Describe your music in three words.
A.D.: Soulful Roots Rock
What is your earliest music memory, the one that set you down that “I want to do that” moment?
A.D.: I honestly couldn't tell you. Music was something that was always present in my life, I come from a large family of musicians, and was pulled on the stage so early on--the presence of music was my baseline, I never even thought about not having it present.
You’ve been one of the most active original songwriters on the New Orleans music scene in the past several years, and prior to your move back home, pursued acting and music across the country. How has your artistry changed or developed through the years in light of such experiences?
A.D.: My acting training gave me the discipline to make a habit of creating everyday, like an athlete trains every day, I "music" everyday. Now that may be different things, because, hell, in this day and age, musicians, especially singer/songwriters don't always have the luxury of focusing on just the music, but this is my focus every day I wake up. Coming up in Los Angeles also gave me a very tough skin, which I think is crucial to longevity in this business. You learn to take disappointment and heartbreak in stride-- those become rounds in the boxing match, instead of the walls crumbling around you, and that the "No's" are guaranteed, but the "Yes" makes it all worthwhile.
Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to life you up-not to be escapist but to take you out of misery.” How has music gotten you through hard times – “misery,” so to say - in your life?
A.D.: Oh man... where to start... Sometimes it was the fact that there were five other musicians depending on me that got me out of bed some days. Sometimes it's the tears in the eyes, or the heartfelt exchanges of someone who came to see us who was going through it, and we changed their mood. Sometimes it's the actual act of making music that was able to give me pause in really hard times, much like a long run after a really stressful day. Sometimes it’s the only thing that'll stop my mind from racing, or a high belt that lets my rage ride on it, and into the atmosphere. And sometimes, it's the only way I can safely channel what I'm feeling--- I can lay it all out for the world to see in the words of the song, uninterrupted, because the stage is a safe space, and one I hold sacred. we take the stage to tell our side of the story, and the people who come to witness it are looking for a connection-- they want to know they're not alone. Hard times are like songs-- no matter how long the tune is dragged out by some obnoxiously long solo, it eventually comes to an end.
When you hear the phrase “Music for the Mind,” what is your first impression of the phrase?
A.D.: It makes me think of those playlists that'll get your mind straight, you know, the ones that help you get through it-- most people have their gym jams playlist, or the study/do work playlist, this phrase makes me think of the ones I've had for getting through periods of grief, or those ones that calm me down when I'm dealing with a tough bout of anxiety.
What is a message you hope others receive through your music?
A.D.: I hope that it gives them comfort in times of strife, that it makes them laugh at times, and that it gives them the permission to be in the moment. Get up and dance if you feel the impulse to do that, sing along, put a hand on the one your with, and be fully present in the moment, because none of us are promised tomorrow.
In addition to music as a catharsis, are there other resources or coping outlets that you use to care for your mental health?
A.D.: I spend a lot of time in my garden, I raise monarch butterflies in addition to providing food and host plants for other species-- plus there's something special about growing one's own food- and I have an amazing dog that keeps me laughing--Sage Hendrix-- she's such a character.
Here’s a fun one: You’re singing karaoke on an off-night – what’s your go-to song?
A.D.: Ha! Proud Mary, by Tina Turner. You really can't go wrong, and I have yet to see a crowd that doesn't get up and start "rollin’” - everybody's a backup dancer.
Any last thoughts/comments you’d like to share?
I often stand in awe of the healing powers of music. It can bring back memory to those who forget, comfort to those who hurt, and relief to those under pressure. It's broken down cultural barriers and cracked open those of small mind. I take pride in being one of many who are called to create it and am always honored to witness the work of my comrades.
Arsene Delay is a New Orleans-based performer, songwriter, bandleader, guitarist, and vocal powerhouse performing both under her own name and with local bands including the Bayou Saints, A2D2, and more. Arsene’s music and voice has been featured across local and national festival stages, television, recorded music, and much more. With a musical family legacy recalling New Orleans’ most storied melodic contributors, Arsene pays homage to her heritage through her constant authentic musicianship. You can find more on Arsene at:
Official Website: http://www.arsenedelay.com/
All photos by Jose Cotto for the Brett Thomas Doussan (BTD) Foundation.