Interview & Photos by Sean Gardner
Photos of Deletto from his NY show: galaxy-mag.com/deletto-olives
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Last month, I got the chance to have a conversation with an incredible conversation with the up and coming alternative rock artist, Chris Deletto. Deletto and I talked about his latest song and video (Titled: “All We Are”), mental health, and his work in hip hop, and much more. Check out our chat below!
Sean: Hey Deletto! So, I heard the song, and saw the video and I love them both. So can you tell me a little bit more about how you made the song, and edited and directed it music video?
Yeah, So I am a solo artist, and the album I wrote in what I like to call my dungeon which is really my bedroom, in the little lower part of the house I’m in. And I put everything together except the drum parts. I would lay the drum parts in, terribly, and so then I had called my drummer, who is the official drummer who I play love with and who’s on the album. He's a good friend of mine, he has writing credits on the album. He’s incredible. He's in the say anything music video we did. In this one he's in it at the end of the video, we wanted to give him a little nod to being a part of it, but the reason why I kind of kept this one to myself, why the performance shots are solo is because this is so personal, and this is something that I cultivated by myself mostly. I took a long time putting the music video together, because I wanted to make sure I hit the goal I was trying to reach. I was trying to really nail that. So yeah, I directed, I edited BUT, The reason why it looks so good, and I will say this until I cannot speak anymore is because of my director of Photography, Chris Monsanto. He is unbelievable when you put him behind a camera. It's great to have someone so strong on your team. It was a very small crew, officially it was three people; Myself, Chris Monsanto - The DP, and the assistant camera operator Matt Madonna. The special effects makeup was done by my sister and my girlfriend did any of the other make up work, and acted as a production assistant. So yeah it was very cool. Very Stressful!
Yeah I can imagine, with a project like that.
Deletto: Everything was on me. So, if it is a success, go me.
Well, go you!
Deletto: Well, thank you. But if not, well that's what weighed on me during all of this, like okay well if this goes wrong, it's all on me, so I need to work as hard as I possibly can in order to make sure I have exactly what I want.
Can you tell me a little more about your directing/editing experience, and how that carried over into your music?
Deletto: Film is such a huge passion of mine. I mean almost close to music. I'm one of those freak weirdos that if you give me a movie I could be like “Oh it came out in this year and starred this person” and I’ll have never even seen the movie. I just know that. But yeah film has always been attached to me. A little-known fact about me is that when I was a kid I actually wanted to be an actor. I always wanted to be in the entertainment world in some way or another but never wanted to direct. It was just something I was never interested in. I love writing stories and setting the scene but I would have just had someone put it all together. BUT because of budget constraints and stuff I ended up shooting my own music videos. I've always accidentally been involved in film. Like I don't even know how. When I was 18 years old, I wasn't going to college or speaking to my dad at that time, I was sleeping on my friends floor. I wake up one morning and my buddy’s on the phone. He's like “Hey it's your dad,” and I haven't spoken to my dad in close to two years. I don’t want to talk to that guy. But he put him on the phone. He was like “Hey Chrissy, I'm on a film set doing catering and I saw all these kids skating and I thought this is where you need to be”. I guess he knew I wasn't going to school, I didn't really know what I wanted to do at that time. I wanted to do music, but I wasn't actively doing it. So, it was one of those weird things, I haven't really talked to him, our relationship was kind of shaky, but I just figured Id give it a shot. So, I went and ended up working as a production assistant for this film, and it was a lot of fun. Then I worked again on another film, but it was like 16-hour days, back to back. It was awful. So, I decided I was going to go to college. I gave up on film. But still I would get phone calls from my buddy from time to time, who would be like hey do you want to help me with this short film? Do you want to be in it, or help write it? I helped him with these projects every now and then.
And then I started getting into electronic music and film scoring. I started working on putting music behind films. Through that, I started working with this hip-hop artist. At first, I was producing music with him then we were doing music videos together. He always had someone else with him too, this great visionary who works on bigger projects now, out in LA. I would always be like: I'll write it, I don't want to direct it” I knew where I wanted to be.
