us could have been able to play if we had known he was in the room. Another great one was that we got to meet Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes in New York. He actually opened for us because he is doing this solo project right now. Then we went on and we decided to cover a Violent Femmes song so he came out and jammed with us. It was the craziest thing. Look it up on You Tube, I have like the dumbest grin on my face the whole time. What is even funnier is that he and Matt have been keeping in touch. Sometimes Gordon will just call him up and they’ll talk like they’re old buddies. It’s unreal.

Alright so now I want to know a little bit more about your musical influences as a band or even personally, what would you say your major influences are?

All of us in the band have really different influences. There are a few that are congruent throughout. We all love the Beatles. I love Radiohead, Santo and Johnny, Sam Cook, Otis Redding, Here We Go Magic, The Morning Benders, and ya know friend’s bands too. That is what is so great about going on tour is you get to hang out with and meet new bands. They are ones that end up influencing us the most I think. You are surrounded by them for months at a time. We definitely feed off of each other.

I know you started as the producer? How did you wind up here in the band?

What happened is that Matt and I used to be in a band in high school. We did some random shows here and there and it was kind of cheesy music. I actually got an offer to go another way and Matt did the same. Matt signed like a development deal. They threw a bunch of money at him and he went through the whole major label ringer. So pretty much all 4 of us were playing in different bands but eventually it all came full circle. Matt came to me and asked if he could use my studio to record with some new guys and I said sure and then eventually I started adding my two cents and doing some drums on the recording. I went on tour with them and helped out and played some piano on a few songs. Then we had a talk and they wanted me to join and I was down. It was definitely a process because I don’t think that at the beginning any of us imagined I would end up in the band.

I’m not sure if one of you writes or if all of you do, but are your songs written so that people can relate to them or is the writing experience more of a cathartic one or something else all together?

It varies for each song I think, but song writing for me is more of a personal outlet. It’s usually after something happens, whether it’s a traumatic experience or a great one. I get inspired most by those moments. The songs that I love come together in like an hour; it’s the bad ones that take days to write. I write a lot of songs and some of them don’t really work for Delta Spirit because you know, Matt is the one that ends up singing them. If they don’t work I just put them aside for a bit. Usually it is me or Matt writing the lyrics and the melody. We try to make kind of a loose arrangement of what the song should be. Then we take it to the band and sometimes it works and sometimes it ends up transforming into something totally different. Over time it has become a more collaborative, democratic process. It used to be that I recorded everything myself, the drums, the bass, the guitar, all the instruments. Now it is more that whatever the song needs we discuss as a group.

What do you guys listen to before you play that maybe our listeners would also enjoy?

Well we actually listen and do vocal warm-ups to our songs before the show just to get our voices ready. But recently our sound guy Jake has been playing Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats record before our show and we have all kind of come to love that. Harry Nilsson is this amazing songwriter who actually influenced John Lennon. There is a great documentary that you can stream on Netflix on it; it’s called “Who is Harry Nilsson?” Watch it. It’s great. In the 70s Nilsson and John Lennon kind of gallivanted around LA, mostly getting hammered and doing lots of drugs and terrorizing LA, but also making great music. They made the record Pussy Cats then. Lots of screaming contests went on and there are stories of them getting blood on the microphones in the recording studios they used from messing with their voices so much. It definitely pumps us up.

I am a big fan of videos and I love what you guys have done with both La Blogotheque and Yours Truly. How do you arrange for that? Do you have creative ideas going into filming or are you just kind of told what to do?

Well for La Blogotheque, I mean that was two years ago, but we were in San Francisco and we agreed to do it there. Our best idea was to just buy a bunch of beer and round up some homeless people but that kind of seemed like we were exploiting them. They came back with the idea of getting on the trolley car. That seems like it’s everyone’s favorite. It has really helped get our name out a lot. We have random shows in the Midwest and the people tell us how much they love our video with La Blogotheque so it’s been great for us. And then with Yours Truly, we brought those guys on board for our last record to do an electronic press kit. For that we told them we wanted a couple of live videos and some time spent talking about our record and then we let them run with it. It is just like documentary style videos so they just did the editing.

What are your plans now that you have a break from touring?

We are actually in the process of finding new management right now. So that’s really exciting because there are lots of people who are eager to work with us. But, yeah we are making a new record. We will work more on that at the beginning of the year. Once we have like a cohesive idea of what we want to do in the studio we will go somewhere and record it. Hopefully we will get that done by February and go back on tour around March. We may tour with Dawes and Deer Tick. That is still in the works, but hopefully. Matt and the singers of those bands made a record and they are calling it Little Brother. There will be a tour for the record release of that. Once Matt is done we will get serious about our record and if it all goes as planned we will release the new album around the end of summer/fall of 2011. We are excited to make the best record that we have yet.