Q&A with artist manager, Jeff DeLia of 72 Music Management, his artists consistently impacting the music landscape in multiple genres

"I believe if we work hard, do so with passion, integrity, and respect, keep an open door for dialog and constructive feedback, and think outside-the-box we have a recipe for success. The philosophy is treating others well, inspire growth, and ultimately lead the artists’ performances and songs to millions and millions of fans around the world each year."

Jeff DeLia:

The Wonderful World and Music of 72 MM

Jeff DeLia has been a full-time artist manager and entrepreneur with his own company 72 Music Management, for eleven years. He has overseen management for 34 releases, with three GRAMMY Award winning albums and 13 GRAMMY nominated projects. His roster includes 6x GRAMMY winning gospel icons the Blind Boys of Alabama, 3x GRAMMY winning blues legend Bobby Rush, GRAMMY winning folk songster Dom Flemons, and Folk-Rock band Dustbowl Revival. Born in Kansas City, Los Angeles is the fifth city he has called home.  With a move from New York City to Los Angeles, a Certificate of the Music Business from Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute and a completion of two internships at Red Light Management (Phish, Alabama Shakes) and Mitch Schneider Organization (Dolly Parton, Ultra Music Festival), 72 Music Management (72MM) was born. Jeff has been a member of the Americana Music Association, Blues Music Foundation, California Copyright Commission, Folk Alliance International, and The Recording Academy over the years. Jeff was elected to Governor of the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy in 2020 and for a second term in 2022. 

(Photo: Los Angeles-based music manager, Jeff DeLia of 72 Music Management)

Iconic blues, Americana, and roots artists with eleven combined GRAMMY Awards – Blind Boys of Alabama, Bobby Rush, Dom Flemons, and Dustbowl Revival – have banded together to record “99 and 1/2 Won’t Do,” a single that will be released as a vinyl 45 for Record Store Day (April 20, 2024). Co-produced by GRAMMY-winning producer Colin Linden, the song was co-produced by DeLia, with a portion of proceeds from the release to be donated to the Mid-South Food Bank of Memphis, TN. The artists unique voices blend seamlessly together in this call-and-response arrangement with Bobby Rush as the call and the chorus of artists responding. The B-side is A.J. Croce’s original “I Found Faith,” produced by T Bone Burnett and John Simon with an all-star crew including Jim Keltner on drums and Robben Ford on acoustic guitar. “99 and a ½ Won’t Do” was recorded with initial tracking in Nashville with Linden on guitar, Dominic Davis on bass, and Bryan Owings on drums. The Blind Boys session was recorded in Minneapolis, Dom Flemons in Chicago, and Dustbowl Revival in Los Angeles.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Jeff DeLia & Nick Loss-Eaton

How has the music influenced your views of the world? 

The beautiful thing about music or songs is that they can take you out of the thoughts that generate anxiety whether it’s from things happening in the world, our communities, or our personal lives. The music of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Bobby Rush, Dom Flemons, and Dustbowl Revival, they all do that. Music uplifts. It continues to impress upon me it’s influence in uplifting my life and the lives that it reaches. I’m very grateful to be a part of that process and unique exchange between people and songs.

Where does your creative drive come from?

That is a difficult question to answer. I believe my creative drive and that of my collaborators is something that we are in a way born with. Once you find it and tap into it, it’s then nurtured. I have known since I was 16-years-old that I had a profound connection to music beyond listening or watching it live. I knew that I wanted to be connected to its roots and help shepherd its reach and growth. My creative energy doesn’t expend in the form of songwriting, on stage entertaining, nor as a musician; however, it does expend in the form of collaboration with the artists on their songs, recordings, and creative projects including memoirs, documentaries, and other media.

"If I could change one thing in the music business today it would be that records (or equivalent streams) sold and generate in the quantities and dollars that they did before my lifetime, while artists and songwriters benefit from it favorably. I also hope for roots and Americana music genres to rise to the top again." (Photo: Jeff DeLia of 72 Music Management & Bobby Rush with his Grammy, 2024)

What characterize 72 Music Management philosophy? 

