Interview with Delta Highway
by Monica Yasher

Posted on 1/13/2010 by Monica Yasher

"You can just be broke. Have your heart broke. All that stuff leads to the blues."

(Pittsburgh, PA) In 2003 a band called Delta Highway emerged out of Memphis, Tennessee from North Carolina. The band consists of Brandon Santini, Justin Sulek, Paul Chase, and George Sluppick. If you happen to trek down to Beale Street, this band is a favorite of Memphis. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Delta Highway represented the Memphis Blues Society in 2006 and they took the prestigious International Blues Challenge Award home.

Their debut album, "Westbound Blues", took listeners on a train ride to some blues towns and areas. Their second CD, "The Devil Had a Woman", showcased their music writing talent and helped them earn a nomination for the 2009 Best New Debut Artist at the 2009 Blues Music Awards.

In March 2009 Delta Highway was chosen to take part in BLUZAPALOOZA's tour to Cairo Egypt to perform for United States service personnel, United States Ambassador to Egypt, and the Egyptian public at The Cairo Opera House.

I hear this band has some interesting things in the works for 2010. So we will have to wait to hear what it is. But, here are some things they did share with me when I met up with them in 2009:

Monica: I am here with Brandon and Justin from Delta Highway. I read that you both had a certain sound but when you two met you created something to be your own. What were your early influences and how did you use those influences to make the sound you speak of?

Brandon: I was fifteen when I started playing so I was listening to whatever was on the radio like Blues Traveler. I learned about Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Junior Wells. That’s what I started with.

Justin: I was raised on Buddy Guy through my parents. I liked Nirvana, Pearl Jam and my Dad bought me a beginner blues book and CD. I popped the CD in and started listening to it. Buddy Guy is my idol today. After listening to those blues artists, I kind of mixed it up a bit and obtained our sound.

M: How did you two meet?

B: We were playing in the same old home town that wasn’t a blues scene per se.

M: North Carolina?

B: Yes. He said let’s move to Memphis and get a Handy award. So we moved and we were nominated for a Handy award. We were nominated in 2009. Now it’s the Blues Music Awards. He wanted to move and I said why not.

M: How long ago was that?

B: 2003.

M: You’re road to being named best debut artist took about 6 years?

J: Pretty much.

M: Why do you think you got the nod over other groups? What do you think you did right? Your songwriting? Your performance? What took you over the top?

J: I think it was a lot of dedication on our part of just touring which got our names out there in a lot of blues clubs. We didn’t make any money at it. But we kept on inching away at it. It finally paid off for us.

B: Living the Blues. You don’t have to pick cotton anymore to live the blues. You don’t have to be black, white, purple, green, whatever. You can just be broke. Have your heart broke. All that stuff leads to the blues. There were years there before we moved up where we just suffered not making any money.

M: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?

B: No lot’s of Ramen Noodles. I was given the title the Shaman of Ramen. (LOL)

M: Beef or Chicken?

B: Both, it was all special.

M: Both of you are songwriters.

B: We are a good team. He writes most of the music and I write all of the lyrics.

J: We put it together and that’s how it works.

M: So do you have the lyric or the tune first?

J: Most likely it’s me first and I’ll get it down and he’ll like it. He’ll go, OK. Then he’ll come up with some words to it.

M: Cool.

B: I’ve always had a knack to writing stuff so we work well together.
It seems to work.

M: Awesome. Yes, you either have it or you don’t when it comes to lyric writing. What has music done for you? Sitting here today, you have been named best new artist, what do you think music has done for you personally in your lives?

B: I think it shapes you a little bit. You get to travel being in a different town everyday and meeting different people. It’s a very humbling experience to be able to do this and make a living at it. People work a nine to five job. Doctors, lawyers tell us they wish they could work and be in our shoes and I think gee I wish I could be in your shoes (LOL). So, it tests you. It tests your endurance.

M: Why did you choose these shoes?

