«Qualche anno fa ho letto sul New York Times un articolo su Trieste e desideravo visitarla. Così, sulla strada per Belgrado con alcuni giorni liberi, mia moglie Jennifer, che è anche la nostra road manager, prenotò tre giorni in città»: nel 2016 il chitarrista Mark Johnson e i suoi Delta Moon scoprirono Trieste, da turisti. La blues band americana torna martedì, questa volta per un concerto organizzato da Yeah (nel cartellone di Trieste Estate) alle 21 in Piazza Verdi, in apertura i Sarajevo Tango e Mik.
«Eravamo arrivati tardi, era il weekend di Pasqua, molti posti erano chiusi – Johnson continua il suo racconto – ma Monica ci accolse a mangiare da Marise Osteria con Cucina. Il giorno dopo ci ha mandato anche un piatto di melanzane nell’hotel dall’altra parte della strada in cui stavamo, è stata davvero gentile. Poi avevamo incontrato l’amico Marco Valvassori di Yeah, uomo chiave, (responsabile del live di martedì) e avevamo registrato una session per il suo programma “Closing Time”, in una gran bella atmosfera. Marco ci portò in giro per Trieste, facendoci scoprire anche i suoi locali preferiti. Abbiamo trascorso degli splendidi momenti, in una città bellissima».
Questa volta arrivate per un live.
«Siamo così felici di tornare. Sarà un concerto coinvolgente, la nostra versione dei generi southern roots e Americana, con un sacco di slide guitar».
Cos’è per voi il blues?
«Difficile definirlo. Per me ha a che fare con il sentimento che metti nel suonare. È un’emozione. Ogni musica che sia vera e onesta, fatta con cuore e anima, ha del blues in sé. È alla base di tutta la buona musica americana. All’inizio studi i tuoi modelli di riferimento e cerchi di imitarli, ma poi devi interiorizzare la musica e farla tua. Sviluppi il tuo stile, la tua storia e li esprimi con passione».
Il vostro punto di forza?
«Siamo un ensemble, ognuno con il suo ruolo e lasciamo spazio all’altro, così ogni singola parte si completa e confluisce in un suono unico. Al pubblico piacciono i nostri dischi ma ancor più i nostri live. Siamo una band da vedere in concerto».
Il vostro ultimo album, “Babylon is Falling”?
«È stato composto molto velocemente, alcune canzoni sono una fotografia di come ci sentivamo in quel momento. Preoccupati e disgustati da alcune cose che stavano accadendo nel nostro paese. Il nostro attuale presidente: com’è potuto accadere? Cosa possiamo dire? Non siamo una band politica e certe canzoni sono indubbiamente leggere, ma sentivamo di dover prendere posizione. Speriamo qualcosa di buono possa venir fuori da questo periodo davvero strano».
Avete collaborato anche con musicisti italiani?
«Siamo legati all’Italia, quella al Rootsway Blues Festival di Parma nel 2008 fu una delle prime tappe europee. Conosciamo tanti artisti italiani, che sono cari amici. Paolo e Marco Xeres degli Alligator Nail e Baraccone Express, Enzo Tropepe e The Walking Trees, Marco Corrao, Max Arrigo e i Nandha Blues, Max Prandi, Red Light Band. Enzo, Marco e gli altri dei Nandha sono stati miei ospiti ad Atlanta, Georgia: ho organizzato alcune loro date negli Usa, il pubblico americano li adora. Paolo Xeres ha suonato spesso con noi in tour, e sarà alla batteria anche questa volta».
Di recente avete tenuto un concerto in un carcere di massima sicurezza in Germania. Com’è andata?
«Avevamo già suonato in alcune carceri, con regimi meno duri e avevamo avuto la sensazione di aver donato dei momenti di svago ai detenuti e aver fatto qualcosa di significativo. Questa volta il clima ci ha un po’ intimiditi, siamo rimasti scossi e turbati per qualche giorno».
State già pensando al prossimo disco?
«Ad agosto ci ritireremo tra i monti del North Carolina per comporre, contiamo di farlo uscire a primavera».
Elisa Russo, Il Piccolo 23 Luglio 2019
So you’ve performed in Italy many times what do you think about our country and do you know of any italian artist/bands?
We love Italy! We love the culture, history, the food of course, but above all, the people. Italy has been very good to us. We played our very first show in Europe at Rootsway Blues Festival In Parma in 2008, starting us on our path. Previously, we played only in the UK.
