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Rocco DeLuca - The story behind Kiefer Sutherland backed artist

Rocco DeLuca

Feature by Jack Foley

“THE blues died when they took the ‘fuck’ out of it,” explains Rocco DeLuca, the artist currently being backed by Kiefer Sutherland’s record label.

“The music I was raised on had heat. Energy. That feeling of aggression. The music of today seems so washed out and generic.

“To get ‘em back we need to stick the real soul, that punk element back into it. It’s the only way I know how to play it.”

It’s with that ferocity and determination that DeLuca’s debut album, I Trust You To Kill Me, challenges the listener to dive head first into the heart and soul of a musical revolution.

Music has been a part of DeLuca’s makeup from the start.

“My dad was the touring guitar player for Bo Diddley and I remember he and my uncles would have these late night jam sessions and I would hang out with them and then end up crawling into Uncle Joe’s bass drum and falling asleep to the drone,” he smiles.

As he got older, he discover the DOBRO steel guitar and it wasn’t long before primitive folk music from both the south and the Appalachian Mountains made their way into his world.

“Most of my friends were into punk and my family’s roots where in blues, so the two extremes were really all I listened to,” he explains.

After playing out at parties and penning songs, DeLuca spent the next decade honing his musical craft. He became the local opener for Taj Mahal, John Mayall and John Lee Hooker, played with Johnny Cash and after a series of eye-opening experiences in Europe, he returned to the States and landed a twoyear residency at the Gypsy Lounge just outside of Los Angeles.

As with many artists, the road from the past to the reality of today is rarely an even journey. DeLuca’s was no exception. What a travelling musician for a father and having not met his mother until just three years ago, he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s spent a few cold nights on a park bench.

It was through those years that DeLuca found the strength to keep his creative drive unyielding.

“You’ve gotta die a few times and be fierce enough to fall,” he remarks, candidly. “I’ve fallen on my face many times. Whether it was on stage or with my family, but it’s those times and battle scars that make my music what it is today.”

You can fine those scars all over this riveting portrait of an old soul’s quest for honesty, growth and inner awakening.

From the haunting and alluring build of the first track Gift, to the primitive and heartfelt honesty of songs like Speak To Me and Favor, DeLuca locks you in with a tender vulnerability and inner strength that’s unparalleled.

The disc also suggests the influence of artists as singular as Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Robert Johnson. The fact is, Rocco’s music is a colourful and remarkable as the journey he’s been on, with stops along the way at the junkie corners (Dope), the London pubs of the ‘60s (Swing Low) and Sao Cal coffee-houses (Bus Ride).

After years of performing and touring, the time came fro DeLuca to take his experiences and lay them down in the form of a demo, but not without a certain amount of hesitation.

“I always thought of the ‘music industry’ as this drunk girl at a party who forgot who she came with,” he says. “I loved making music, but being a cog wasn’t for me. At the same time no one was putting out the kind of music I wanted to hear, so I cut my demo and tried to keep it as honest as possible.”

In 2004, that demo was passed on to Jude Cole and Kiefer Sutherland’s Ironworks label and it was clear to both of them that what they were seeing was something amazing.

“We thought of him as a real diamond-in-the-rough,” says Cole, “and that’s exactly what we were looking for.”

Once in the studio together, Cole helped DeLuca flesh out arrangements and lay down tracks.

It was through this process that they realized in order to deliver the intensity of the music live, it was going to require a full-on ensemble. And so The Burden was born.

“This band has taken this material to such a great place,” he says. “It’s intense and aggressive live; we put a lot into simplicity, like those old masters did.”

The band features drummer Ryan Carman, bass player Dave Beste and percussionist Grey Velasquez.

“These are some of my best friends, my family really… and we all share the same concept of what a live performance should be; a fusion of passion and clarity,” adds DeLuca. “As a fan, that’s what I would want to see.”

Read our review of the album