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Elio DeLuca, October Artist of the Month

Elio DeLuca; photo by Ben Stas

Elio DeLuca, October Artist of the Month

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If you appreciate reputable music even just a smidgen, you've caught sight of Elio DeLuca. On many stages in a mind boggling amount of bands, or listed within the liner notes of a stack of albums under a plethora of roles, Elio's making the magic happen somewhere. And if you've ever seen him play multiple instruments (at times at the same time) with three different bands in one night, you would rightfully believe that he's a superhero in disguise. Moreover, like any guardian of all that is good and pure in this world, his grace lies in his devotion to encouraging those around him. As you will see in this interview, a talented man's legacy grows with every compliment he bestows.
Can you give a brief overview of what you do?

I'm a musician, arranger, recording & mix engineer, and producer. I play several instruments and work mostly as a sideman for other artists, as well as working as a live and studio engineer. Guitarist/technician Patrick Grenham and I built an all-analog recording studio called the Soul Shop in Medford in 2007. Our aim was to provide the Boston area with a classic analog recording environment that was also affordable. Since then I've produced dozens of records at the Shop in a wide variety of genres.

Are there some past projects you’d like to mention in more detail?

I've been lucky to be involved in making some great records this year, such as the debut album from Stephen Konrads & the Eternals, which is a masterful collection of dark pop songs. I recently finished recording & mixing an EP at the Shop for the Brooklyn band Wilder Maker. They're led by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Birnbaum, with whom I've done several records. This is some of the best material I've ever heard from him.

As for performing live, I've been a member of Faces On Film for some time, playing organ & percussion. Faces' singer/songwriter Mike Fiore is great to work with because he operates at such a high level; the musicianship in that band is inspiring. Songwriter Marc Valois started a project this year called Blinders, in which I play organ, and that's some of the catchiest pop music around. Those shows are a blast.

What projects are you most excited about that are on the horizon?

I just spent a few weeks in New York working on the forthcoming Titus Andronicus album, which promises to be epic. I've been their session pianist since their first record, and their new material is really something. They'll be coming to Boston this Fall to record piano and keyboards at the Soul Shop. I tracked & mixed one side of an album for local rockers Dan Webb & the Spiders. That's a great example of how I like to work: the band was rehearsed & ready, we knew what we were looking for, and the entire thing was recorded & mixed at the Shop in two days. Additionally, the other side of that record was tracked & mixed in Chicago by legendary engineer Steve Albini, so it's exciting to be in that company. I also recently began pre-production on the new album from the incomparable singer/songwriter Katie Von Schleicher. I'm really looking forward to that. Her voice is one of a kind. In addition to running the Shop, Patrick & I also front an R&B band called the New Lights. We've got some singles coming out soon, and are just about to start working on our second Christmas album.

A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?

The biggest challenge is the instability, something I think all freelancers or independent contractors can relate to. Honestly, though, I think that I thrive under pressure, and, over time, that hustle has become my regular life. My folks have always been understanding, and I have many good friends who live similar lifestyles, and those two things definitely go a long way toward supporting my focus & stability in difficult times. Plus, the return is more than worth it.

Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it?

Well, the privilege of working with great talent never gets old. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the Shop succeed as an encouraging creative environment for artists & engineers to make records. I had many dissatisfying experiences in recording studios as a musician when I was coming up, mostly involving uncooperative engineers or second-rate facilities. A very important goal of mine as an engineer or producer is to facilitate someone’s vision for their music without getting in the way: without requiring them to worry about the technical elements of the process (unless they want to), while being careful not to steer them in a direction they don’t want to go. Almost every production credit I've ever received for an album has been in collaboration with the artist, which means a lot to me. That unity of vision is part of what makes great records. It’s more important, as a producer, to know when to stay out of the way of a great idea, rather than to constantly have to register your own opinion, or micro-manage. Sometimes you just have to know when to put the right people in front of the right microphones and get the hell out of the way.

Any thoughts on the local Somerville or Boston-area creative scene?

As a Boston native, it has always been frustrating to watch this area continually lose great, talented people to other cities, as they sought out a lower cost of living, or the kind of career opportunities that weren't afforded them here. Boston has always had a hard time maintaining a "creative class"—the kinds of artists, writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs who have thrived in Somerville for some time. I've lived in the Union / Inman area for nearly ten years, and I think there’s no coincidence that these neighborhoods are thriving, largely because of that rich, diverse, community, alongside the families who have made Somerville their home for generations. My fear is that with progress comes the cost of losing all of those valuable populations to exorbitant prices, rising rents, and neighborhoods changing, but not for the better. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to stay in the Union area. I sincerely hope Somerville can manage to embrace progress and growth, while not alienating the people who have contributed so much to this city and helped to define neighborhoods like Union Square.

Can you name off some of the people/places/things in this world that you find amazing and want us to know about?

My site & the Shop site have links to all the artists & bands mentioned above—check out their music, take a chance on something you may not have heard before. You probably already recognize the benefit of buying local in other areas of your life, why not try the same approach with music? Boston has a wonderful cultural landscape, don’t miss out.

As told and edited by Jenn Harrington