The behind-the-scenes philosophy of 72 Music Management is to be a shepherd for artists and to do so with integrity, respect, and as high a level of business acumen as possible. It’s important to me that my team and I are easy to reach, transparent, and communicative with the artists, our teams, and collaborators. We want to manage the business effectively while having long range vision, strategy, and growth in mind. I strive to consistently generate new ideas and opportunities for the clients. We want to grow on a regular basis while also planting seeds for exponential growth at any moment. I believe if we work hard, do so with passion, integrity, and respect, keep an open door for dialog and constructive feedback, and think outside-the-box we have a recipe for success. The philosophy is treating others well, inspire growth, and ultimately lead the artists’ performances and songs to millions and millions of fans around the world each year.  

When did the idea of project “99 and ½ Won’t Do” come about? 

I started thinking about the 10-year anniversary of my management company in late 2022. I remember being at the gym doing pec-fly’s when the bones of this idea surfaced in my mind. The idea was to record all of my clients on one song, with a traditional song or cover, and a producer of note with common ground with the artists.

In the end, I felt like my anniversary was the jumping off point, but the goal is to celebrate the artists and their legacies while giving back.

It turned into a dream project.

I got to co-produce this record “99 and ½ Won’t Do” with a super-talented GRAMMY-winning producer, musician, and songwriter Colin Linden. We put 4 very talented artists on it that have collectively earned 10 GRAMMY Awards. The musicians on the recording are top notch like Dominic Davis, who has played with Jack White, and Bryan Owings who has drummed with a who’s who of artists including Emmylou Harris.

I really enjoyed traveling to Nashville, Minneapolis, and down the road in Mar Vista, CA to record three of the four artists and be a part of the creative process as a co-producer.

The song itself has a rich history. It’s a traditional song that was initially more notably recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe with her Mom singing the response in the call-and-response and later recorded by Wilson Pickett, Mavis Staples, and more.

I knew that I wanted a portion of profits to go to a non-profit and I spent a lot of time thinking about which cause I felt this project should support. I care deeply about programming and awareness surrounding mental health. I care about uplifting the poor and sheltering the homeless. I also care a lot about helping out with humanitarian crisis’ around the world. Ultimately, I felt like the first issue to address was hungry children. It’s a sad, sad world when children don’t have the necessary food each day.

The Mid-South Food Bank contributes over 4 million meals a month to people in and around Memphis, Tennessee including a large percentage of children and elders. I made an initial contribution to them in honor of this project and committed to all profits from sales and streams to go their way.

The Blind Boys of Alabama and Bobby Rush have been recording since the 1940s and 1960s respectively. Their rich history in American music is unsurpassed by most. This is their first recorded collaboration. Their contributions along with Dom Flemons and Dustbowl Revival make this single quite historic in nature.

How important is activism in your life? 

I feel like it’s important to speak up about wrongs in the world. I support many through donations to non-profits and sometimes via volunteering.

Why is it important to we preserve and spread about activism & music?

One song, one performance, one act of sharing, or one contribution to a cause can make a major impact in someone’s life. I think it’s important to not underestimate the power of that action. Everyone has a different gift to share with the world.

It’s important that we keep space for activism so when something is wrong there’s a voice and a movement for it to be made right. Music is the soundtrack to life. I could write a whole essay on the power of music but in short, I know without a doubt that we cannot live without it. Music should continue to be supported through sales, streams, concert tickets, licensing in film, television, commercials, radio, and media, because it is the heartbeat of life, in a way.

