What is the best thing about making music?
Making music (and I’ve been doing it in various ways now for more years than I really want to admit!) gives me a creative avenue for clearing my head of daily stuff and sometimes a way to express ideas or emotions that wouldn’t otherwise find an outlet. Playing several instruments (guitar, mandolin, bass and harmonica) also helps me change focus and prevents me getting stale or stuck in a rut.
What is the hardest thing about making music?
Keeping a balance between spending time on my music and spending time with family! When I pick up a guitar or start working on lyrics I tend to lose track of time and hours can disappear – not always good for relationships! It’s also hard work keeping up with all the new ways of getting the music out to the world – technology keeps offering more opportunities to get the music out there and I try to check out every option so that I can decide whether it’s right for my music.
How important are public performance royalties to you and in keeping the NZ music world ticking?
So far, these royalties aren’t a significant income for me but I can see that, if you’re lucky enough to have a hit record or successful video, this could be an important income stream for an artist. But, whenever a royalty payment lands in the bank, it gives me a bit of a lift to know that this has been derived from my own music. The mental boost it can give is another way to keep focussed on ways of progressing the music and developing as an artist. So, for that reason alone, these royalties are worthwhile as they’re the financial equivalent of a pat on the back.
From strumming / humming / creating the first notes of a song through to a completed mastered recording, on average how long does it take you to write and record a song?
The process can vary enormously. Some songs can be complete in 15 minutes while some take years to come to fruition. I’m presently working on a demo of a song that I wrote in 1996 and, if it works out, then it’ll appear on my next album later this year – that’s only 18 years in the gestation period!! These are extremes of course but it could be anything from a few weeks to several months as it depends on how I can organise the recording process.
All costs considered, on average how much does it cost you to write and record a song?
I bought a Boss 16 track hard disk recorder a couple of years ago which I have set up at home. So whenever I have enough material and can organise the band, we can set up in the room and hit the ‘record’ button and it costs nothing in terms of studio time and engineers/producers costs. The Boss recorder produces very good quality results – every bit as good as you’d get from a ‘proper’ studio! The only cost (excluding the cost of all the gear at home – probably around $5,000-6,000 altogether) is when it comes to having CD’s produced.
Over and above money you make from music (public performance royalties, live performance, licensing and CD / digital sales), do you have to supplement the cost of writing and recording music with money you make from other sources?
Absolutely! I’ve never been fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to rely solely on music to survive. I’ve always had a family to maintain so that has required me to always have a day job. But it’s the musical side of my life that keeps me sane!
Why do you do what you do – why do you make music?
I’ve been brought up with music. I was fascinated watching the Beatles and Stones, etc on TV back in the 60s and listening to the radio almost constantly, just soaking up every new song and, once I could afford to buy albums, delving into record stores and investigating everything that appealed to me. Music has always played a huge part in my life and making my own music is just something I have to do. It’s a continual fascination to me as to how to come up with something that might be unique (or at least my take on something that might have been done before)
What is the most helpful songwriting tip you’ve learnt?
Never be afraid to re-tune your guitar! Try a different tuning and investigate different chord voicings. What might have sounded ordinary in standard tuning can take on a totally different feel in another tuning – even changing the tempo or whole structure of a song. Open G is my favourite non-standard tuning but open D and E are also great and I’ve been dabbling with DADGAD recently as well which suddenly makes everything sound quite Celtic – which can be interesting for a blues song!
What are three artists / bands you are excited about at the moment?
I really like Lorde. I think it’s great what she’d done for raising the awareness of NZ in world music. I’m a big fan of Drive-By Truckers. They’re a mix of Neil Young and that 70’s southern rock feel that I never find boring. And, for sheer quality songwriting, Richard Thompson’s latest album is an inspiration. There’s one song on there that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. And his guitar playing and tone is just so beyond me that it’s a constant reminder that I need to keep practising!
What are you working on at the moment / tell us about your latest release / project?
I’ve got a lot of songs ready for recording – some fairly old but never been recorded and some written within the last few weeks. I’m hoping that I can get the guys together sometime in the next couple of month to start working on these and get them ready for my second album. If it goes to plan this should be ready for later this year. It’ll be done at home again with the Boss recorder as it gave such good results for my first album. Why change what’s already working well?
Where can we access your music?
My first album, Driving Home Alone, is available through Ode Records and in the shops. It’s also on Amplifier, Spotify and iTunes. Check the links on my website – www.delthomas.co.nz – or better still, go and buy a copy in the shops and have something substantial to hold in your hand while you’re listening to it!! I’d love to put it out on vinyl some day as well but that costs a good bit more...