We know many Italian artists, we consider our close friends. Paolo and Marco Xeres with Alligator Nail and Baraccone Express, Enzo Tropepe and all our friends in The Walking Trees, Marco Corrao, Max Arrigo and all of Nandha Blues, Max Prandi, Red Light Band. Enzo, Marco and the folks in Nandha have all stayed at my house in Atlanta, Georgia. I booked some shows for them in the USA. People loved them! Paolo Xeres has done lot of tours with us and he will be playing drums with us on tAugust 23rd.
You’ve already been in Trieste in 2016 (you also recorded a “Closing Time Live Sessions)… any memories of the town?
A few years ago I read an article about Trieste in the New York Times and was looking for a chance to visit. So, with 3 days off on the road to Belgrade, my wife Jennifer, who is also our road manger, booked us a 3 day stay in Trieste. We arrived late on the first night , it was Easter weekend. Many places were closed. Monica at Marise Osteria con Cucina made a space for the band to eat. The next day, she sent a plate of “ eggplant surprise” to Jennifer at the hotel across the street, who was slow getting out of bed that morning. She was very nice to us.
Then, we met our good friend Marco Valvassori, our main man, who is responsible for our show on July 23rd. He set up the Closing Time Session, which was a really great time, with good vibes going around. Marco showed us around Trieste for 2 days, seeing the sites and taking us to his favorite, traditional restaurants and bars. We had a wonderful time. Trieste is a beautiful place.
You are coming back to Italy soon, what can fans expect to see at your Trieste show on July 23rd?
Folks can expect to see a heartfelt performance of our version of southern roots, American music. Good stories, good grooves, lots of slide guitar. We are very excited to be back In Trieste, so expect a rockin’ show!
“Babylon is Falling” has received amazing and outstanding reviews and critical acclaim so far. How do you see this album fitting in your broader body of work? Anything in particular inspired you this time? And what’s the significance of the album’s title?
Babylon came together fairly quickly and I think on some of the songs, we captured how we were collectively feeling at the time. Worried and disgusted by some of things that were happening in our country. Our current president. How could this happen? What can we say about it? We are not a political band and some of the songs are real light, but we felt like we needed to respond. Babylon is Falling is an old song that seemed to fit. We hope something good comes out of this very strange period.
Being on the road, what do you like to do with your free time, if you even get any?
There is a lot of travel time in the van. I mostly read books. We listen to podcasts, often about music, art, health, food. We also try to visit interesting cities or places on our days off. We like to find places to take a hike and be outdoors.
What was the music that influenced you and shaped your own vision?
Early on, I was influenced by 1960s and 70s rock and roll, funk, soul and R&B, like The Stones, Neil Young, Sly and The Family Stone, James Brown, ect. Later in college, I went way farther back into roots America music- Mississippi delta blues, hill country blues, gospel, folk, early jazz. I started getting into Blind Willie Johnson, Fred McDowell, RL Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, the early Staple Singers, Lightening Hopkins. I also love West African music. I got a chance to see Ali Farka Toure live 3 times before he died and that left a big impact.
What is blues to you and how is it manifest nowadays in our art and culture?/ What do you think of the blues scene these days?
The blues is a little hard to define. To me, it’s more about a feeling that you put into your playing. It’s an emotion. Any music that is truthful and honest, and delivered with heart and soul has some blues in it. It is the basis or foundation of all good American music, in my opinion. At first you study your favorite players and try to imitate them. But, then you have to internalize the music and make it your own. You develop your own style, your own story and you deliver it with as much heart and soul as you can. The blues scene is not something I really focus on, but it seems like great blues players keep coming up. I would like to see more of a focus on songwriting and more originality in blues, players taking more chances, breaking more rules.
As a band, what’s the glue that makes your connection stick?
I think what makes Delta Moon stand out is the fact that we are a true band, an ensemble. Each of us has a part to play and we leave space for each other, so that all the parts complement and combine to form a much bigger sound. People like our albums but really like our live show. We are a live band. Also, we have been together a long time, so we have a lot of original material to choose from.
I’ve read in a previous interview you played a show at a high-security prison in Germany. What can you tell me about it?
We have played quite a few lower security prisons in Germany and always felt like the prisoners were having a good time and we were doing something meaningful. This last one felt somewhat different, a little more intimidating. We were a little unnerved and it took a few days to shake it off.
What’s happening next, is there anything upcoming and in the works already?
We are already booking shows into 2020 with tours in Europe this fall, next spring and next summer. Busy! When we get home in August, will retreat to the mountains of North Carolina near Tom’s family farm for a song writing session. We plan on having a new album for the tour in spring of 2020.