"The beautiful thing about music or songs is that they can take you out of the thoughts that generate anxiety whether it’s from things happening in the world, our communities, or our personal lives. The music of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Bobby Rush, Dom Flemons, and Dustbowl Revival, they all do that. Music uplifts. It continues to impress upon me its influence in uplifting my life and the lives that it reaches. I’m very grateful to be a part of that process and unique exchange between people and songs." (Photo: (Photo: Los Angeles-based music manager, Jeff DeLia with Blind Boys of Alabama, 2024)

What moment changed your career the most?

There have been numerous moments that changed my career the most. I think signing my first client and then Bobby Rush was momentous. The moment when a project I managed the release of received a GRAMMY nomination for my first time, that was pivotal. At one point I was managing five amazing artists with solid fan bases, growing careers, and very active tour schedules. That wasn’t a specific moment, but it was a culmination of years of hard work, on everyone’s part, that led to it.

In 2023-24 I celebrated 10 years of my management company, five GRAMMY nominations for three clients, and two artists winning a GRAMMY each. That was a massive accomplishment for my boutique management company and my career. Over the past year I’ve worked on the aforementioned anniversary release that celebrates all of the artists and their legacies. I co-produced the record “99 and ½ Won’t Do” along with producer/artist Colin Linden and featuring Blind Boys of Alabama, Bobby Rush, Dom Flemons and Dustbowl Revival. For it to finally come out April 20 across the U.S. and Europe on a 12” with random colored vinyl for Record Store Day is very special. This feels like a snapshot of a moment that in some ways is changing my career as well.

Finally, it was very significant to be elected to Governor on the Memphis Chapter board of The Recording Academy who are known for putting on The GRAMMYs, their MusiCares organization, The Grammy Museum, and Advocacy. I’ve been watching the GRAMMYs and dreaming of my place in the industry since I was very young. To get to contribute in that way and give back through Advocacy and Educational initiatives has been very rewarding and meaningful to me.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change one thing in the music business today it would be that records (or equivalent streams) sold and generate in the quantities and dollars that they did before my lifetime, while artists and songwriters benefit from it favorably. I also hope for roots and Americana music genres to rise to the top again.

"It’s important that we keep space for activism so when something is wrong there’s a voice and a movement for it to be made right. Music is the soundtrack to life. I could write a whole essay on the power of music but in short, I know without a doubt that we cannot live without it. Music should continue to be supported through sales, streams, concert tickets, licensing in film, television, commercials, radio, and media, because it is the heartbeat of life, in a way." (Photo: Jeff DeLia)

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I covered some of this in the last question but overall, it’s getting to work with musicians while collaborating with them on their vision and their music. I help steer the ship and build their careers, but I also roll up my sleeves with the music, at times helping to bring together musical collaborators and make creative decisions. It’s a beautiful moment each time I see the new songs reaching new and bigger audiences as well as experience it in the venue with the fans.

Every time something monumental happens for an artist I manage; it is a highlight. Some other examples include Bobby Rush in the Netflix feature film Dolemite Is My Name alongside Eddie Murphy, the memoir by Blind Boys of Alabama, Dom Flemons in the Bank of America commercial, Dustbowl Revival headlining the Fillmore, helping to secure and attending alongside the artist for national television segments, tours into new territories like Japan, and much more.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past?

I feel like the music of the past is carried forward through the artists of today performing and recording the material and sharing the stories, as well as authors, media, academia, and museums sharing the history.

What I miss most about the music of the past is something I haven’t experienced before. I would love to have been in Chicago soaking up the Blues of the ‘60s, in San Francisco soaking up rock n’ roll of the ‘70s, L.A.’s Central Avenue soaking up Jazz of the ‘20s, the Greenwich Village Folk scene, early Newport Folk Festivals, and at Woodstock.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

One big lesson that I soaked in along the way is to not take things so personal. I used to be deeply affected by things said or how they were said and carry that feeling into my off time. It’s not healthy. Letting things go can bring a big feeling of relief and be empowering.

72 Music Management - Home

(Jeff DeLia of 72 Music Management / Photo by Brit O'Brien)

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