Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene A Brother's Keeper

Bob Delevante shines in solo outing

By Michael McCall

MARCH 6, 2000:  Bob Delevante's recent solo album, Porchlight, opens with an existential song about perseverance and closes with a directly stated prayer about gratitude. Both tunes manage to sound positive yet grounded in real experience. At the same time, both come across as expressing something deeply intrinsic about the philosophy of the man responsible for writing, singing, and producing the recording.

Using personal experience to write about universal themes is a hallmark of Delevante's writing on Porchlight, his first solo LP after two national releases as a member of The Delevantes with his brother Mike. Mostly, he explores relationships--not just those between lovers, but those between individuals and anything that forms a person's character. In simple yet thought-provoking terms, Delevante's songs explore how a person interacts with family members, with his past, with his disappointments, with his conscience, and with the city and community where he lives or has lived.

Throughout the record, he uses commonplace elements--cars, roads, houses, porchlights, rivers, and skies--as both settings and metaphors for how we live. Whether he's asking forgiveness from someone he's done wrong or perceiving the comfort that comes from driving home or resting in loving arms, the heart of his songs ultimately lies in recognizing and acknowledging the ways we get by. Sometimes it's just finding the strength to get through another day. More often, it's about honoring what's good and worthy about daily life.

"It is a personal album--the most personal I've done," Delevante said over lunch recently. "That's part of why I did it this way, as a solo album. It seemed like the best way to deal with these songs."

As he explains, it also seemed like a good time to step away from the current confusion of the music industry and create something more personal and more low key. The last Delevantes album, 1997's critically acclaimed Postcards from the Edge, was released just as Garth Brooks pulled his power play at Capitol Records and shifted the company's focus so that all of its resources were focused on him. The Delevantes were among several performers who got shoved off the label's roster.

After leaving Capitol, the duo was approached by other major record companies. But they realized that the industry is undergoing a major upheaval, and they decided to resist signing another multi-album deal under the current climate.

"We just thought it would be good to lay back for a while and see how all these changes shake out," he says. "Meanwhile, though, I was writing songs. My wife and I were having our second child, and all these changes were going on in my life, and these things were coming out in my songs. My brother Mike heard them, and he liked them a lot, and he told me I should record them, that I should do a solo album while we're waiting to figure out what to do next."

Not wanting to go through the whole negotiating process with a record label, Delevante decided to put the CD out himself. "I'd really had a lot of experience with record labels by this point," he says. "The whole process wasn't as mysterious as it was when I was younger. We'd made demo recordings and tapes on our own, and we'd been on an independent label and on a major label. I thought I could take what I'd learned from all those experiences and put it to use."

When he formed Relay Records, he thought it would be just to create this one solo album. But other artists have approached him about putting out their albums, and he's been working as a producer for a Dallas pop band, Milton Mapes. Along the way, Delevante began to think about Relay Records as a long-term entity.

"It's been a lot of work, but it's also real gratifying to have control over all aspects of putting together a CD," he says, noting that he's also got a background in graphic design and that, besides his own albums, he's done art direction for other artists, including Julie Miller's recent Broken Things album. "I've learned a lot, and the whole experience has been a positive one. I don't see why I shouldn't keep it going."

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