Fast Forward to ne needing music videos. I thought to myself “Oh shit. Well I guess I’ll go for it”. I knew what I wanted, because I was around film for so long. I never went to film school; in fact, I was told not to go to film school by everybody who was in the industry. Luckily, I have built up this kind of skillset just from my base knowledge of working on set, and seeing other directors do it. If they can do it, I guess I could give it a shot. And I'm very particular with what I want so Instead of stressing somebody else out, let me just be that guy. So that's How I got into the directing aspects of it. As for the editing parts, my buddy is a great editor, but he costs a lot of money. So I was like uhh, yeah, I'll do that too. I also just so happen to have this great director of photography, who's very technical, who knows how to make things look good and what gear to use, so I can just focus on being more creative with it. When you are directing a music video or are putting any project together for that matter, it's kind of like an infinite jigsaw puzzle that works no matter which way you put it together. And that is so much fun. If there was ever something, I couldn’t figure out how to do. I would just YouTube search “how to do this” or “how to do that” and then BOOM directed and edited my first music video, and then I did it again. So, I got to the point with all we are where I'm just sucked in. I have made a decision, and I'm really gonna do this, I'm gonna stick to it. I will make a feature film at some point in my life. There's no doubt about it. No idea when or what it's gonna be like. But I wrote a screenplay once too after I left my old job and while I was collecting Unemployment and just had some free time. And all of this, it just goes to show me that, when you were a kid and your parents would say “ if you put your mind to it, you can do anything”, that to a degree is kind of true. If you're really passionate about something, and you're really interested in something, as long as you go full force, eventually something is going to happen. It may not be exactly what you thought it was gonna be, but still. I mean I never thought I'd be directing and editing, but now I have that skill set to continue to do it. Like with All we are, which is by far my favorite project I've ever made. Being able to direct and edit that too was such an unbelievably incredible experience.
Well it all came together amazingly. So, with a multimedia project like the “All We Are” music video, in which you were in control of a lot of different aspects of the project, how do you maintain motivation and focus on each element?
Deletto: Ahh man, I feel like it’s a lot of self-abuse, In a sense. It's a struggle. In short, passion. Once I have a vision, I’m stubborn. And that stubbornness kind of helps me. Because once I have a goal, or a way something needs to be, I will fight tooth and nail to make sure that that's exactly what happens. It's also important to work on things one step at a time, I'll get one thing ready and then I'll work on the next, and it’s an everyday thing man. I can be in the studio for days at a time where I sleep there, and I wake up and I work. You have to really appropriately organize your time so that everything gets the right amount of attention, and if you're really passionate about it, you'll find the way. When you're in a position where you need something to happen it's gonna happen. If the need is there and the passion is there, drive show up and things start to fall into place. It's not always the most ideal way that things happen, but you just gotta do what you gotta do.
You mentioned before that you used to do hip-hop. Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience with the genre and how that overall impacts the music you make today?
Deletto: Oh Absolutely. So, backstory time! I was never a hip-hop fan growing up. I was in high school during the whole G Unit era when 50 cents came out. Back then I was just so caught up in 90s grunge, that I was just like man this stuff is terrible He was like “in da club” and I was like “I'm not going there, 50, so I’m not connected with ya, have fun at the club I'm just gonna sit around and listen to my dirty grunge records and hang out in the basement with my friends while they drink beer.” So, I go to college after the whole film thing and that's where I found Electronic music, because it was one of the classes. That's when I found out that you can put a bunch of stuff together in a computer, I didn't know you could do that before, I just had my guitar, that was it. So, I started doing that, It was great to record things and hear it back and add to it, rather than just writing it and forget about it. I had this friend who knew I was doing this, and he called me. He said “Hey, my buddy’s trying to rap, and I know you’re producing music, do you want to maybe try hip hop.” I said “That sounds like a terrible idea, but yes. And I think the reason why I said yes was because I saw it as an opportunity to grow, and I was just getting out of the whole close-minded mindset from when I was growing up. Once I dropped that mindset of only doing things a certain way, my capabilities opened up. So, I was a little more open minded at this time, I decide that if music was what I really wanted to do, I need to learn more and know it on a whole. I can’t put myself in a box, I want to know how it all works. So, I started producing hip hop and ohhh man, It was not good. But my artist stuck with me and we progress and got better. He would write verses over the stuff I produced while I did it and we would write hooks together. So, we started to get some traction, was opening up for some pretty big artists. So, I was getting introduced to all these rappers and producers and I started to really listen to their music, like really listen to it. I started to notice different things they did and out it into my own music, and it got me out of that “guitar, drums, bass and that's it” pattern. And some of these producers were really going at it in a different light, and I was kind of able to pull from that and bring into my own music. I'm so grateful for the time I had in hip hop, because without it I wouldn't be the artist I am today, at all, and that's crazy because if you listen to my stuff that's hard to tell, you would never really guess I had a hand in hip hop. But before hip hop I would try to write songs and I just couldn't do it, and hip hop really helped me break down that mental wall, and say to myself this doesn't have to be the most important song or the best song in the world. That's what I used to try to do. Don't do that, write a shitty song. My advice to anyone writing music is write a shitty song and know its shit, because after that? You get to make a better one. It feels so good to just see that growth, and I saw a lot of that growth early on in hip hop.