B: Don’t know.

J: It just happens. Since middle school I used to go home and play air guitar. I always envisioned myself going to clubs and it happened.

M: It sounds like your parents backed you.

J: Oh Yeah. They definitely backed me up. Well. My dad did. Mom was a little hesitant. Go to college. Do this. You can always come back to music.

M: What about you Brandon?

B: My mom thought it was a horrible idea.

M: Does she still?

B: Mom’s proud.

M: Awesome.

B: Everything worked out. I didn’t go to college. She was the same. What are you doing? WHAT are you doing?

M: I’m singing the blues, Mom, huh?

J: Yeah. I’m singing the blues.

M: So you won the 2006 International Blues Challenge. How did you prepare for that event?

B: Well. That whole experience was interesting. We had Rod Bland who was Bobbie Bland’s son. He’s a drummer. Rod was always obligated to his Dad when his Dad went out on the road. He would go play and we would have to get a substitute as we were playing around Memphis. All of a sudden said he couldn’t do it-The IBC‘s. We had to hire a drummer from back in North Carolina. Somehow we got him to come up and he drove 11 hours to come play. It was fun. Looking back on it compared to what we do now is very different.

M: That was cold with no rehearsal? Wow! Why do you say there is a world of difference between then and now?

B: We are much more seasoned.

J: We have fine tuned a few things. Granted, there is still a way to go. Now we play everyday. So we got real tight. You know what the next person is going to do.

M: It’s more rehearsed and not jamming.

B: Still a lot of jamming but we can control it.

J: More relaxed.

M: What would you be your recommendation for someone doing the blues challenge?

B: Just give it your best because it’s a crap shoot.

J: It is a crap shoot.

B. A lot of people say it’s politics. But, I don’t know if it’s politics by any means. It’s just a matter of what the judges’ tastes are. So, it’s obviously a great thing and it helped us out a lot. Just go in there and knock it out. You can do it.

J: You have everyone in the blues world there. So be sure to give your cards out to everyone.

B: Network. That’s the best advice.

M: What would you like to tell us about your upcoming websites, CD’s, efforts?

B: We are trying to find the time to record. Hopefully we will soon. We are so busy.

J: I’m told a lot of eyes are on us now. So we can’t go make a basement CD this time.

M: Where will you record, Memphis, Nashville, New York? What do you think?

B: I don’t know. Memphis. New Orleans is very creative. Maybe there.

M: What do you want to tell me about yourselves that I didn’t ask you?

B: Justin?

J: I don’t know.

M: Who do you listen to when you put a CD in?

J: There you go. The Red Devils. I’m a big fan. He’s a harp player and his band is amazing. But, he is dead and gone.

B: I’m 27 and you’re 28 so we grew up on top forty. So we have very diverse tastes in music so that all helps out. There’s no telling what you are going to hear from the band.

J: Except for rap.

M; How did you meet the other members of the band?

B: Kevin was a drummer on Beale Street with the Eric Hughes Band and I was a bouncer at the club making some side money and we decided to go out on the road to Mississippi. He has been with us four years ago. Paul the bass player he’s been with us a little over a year. He’s from Massachusetts. Paul took us to another layer.

M: You are housed in Memphis. Do you think it is the hub of the blues?

J: It was at one point. The music scene has turned more rock and is a very big rap scene. Still a lot of soul. A lot of great musicians live there. It wasn’t what it used to be. Blues is in a handful of clubs. There’s a lot of karaoke and DJ’s. It’s sad.

M: It sounds like it’s sad. But I have to say you guys are a lot of fun! Thanks for your time guys.

Thank you for reading American Blues News - the best in sharing American Blues Music!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading Moreland & Arbuckle

Copyright © 2010 Copyright Monica L. Yasher. All Rights Reserved.
Photograph Copyright © 2010 Maureen Ceidro. All Rights Reserved.

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

Internet Marketingdata recovery