Delopoulos is a poet and artist who paints a musical portrait of our world based on these images and experiences.
Song writer, lead vocalist and backing guitarist for Burlap To Cashmere. Interview at the Cup ‘O Joy Music Venue
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Relaxing in the Cup ‘O Joy’s artist lounge with its upright piano, fireplace and comfortable furniture I began to wonder what type of musician I was about to interview. Steven Delopoulos, the singer and songwriter for Burlap To Cashmere, had seen many changes to his music and musician’s life over the last two decades. Having had early success as one of the first CCM folk-rock acts in the late ‘90s, followed by years of supporting two solo albums with related tour work, then having the original band come back together after a 15 year hiatus for the highly successful self-titled Burlap To Cashmere release.
The denim clad, relaxed figure with curly, long black hair and heavy day-old beard strolled toward me with hand extended and a broad smile. As we sunk into soft leather chairs following greetings I noticed a striking facial feature. Deep set, extremely dark eyes pervaded the smile and small talk. As if continually searching for the next image and experience, those eyes both intense yet calming clued the answer to my question. Delopoulos is a poet and artist who paints a musical portrait of our world based on these images and experiences.
Mertens - If you were to choose a word or two to describe B2C (Burlap To Cashmere) songs, what would those words be?
Delopoulos – Folk-rock with a Greek influence. Many have said a Latin influence but this is not true. Our music has a definite Greek or Mediterranean influence, which is in the band’s roots.
SM - At times, B2C songs are personal, sometimes powerful in message, at others fun. What inspires your song writing? What are your musical influences?
SD – I am inspired by what is happening in the mystery of the moment. I write my songs to include these moments, one at a time and this might take a great deal of time. If I write a song in the next couple months I’m doing well. Like painting, I look back often at a song, rewriting as necessary, to gain the right feeling and mood of the song. On our first LP, when I wrote BIBLE (“Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”), I initially asked myself, “What does it mean?” It had to do with heaven and was basic material but it took time to really feel the song’s meaning and mood. It is difficult to write a song. When it works it is a job well done. I’m not a songwriter who can write a song during one sitting, people who can have a gift. For me, I can listen to one of my songs a year after writing it and have an ‘AHA’ moment – “Oh, that’s what it meant!”
I wrote “Closer to the Edge” waiting in a locker room for our set to begin while touring with Jars Of Clay years ago. Looking back now, the song feel’s right for our second album. It became fuller with time. It took time to weave the imagery upon imagery of the song as I tried to write my feelings in Greek, then in English, and back to Greek again. “Life in a Van” was the opposite, I wrote the song while living in a small Nashville apartment. It was not personal, just a story of my imagination, dreaming of a scenario.
Songs I have listened to throughout my life have had a great influence. Songs by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, Tom Waits, Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
Also, old Greek 70s music like George Dalarus., Having grown up in the Greek Orthodox Church and attending Greek dance school those 12 beat rhythms of Greek musical structure incorporate themselves into my music. My major was musical theatre. From Shakespeare to Andrew Lloyd Weber the combination of language and rhythm has greatly influenced my music.
Together, my writing stems from those experiences unconsciously. My songs are my interpretation of all of that. More than folk rock my music is my interpretation of life’s experiences, of who we are.
SM - The mid-to-late 90’s saw B2C emerge as a new direction in CCM with folk-rock and a cross over between CCM and secular music. Following a long break after extensive touring, John’s (lead guitarist, backing vocals) misfortune in 2005 and various solo works, why a reunion? What spurred the reunion now?
SD – A combination of things and timing. I had written new music, which Johnny and I were playing and the band liked. Teddy our drummer returned from living in Europe. The core of the band was back together. During 2011 we made the new (self-titled) album by getting together in our basement studio with new songs. The three of us were playing together, we had the band name, we said “let’s get together and play!”
Writing for a band is so much different than writing for one of my solo projects. The material has to be right for the entire band. In this case, the new album has a stripped down sound as compared to our first release. All of us liked this stripped down sound, it has a broad and organic feel. What helped the sound to have this quality was our new producer, Mitchell Froom. He has a broad base of experience and is a piano player. He would review songs with me in the morning at the studio, then make subtle changes giving more life to a song on tape. He knows how to paste updates and make them work, keeping them low key in a coffee house / folk-rock way. Mitchell has the ability to grasp a song’s feel, mood, and meaning right away.
SM – Is it difficult to let go of your material to a producer?
SD – You really have to trust the producer. It makes all the difference to the artist and the material. The producer and the songwriter must have respect for each other’s abilities and experience. Smaller artists are sensitive creatures, this is a core quality of being an artist. Trust and respect make this relationship work, it gives it more space. Mitchell is aware of an artist’s needs and desires. You may ask, “Why would you be so protective of your material?” The reason is the material is my creation and as an artist I wish the material not to be changed or corrupted, I want it to remain whole and original. Trust and respect make this partnership work.
SC - B2C songs are organic with Greek or Mediterranean flavor, folk-rock known for its simplicity and clarity of message, and not solely CCM. What does the future hold for you and B2C? Are there any changes planned in direction professionally or personally?
SD - We are excited to continue to make more records. Our current tour is booked to include festivals, which we have not done in some time.. Next year we will again hit the road with a larger tour. Being back on the road and doing what we do feels great. We enjoy making a living as musicians, making music together. Doing what you love and are meant to do is one of life’s great pleasures. Everything feels fresh again after a lapse between our two albums.
SM - How do you keep your tool set sharp?
SD – Number one is health. After this it would be keeping perspective with the world we live in. Health is first and foremost, everything else works after this. When we are in perfect health we enjoy the pleasures of life freely. When our health is not perfect our pleasures and lifestyles become threatened.
SM – What is important to you?
SD – Living in the mystery of this moment. That’s where songs come from, from the heart. This is where the eternal things come from. You must be a believer in attempting to do things for the eternal although in reality they may be temporary. If we are pretty happy we are in a better place making the best of it and being as comfortable as possible.
The mystery of the moment is captured by those piercing, ever searching dark eyes and conveyed in poetry then set to music. The music of our lives, loves, faith and experiences. Long may those eyes search and interpret.
The next B2C album is in process. B2C asks their fans to participate in a fun way. Pledge for their next album through pledgemusic.com. The pledge campaign, while raising money for their next album, also allows fans to receive the next album and receive a host of option gifts dependent on the amount of the pledge. Check it out at http://www.pledgemusic.com.
Note: See related Burlap To Cashmere concert reviews in the August, 2014 edition of Phantom Tollbooth.