You’ve mentioned that the song and video draw from personal experiences. Can you discuss a little more about this, and how you go about making negative experiences into cinematic stories that have such strong positive impacts?
Deletto: So, something about “All We Are,” it's not actually about mental health. I specifically wrote that song in a way, for people to connect to it on their own level. That song is very personal to me and I think the only people who could interpret it as close to the way I wrote it are my four siblings that I grew up with. It's a very close to home, personal song. But I knew that because of the way I felt writing it, that I wanted to use it to touch upon mental health for other people. I think that's one of the cool things about music. You get to have a song that means something to someone, and then you have the visual aspect where you can paint a whole new picture for people. With this, I almost let the song be the background for this cinematic visual that's a little more important. Like its cool I have song, I hope people listen to it and like it, but lets talk about the video and what's behind it. That's what I want to focus on with this one. I really wanted to make sure that it played out like a film, or a story that people can relate to, or take something from, and I kept the lyrics vague on purpose because I don't want to take away someone else's meaning; It's not just about me. When I knew I was gonna make the concept of it all about mental health, it took me a while to figure out the spot I wanted it to be in. It was never even gonna be my story, or inspired by. Which is what it is, it’s inspired by what I went through. There's a character in the video which I relate to most. How is someone gonna relate to it if I can't relate to it, ya know? If I want you to speak your truth, I’m gonna speak my truth. The video doesn't come from one true story though, I wrote it so that it came from so many stories. You know, that story, could be somebody’s true story, and that sucks. I put it together like this because I wanted people to feel it.
What advice or insight can you give to people who may be struggling to come to terms with their own mental health issues, and who may not have the resources or know how to go about addressing them?
Deletto: First thing I want to say is, I’m am not a professional. I’m am just a dude who’s seen some unfortunate things and experienced some tragedies. But the main thing I would want people to take away is to take the extra step and get the professional help that you need. I hated the idea of therapy. I had this singular perspective that I was right and nobody else could guide me to a better path. But if you think about it, do you have the most fun laughing by yourself?
Not really, no.
Deletto: Exactly. So, no matter where you are in life, it's always better to have someone sitting next to you. Even if it's just a friend for right now, or eventually a professional, it's going to make you feel so much better about things. My friends made me feel better, but my therapist helped me work at becoming better. My therapist, Dan, he helped me change my whole perspective on things. He was able to talk to me in a way I needed to be talked to. It can be hard to open up to people, you just have to be as open as you can be, and even if you hit one therapist and it doesn't work out too well, it doesn't mean that therapy sucks, it just means you didn't get to connect with someone, and it is time to find somebody else to try and connect with.
You've mentioned before that your goal with this project was to open the conversation around mental health, which you have done with us today as well. Do you have any projects lined up that will continue to make efforts to open conversation around mental health, or continue in that kind of theme?
Deletto: Mental health is always gonna be an ongoing theme in the music I write. Not so much project based, as with this one, but just overall. Most of my songwriting stems from my personal experiences and the things that have helped me through them. If it wasn't for my friends and the help that I got, I don't know where I would be today, and that's a scary thought, but it's not a thought that I need to stay on. The thought that I stay on is that I had friends, I had the help, and it was amazing. That's the kind of thing I always want to express in my music, because music always made me feel better, so I want to help people feel better.
The last question I asked Chris launched a lengthy discussion during which we swapped music suggestions and geeked out over Chance the Rapper, Horror Movies and the Game of thrones soundtrack. But as the year was nearing its close, I thought it would be fun to find out what his top artists of the year were on his Spotify wrapped. So here they are, the artists that Deletto has had on repeat in 2019.:
King Gizzard And The Lizard wizard
Chance the rapper
After our conversation, I was able to catch his second ever live show, at Olive’s In Nyack, New York. He played most of his upcoming album Old Kid which is set to be released on January 20th. Having heard the songs performed live, I can say they are all absolute jams. “Old Kid” is guaranteed to be a stellar release, as Deletto is an immensely talented emerging artist. He also has an upcoming show following the release on the 26th of January, at The Rockwood Music Hall in New York.
Watch the "All We Are" music video here!