“Right now, I’m on my way to the SeaWitch Cafe. I have a gig there tonight, and the traffic is terrible, but I guess that’s perfect for our conversation. It gives us time to talk.”
It can be hard to set up an interview with Delia Stanley. We’ve been trying for a while, but her schedule is always booked. She’s one of those types who is always on the go. When we chatted over the phone – on a Thursday night in early December – she was making her way to Carolina Beach for a solo performance. Twenty-four hours later, she has another show booked for Friday night. And then Saturday and Sunday are what she calls “double hitters” with each day having one show in the afternoon, followed by another at a different venue in the evening. If you’re doing the math, that is six shows in just four days.
Staying busy, of course, has its perks. This past year, Delia has managed to make her living strictly from her creative endeavors. She is one of the lucky ones, but honestly, sometimes it’s easy for her to forget that she’s living the dream.
“When something is constant, it can also be very tiring. You’re always on the road, and the more you work, the more you have to make just to cover costs. I see a lot of musicians getting burned out, which is one of the reasons I like to do these other projects.”
Sure, this is a story about a woman who has given her heart and her time to music. But if that is all you know about Delia Stanley, then you are missing the rarity that makes her journey so unique.
We live in a time that preaches competition. It instills in us a notion that opportunity is a finite commodity – there’s only so much to go around. Therefore, if someone else succeeds, haven’t they just made it that much harder for us to succeed, too? We’ve all thought that, haven’t we? Now add into the mix the creative pursuit, which is filled with insecure and jealous folks, and only then do you understand why Delia stands out as an exception. You see, this is really a story of a woman who has given her heart and time not just to music, but to an entire community. It’s why we think of her as an advocate for the creative.
“Honestly, every time I get around other musicians, I leave inspired. Those are always great discussions. Everyone has a specialty, and everyone has something they need to learn. I just believe if we can get everyone together, then maybe we can figure it out together.”
In addition to averaging six weekly performances, Delia has her hand in a variety of other projects – designed not to further her own pursuit, but to help other musicians along on their own path. She helps organize workshops with the Painter and the Poet. She is an active contributor to the Voice and the Pen. She hosts regular open mics at Mad Katz and Eagle’s Dare. She has even strategically placed cork boards throughout the town that promote live performances featuring other artists. And for the last two years, she’s served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Cucoloris Film Festival.
This is a woman who truly wants to help other people make it; she is not threatened by their potential success.
“I believe in community over competition because it’s one of those rising tides raise all ships-type situations. I think we devalue artistic pursuit a lot. And there’s a lot of people out there who run into more reasons, more criticisms to justify giving something up than they run into support. So there has to be someone on your side when you’re doing that kind of thing because it’s scary, and it’s vulnerable, and you open yourself up to a lot of emotional hardships.”
Delia is an expert on hardship and pain. Roughly eight years ago, she gave up her job in the non-profit sector and moved to Wilmington from New York City to be closer to her parents. At the time, her father was battling brain cancer. Delia wanted to be there for him. For close to two years in her new hometown, she didn’t perform, didn’t book any gigs. She was just a daughter helping to take care of her dad.
Not for nothing, but when a person moves here from a major metropolitan area like New York City to a town the size of Wilmington, it can be a huge adjustment. The weather may be warmer, the taxes may be smaller, but there are a lot of big city perks you have to say goodbye to. Fortunately, Delia didn’t have to bid farewell to the arts.
“I started to discover there is music everywhere here, and there are art galleries and theater, and there’s the film festival, and there’s a lot of great creative culture here. Wilmington is just a gem for this large amount of energy. So when I moved here, and after my father passed away, I decided to give a creative career a chance.”
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to start over – not just moving to a new town, but also to give up the adult career and pursue something that most people only do on the side. The only way to take such a lonely journey is to hopefully try to find someone who has gone before you.
Delia was able to follow a few footsteps along the way, but more importantly, she was thinking about the people behind her – blazing a path so hopefully, one day, they could find their way.
“I didn’t want to get stuck in the starving artist stereotype. You know, people frequently brush off creative pursuits as if to say that is for your spare time, or that’s just a hobby. I want people to know that they can go for it, that they’re not alone, that they feel support. I want them to have the resources and tools, and we can all share that with each other, to make it viable for all of us.”
Our conversation doesn’t last long. Within 15 or 20 minutes on the phone, even with traffic backup, she manages to cross Snow’s Cut Bridge and arrive at the first of six venues she’ll play this weekend. Most will be solo shows, with cover songs – although she always sneaks some of her original work into each performance.
Although one day she wants to tour the East Coast, performing only her own songs, her real dream is to continue to impact the Wilmington creative community.
She will be the first to tell that all her activities aren’t exactly selfless acts. If we’re honest, even though she spends a lot of time working on other people’s dreams, there’s a lot of self-interest in what she is doing. Delia – in short – helped create a community of creative folks because that’s what she needs to keep going.
“They say teach what you want to learn. I get more out of these workshops and discussions than anyone else. If I am feeling low on inspiration or creatively blocked, nothing inspires me more than being around other creative people. And when we come together, not only are you reminded that you’re not alone in the pursuit, but also you leave knowing that the pursuit is worthy of happening – and that’s what keeps me going.”
Earlier this month Delia and Friends released an live album of original songs that is now available on multiple streaming services.
Delia’s favorite compliment was when someone said listening to her voice was like “being wrapped in a warm velvety blanket.”
Delia has dabbled in freelance writing as a book reviewer and science writer, interviewing everyone from Nobel Peace Prize Winners to Mythbusters.
She is very competitive Mario Kart vriver with her main choice of vehicle/character is Kitty Cat Princess Peach
December 20th, The Duo at Katy’s Bar and Grill 8PM-11PM
December 21, The Eagle’s Dare 6PM-9PM
December 22, End of Days Distillery 6:30Pm- 8:30Pm
December 23, The Duo at Shaka’s Backyard (Hampstead) Music Space 5pm- 8pm
December 28, The Eagle’s Dare, 6PM-9pm
December 29 Celtic Monkey 7pm to 9pm
December 30 The Duo at Burgaw Brewing 2pm to 5pm