Life in the big time begins at 40, well almost anyway, for one-half of the brother duo, The Delevantes.
After one well-received album on Rounder, the Everly Brothers cum roots rockers style of Bob and Mike Delevante are releasing "Postcards From Along the Way" on Capitol in July.
When asked if he was nervous about how the disc would do, Bob, at 39, three years older than his brother, says, "For me, it's more an excitement. We did the best job we could on this record. We'll see what happens. We want to get out there and work out. You can't help wondering sometimes what's going to happen."
The album isn't all that much of a departure from the New Jersey duo's 1995 Rounder debut "Long About That Time."
Harmonies and vocal trade-offs dominate the songs. A roots rock edge is also quite apparent amidst spry melodies.
Bob Delevante says he "wanted to stay consistent with what we had done sound-wise because it has always worked for me. I felt very comfortable with that."
Mike Delevante chimes in during a telephone interview from Capitol Records in Nashville, "We were really pleased with the first record, and we didn't really want to change it. When we changed labels, people we knew were wondering is it going to change you being on a new label. Is it going to be any different? They (the label) were super supportive. They let us do part two. You don't want to (mix the) business end of music what you're going to sound like. For the most part, you're going to be true to what you're going to be. Hopefully you're going to grow in the second record. You're better at writing, songwriting."
The two often co-write, penning 7 of the 12 songs together with Bob doing the rest. Both cited the lead-off "Suitcase of Leather" as a favorite. Mike says it "sets the groundwork for what is coming up in the rest of the record. Each song is like a little vignette or a story about someone who either left or stayed. 'Suitcase' tells the story of both."
Bob tends to be the wordsmith with Mike supplying the music. Bob says he does more of the songs because "I just write more. Sometimes it will come to me, and it's done."
One constant has been a love affair with automobiles. The first album yielded "Driving At Night," which managed to gain airplay on the video stations here and in Europe even though the album did not gain a foothold at radio. "Postcards" contains such songs as "My Daddy's Cadillac" and "This Engine Runs on Faith."
"It was really a big part of our lives," says Bob of cars. Their father and grandfather worked for GM in New Jersey. Chevys and Cadillacs were the cars of choice.
Mike Delevante says "My Daddy's Cadillac," about a family drive, was a true story with the line "I saw the world from the back of my daddy's Cadillac."
"They would get cars from work," Mike says. "They would bring them home." A 1970 Cadillac Coupe DeVille went through three generations of Delevantes "until I drove it into the ground," says Mike. "The streets of Hoboken are not kind to cars."
Music was always a part of their lives as well. Mike says he picked up a guitar his mom received as a present from his dad when he was about five. Bob also started picking away.
"We just always played together, and in high school, we started meeting guys we could play with," says Mike.
The interest in country and bluegrass stemmed from a classmate of Bob.
"That was our first introduction to that kind of music," Mike says.
While in high school in Rutherford, N.J, they formed Wreckless Abandon, converting songs by The Monkees and The Beatles into bluegrass. "We had a banjo," explains Mike. "That's what you play when you have a banjo."
What started as a social thing evolved after a friend of a friend owned a bar and gave the band $300 and all the beer they could drink.
After a few years, the Delevantes each went to an art school in New York.
But they did not abandon music as they formed Who's Your Daddy, a harder version of Wreckless Abandon. "We started writing our own songs and wanted to pursue it," says Bob. The band lasted from the mid '80's until about 1989.
While attending the New Music Seminar in New York, the Delevantes met a person working for BMI, the music publishing firm. "He heard us and said, 'you guys would do well in Nashville," Mike says. "The band was breaking up, and Bob and I were doing most everything on our own...Bob and I were really interested in doing our thing."
An initial visit left a favorable impression. "We got a lot of encouragement, we weren't doing a straight country thing," says Mike. "The whole songwriting thing is such a huge thing down here."
The pair continued visiting over three or four years, recording with former E Street Band member Garry Tallent, who they met at a Steve Earle concert.
Finally, in 1992, after spending so much time in Nashville, the Delevantes decided to leave New Jersey for Music City.
Bob says, "Musically, it really clicked for us. We had been playing that kind of stuff in New Jersey. It can exist on a club level, but it can exist industry-wise." Influences include Nanci Griffith, Foster & Lloyd and Earle.
"All of sudden, it all made sense to us," says Bob. "It was a home for us down here. We always wanted to work with pedal steel players, and they're hard to come by in New Jersey."
The two hooked up with Rounder thanks to Robert Oermann, a very well known country journalist. He told the head of Rounder, Ken Irwin, about the duo.
"He caught our show, and we just started talking about it," Mike says. "He said he wanted to do a record. It was something that easy."
The Delevantes thought recording for Rounder would be a smarter move than going with a major. "We knew what we were doing was pretty different, so we decided it would be a great way to go," Mike says.
While happy with Rounder, the brothers wanted to go with a Nashville label. "That was really important to us," Mike says. "I feel it's the contact you had (that) is really really important."
The person who signed them to a writing deal in 1993 also inked them to Capitol. "He knew what we were about and what we were doing," says Mike. "He kept his eye out for what we were doing. He approached us when it was time to do another one."
While well aware of the cynicism about Nashville labels going bland and pop, Mike says he believes in the people at Capitol. "I feel the people who work here really like the music...They are really excited about working with something they actually like. I feel that here."
Often, a record could be made or broken by how hard a label works for the artist.
Capitol left the Delevantes alone in recording the album. "It would be one thing if Capitol said if you have to write with what's his name or get a song from what's his name. None of that has happened," Mike says. "Everything is exactly the same thing as the first record. We liked it that way, and they liked it that way."
Mike says Capitol understands the Delevantes are unlike their other acts. "They understand they are not going to go about it the same way as marketing Trace Adkins," he says.
The disc will be marketed at AAA (adult album alternative) radio, Americana and some country stations.
They plan to tour in Europe in late summer and early fall and hit the States as well.
With much at stake, Bob is hopeful the move to Capitol was a smart one. "Are you pleased with what you did? Are you proud of what you did? We are both of those. This is allowing us to take it to another level hopefully and still doing it on our terms."
Which could prove the old adage correct: life begins at 40.