While My Guitar Gently Sings: A Conversation With Delicate Steve : All Songs Considered All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen talks with guitarist Delicate Steve about his new instrumental album, why he doesn't need a singer and the uncertain future of guitar music.

While My Guitar Gently Sings: A Conversation With Delicate Steve

Delicate Steve's latest album is This Is Steve on Anti Records. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Delicate Steve's latest album is This Is Steve on Anti Records.

Courtesy of the artist

Here's something rare these days: an instrumental guitar-rock record that's actually a joy to listen to. This Is Steve is by the artist Delicate Steve, otherwise known as Steve Marion, who plays all the instruments on this incredibly fun (and sometimes funny) album.

On this episode of All Songs Considered, I talk with Delicate Steve about the guitar music he loves, including music from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sly and the Family Stone, as well as the singers who inspire his lyrical guitar styles, which he describes as "cartoon rock."

"I don't know how much of a lover of guitar music I am," Steve Marion tells me. That's surprising, coming from a guy who has made his name making instrumental guitar rock, but it makes some sense, too. He has played guitar with a lot of remarkable musicians, including Paul Simon, Yeasayer, Mac Demarco, David Byrne, Dirty Projectors and so many more, and says he actually draws inspiration more from singers than guitarists.

You can hear the whole interview with the audio link at the top of the page or read edited highlights below.


On the process of writing and recording This Is Steve:

"I went in for 11 days to my friend's studio and said, 'I need to make an album.' Literally the first day I got into the studio, I just plugged in and went, 'Okay [imitates his guitar] bow-wow-chicka-wow-wow.' I basically set up around my laptop with a bunch of different instruments surrounding me: guitars, basses, keyboards and if I swiveled my stool around 180-degrees, I was in front of a drum kit. I'd do whatever I could in as quick an amount of time as possible without getting too precious about anything. Because I have a habit of doing that. A lot of these songs, I didn't know what I was going to do next."

On writing and playing guitar parts like lead vocals:

"I don't know how much of a lover of guitar music I am. I grew up liking guitar music, that's obviously how I became a guitar player. But since about eight years ago, when making this whole Delicate Steve project, I would say it's about 80 percent influenced by singers and the phrasing of different vocalists. When I'm thinking about being a guitar player, I'm normally playing the rhythm guitar of a Delicate Steve song — and with the lead guitar, I'm thinking about being a singer."

On the uncertain future of guitar music:

"I recently saw Kurt Vile and Run the Jewels play at a festival back-to-back, and both were great, but now rap is more mainstream than rock is. [I think] it would take one of the more popular hip-hop or rap artists to reintroduce guitar or make guitar cool again. The idea of just really expressing yourself with a guitar solo I think is mostly lame unless you're doing something really cool, which doesn't happen a lot."

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for This Is Steve

02Winners

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/511578043/511783084" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Winners
    Album
    This Is Steve
    Artist
    Delicate Steve
    Label
    Anti
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Delicate Steve

  • Song: Winners
  • from This Is Steve
Cover for Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings

Otis Redding

  • Song: I Can't Turn You Loose (Live / Set 1 / Friday, April 8, 1966)
  • from Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings
YouTube
Cover for Coneheads

Red Hot Chili Peppers

  • Song: Soul to Squeeze
  • from Coneheads
YouTube
Cover for Stranger to Stranger

Paul Simon

  • Song: The Werewolf
  • from Stranger to Stranger
YouTube
Cover for This Is Steve

03Cartoon Rock

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/511578043/511782903" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Cartoon Rock
    Album
    This Is Steve
    Artist
    Delicate Steve
    Label
    Anti
    Released
    2017

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Delicate Steve

  • Song: Cartoon Rock
  • from This Is Steve
Cover for Eliminator

ZZ Top

  • Song: Got Me Under Pressure
  • from Eliminator
YouTube
Cover for There's a Riot Goin' On

Sly And The Family Stone

  • Song: Family Affair
  • from There's a Riot Goin' On
YouTube
Cover for Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes

  • Song: Don't Wanna Fight
  • from Sound & Color
YouTube