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Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Jessica Mickey


Johnny Delaware Puts Out His Not-So ‘Secret Wave’

Even before his first official outing as a Charleston musician, Johnny Delaware knew how to create a buzz. When we first became acquainted with him, he was hilariously hyping up a packed Pour House during Brave Baby’s album release show last winter. “I told them that I used to emcee basketball games and that my cousins are professional baseball announcers,” he explains, “So, they let me take over and hype y’all up.”

Shortly after that, we were told by some local music scenesters to keep an eye on the tall, dark stranger from South Dakota. We caught him at the Royal American, opening up for Jordan Igoe’s album benefit show as Black Top Desert and were instantly impressed with his versatile musical skills, flexible vocals, and twangy indie-pop stylings.

Today, his album Secret Wave has officially dropped under the moniker of the man himself. “Turns out people had trouble remembering Black Top Desert, and though I still am in love it, you have to know when to listen to the people around you,” he explains.


Johnny Delaware at the Royal American, 2013 (photo by Jessica Mickey)

Originally, from South Dakota, Delaware’s musical aspirations bounced him from his homestate to Nashville, on to Albuquerque, back to his native South Dakota, until eventually landing him in Austin. There, Delaware made some great friends and contacts, one of which introduced him to Charleston-based producer and drummer Wolfgang Zimmerman (of Brave Baby). Before he knew it, he was packing his bags once again to make his way to the Lowcountry and produce a record with his new associate. “Everything felt right for the first time in my life, and I still feel the same way now,” he says.

Delaware’s multiple talents as a musician, which include the ability to play guitar, bass, standup bass, piano, harmonica, and banjo, are on full display on Secret Wave, with the main exception of Zimmerman’s drumming. “Recording Secret Wave happened to be the best experience of my life,” Delaware claims. “Musically, Wolfgang and I are on the same wave length, and that made things a lot easier than things could’ve been. People say we look like brothers all the time, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In the creation of music, we really share something special that holds a lot of significance. Plus, when you’re creating art, sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen at once, and the music tends to get confused. It was nice not having to deal with that.”


The album, which instrumentally and lyrically seems to echo Delaware’s unintended transient-nature before he moved to Charleston, is a finely crafted machine. There is little doubt that intense care and consideration went into his process. “Recording a lot of these tracks, we would record the skeleton of the song live and overdub other instruments after. Recording live carries a life that the metronome struggles to capture. Sure, the chances of having a couple mistakes here and there is more bound to happen, but whatever Those mistakes end up letting you know that it’s organic, and that it’s still human beings playing.” He credits the warm tone of his recorded vocals to an old analog board that he purchased in Austin.

Much like with his album, Delaware has also put a lot of thought into how to proceed with an album release show, opting until January for an official local date. “Some band members are in South America until December, and I want to get a tour under our belt before we play an important show in Charleston,” he explains. “Another theory to make me feel better is that since no one knows who I am, I would rather give people the record to hear and talk about and have something tangible for a while before I play an important show.”

However, don’t expect him to slow down or become complacent anytime soon. “Trust me,  there’s lots of mountains I’m only currently looking up to that I have to still hike up,” he says. “But my expectations are very big. I chose to be a musician to help and inspire people, and something inside me says my time is a comin’ to make that happen.”

Once a hype man, always a hype man.

See johnnydelaware.bandcamp.com and johnnydelaware.com for more.




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About the Author

Jessica Mickey

has considered Charleston home since she first moved here in 2001. She regularly performs improv at Theatre 99 and dabbles in stand-up comedy in various venues around the Lowcountry. Jessica has also cohosted morning radio shows on 96Wave and 98X, as well as wrote the weekly column "The Chase is On" for the Charleston City Paper. She can barely play the ukulele Ballard bought her for Christmas last year, but after a couple of drinks, she can sing the shit out of some karaoke.

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