An Interview with Celebrated Blues and Ragtime Musician Del Rey: “The Songs Themselves Tell Stories.”

West Coast blues guitar and ukulele queen Del Rey will return to again wow SFMS audiences with her distinctive ukulele and resonator guitar stylings in both a virtual concert held this Saturday (Nov 14, rescheduled date!) at 7:30 pm as well as an online ukulele workshop held at 4 pm on Sunday, November 15th. Tickets and additional information can be found at the SFMS Website.

Earlier this week, SFMS staff writer Peter Winter and Del chatted over email about setlist construction, playing online, and the importance of passing on musical know how! This is the second time Peter and Del have spoken. Their 2019 conversation is in the Folkmama Archive and can be read HERE.


What can people expect from your ukulele workshop?

In the ukulele workshop I’m going to introduce people to fingerpicking. Fingerpicking is basically a way to turn a solo instrument into a band-your thumb is the bass player and your fingers play the melodies and articulate the chords. We all are unable to get together and play right now, so being your own band is the way to go!
You do quite a bit of education on your instruments in addition to just performing (I loved your boogie woogie guitar tutorial) why is educating and instruction important to you?

Music is a fundamental part of being human-I call it “the sound of humans doing no harm.” Making your own music is one of life’s great pleasures, no matter your skill level. 
Have you played many virtual concerts during lock down? How has the shift been? 

I’ve played one or two concerts a month since the lockdown. It’s a totally different experience for me. An audience is a living thing, unique every time and different every where. Virtual audiences don’t have an opportunity to be with each other while having the musical experience. I’m grateful to be able to play and that people listen, but I miss being all together. But I do like a camera-I like how close it is.

You obviously have an extensive repertoire and back catalogue, how do you decide what makes the setlist for the concert?

I often respond to the feelings of a live audience-which I can’t really get to on camera. So for virtual reality I rely on my 40 (!) years of playing music for similar kinds of audiences in real life. The songs themselves tell stories and fit together in certain ways. Much of my aesthetic is based on serving the songs, bringing them to different listeners and letting them loose. I’m a song vector!
Any current musical projects in the works?

I’m doing an online teaching project with my colleague Jim D’Ville teaching fingerpicking  in January. More info HERE. We are having success in getting players to syncopate. But my usual lifestyle of running around the world with an instrument on my back and a small suitcase doesn’t seem possible any time soon.


Peter Winter lives in Harrisburg where he writes, teaches music, plays in the Celtic group Seasons, and DJs. He is on instagram

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