Delta Moon also will feature in a Southern blues concert at The Art Place in Northeast Cobb on Aug. 20, along with the Mississippi Blues band. It's part of The Art Place's Summer Star Series tonight with the final show of "The Drowsy Chaperone" by the Cabaret Performance Camp.
Tom Gray, a co-founder of Delta Moon, says the band plays Marietta area venues regularly. The band has a grass roots following that originated right here in our backyard.
“Delta Moon is the South; The Hellbound Train album drew a lot from living in the South,” Gray says of being a Southern boy from birth.
Growing up in Virginia, Gray relocated to Atlanta with his family in 8th grade. Gray became drawn to music as an escape from his lack of friendships. But, things would take a dramatic turn in high school where he found lots of friends who appreciated his musical talents. Soon Gray would form small garage bands performing nearly anywhere people would listen.
Gray went on to study English at Georgia State University, where he would work and study during the day and play with his band at night. It was toiling at times Gray admits but he says it paid off with an English degree he puts to use daily.
“People don’t see where an English degree can be important in music, but I tell them it’s all about communication,” Gray explains away his musical connection with his fans.
Mark Johnson, the other half of the co-founding duo, moved to Atlanta in the early 1990’s leaving behind a very meager lifestyle in Ravenna, Ohio. Upon arriving in Atlanta, Johnson formed the Rude Northerners which was around the same time he began exploring his obsession with the ‘bottleneck slide’ – a unique technique for playing a guitar.
In the late 1990’s Gray and Johnson would meet by chance, in what seemed a scene out of The Hangover II. Gray recalls trying to sell Johnson a Dobro, a specific type of acoustic guitar, behind a local music store. With the Dobro tucked away in his van for safe keeping, Gray lead the apprehensive Johnson and his coy girlfriend toward his beat-up van. Needless to say, the deal went south but the two guitarists somehow managed to exchange numbers.
After some discussions, Gray and Johnson decided to team up where they would hone their skills playing gigs around Atlanta all-the-while cultivating their following. They would frequent Cobb area bars, dives and barbeque shacks. Over the course of this time Gray would fine tune his skill playing the lap steel guitar, a technique popularized by David Lindley – who Gray credits for influencing his work.
Additional band members came and went, but Gray and Johnson remained committed and focused on their game plan. The tipping point came after winning the International Blues Challenge at a Memphis competition in 2003. From there the doors opened to international travel, recognition and play dates.
“Traveling to other countries opens your eyes to how other people live,” describes Gray. “People tend to think the way it is in your neighborhood is the way it is everywhere but that simply is not the case.”
Gray also says the band gets a surprising emotional response to their music in Germany, especially to a song called “Plantation Song.” The song’s premise reflects on how times used to be during the days of slavery and people tried to do what they thought was right; however, in hind sight what was right then would not ring true today. He agrees this is especially true of Delta Moon, a mixed race band that would not have existed only 40 years ago. The Germans have a similar connection to the song in their experiences with the Holocaust and its survivors.
“It’s a heavy song, a lot of people don’t really know how to feel about it,” said Gray. “But really we just want to have a good time; a musician’s job is to make people leave with a feeling that says this was an experience worth having.”
Delta Moon’s latest offering, Hellbound Train, is available online and in stores now. For more information visit DeltaMoon.com.