Interview with Aussie Mike de Velta, an one-man-band artist who push slide guitar into another dimension

"The Blues is a clear point of reference, a place I can go to within my mind that gives me some sort of security and grounding, more in times of need. A spiritual connection, sometimes a prayer."

Mike de Velta: Blues, Slide & Tears

Voted Best Blues Artist of 2011 by Global Thunda Network, Mike de Velta's energetic performances Mike's energetic performances push slide guitar into another dimension. Modern and traditional Blues played on resonator, lap and acoustic guitars. With work hardened vocals and rack mount harmonica, Mike de Velta is a true favorite amongst Blues aficionados.

Typically associated with the Australian Blues and Roots movement Mike de Velta’s intoxicating compositions and performances are constantly on the move. A rich and energetic showcase splashed with a hint of the oriental, expressed through the shimmering and delightful tones of lap slide, resonator and acoustic guitars.His signature slide weeps with expression, magnetic vocals drip with passion and honesty, a melting pot and strange brew of all that is sweet in the age of modern blues.

Born in 1967 and raised in London, Mike immigrated to Perth with his family at the age of thirteen. In need of an “outlet” it was Mike’s sister’s cheap classical guitar which drew him to his first explorations in music. With an inexplicable inclination for the blues and a chance meeting with a sensational Indonesian guitarist who became his mentor, Mike has been a prolific writer and performer ever since.

Currently living near Fremantle, Mike regularly performs as a solo artist having shared the stage with a string of National and International acts expressing his powerful bluesy style employing harmonica (in a neck brace), his guitars, and a stomp box for a drum (basically a miked wooden box for a kick drum effect!). His release, Whiskey in the Mornin’ recently reached No.6 on the Australian Airplay Blues and Roots Charts!

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

The Blues taught me to be real about my expression, not to force it, but to feel it. This applies to life as well. The Blues is a clear point of reference, a place I can go to within my mind that gives me some sort of security and grounding, more in times of need. A spiritual connection, sometimes a prayer.

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas most frequently for your song?

Sadness, loneliness, depression, break ups, and on the upside, thanks giving and celebration.

How do you describe Mike de Velta’s sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I am predominantly an acoustic player, I like a little bit of bite to my sound and full bodied like a good wine. Slide guitar in particular is my favorite. If you play well you can hear it cry. It has happened a few times in concert where the audience response has been with tears. For some hearing real soulful expression can release a lot of emotion.  It can be very cathartic. Beautiful when it happens. So music for me is about healing.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues? What is the best advice ever given you?

A professional guitar player from Indonesia watching me play one day said, “Mike. Sing! You’ve got to Sing!” He knew when I was faking. If you don’t hear it within your mind, don’t play it! Simple.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

Best moment was an all expenses invitation to Noumea, New Caledonia for a Jazz festival. TV appearances and interviews are not the norm for Independent Blues Artists. The worst? Playing underneath a huge TV screen in a pub while the football is playing. Not very inspiring.

What the difference and similarity between the ACOUSTIC FOLK BLUES and MODERN ELECTRIC BLUES feeling?

Acoustic Folk is like coming coming home. Earthy. Sitting on the veranda with friends, taking it easy. Electric Blues is typically like party time, invigorating and eccentric.

What are your experiences on the road with the blues? Do you remember anything funny?

Playing a show in the desert at a Roadhouse full of Bikers on Harley Davidsons. The real deal, Roadhouse Blues, just like the movies.

Why did you think that the Blues continues to generate such a devoted following in Australia?

Perhaps because of the similarities we have with American Culture. Rock ‘n roll, colonisation, desert, hard climate, isolation, romanticism, immigration and a diversity of culture.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Australia. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Pretty much before my time unfortunately. I would say the 70’s.  Currently Blues is mostly heard at festivals and pubs around Australia and more associated with the Roots scene. More contemporary Blues styles are more likely to attract wider audiences and get airplay. Community radio real is the backbone of the Australian Blues scene.

Why the sound of harp, stomp box and slide are connected to the blues? What are the secrets of one man band?

All these things historically were found very cheaply and easily accessible to the poorer Afro Americans of the early Blues era. Musicians defined their sound with them. A slide could be made with a wire string, bottle and a nail on a piece of wood.

The secret of a one man band is feeling, tone and variety. People switch off very quickly if it all sounds the same. Surprise them sometimes

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jam you've had?

As a solo performer I rarely jam with others but lately I’ve been making more of an effort to get out and be part of it. Jamming with yourself is a little self indulgent and clearly predictable. My most memorable gigs aren’t always the biggest shows but where it was clear that “something happened”,  a definite before and after feeling. Like a release has taken place where people feel genuinely happy.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of Blues? 

My hope is live venues will continue to support Blues music. It is a wonderful, soulful expression. My fear is mainstream radio seems to have little time for Blues, clearly bad for business.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Blues stays, it’s real. It has a truth which is not easily disregarded. LONG LIVE THE BLUES!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Caribbean music and continue to Folk, Roots and Jazz?

I suppose it really is the heart of all these styles that connects them. Much of this music originated from cultures who were oppressed in someway. These styles were born as a reaction to violations of freedom; they were born as means of self expression, to strengthen a movement.

Is it easier to write and play the blues as you get older? What is your BLUES DREAM? 

I think it is easier to write as I get older, more natural, especially as you become more experienced, Writing Blues as a 15 year old, well? You get the picture. My Blues dream is to meet and play with Ry Cooder.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Greece! I’d come and see you guys. I heard they really dig the blues there.

Mike De Velta - official website

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