Steve Marion has a habit of thinking out of the box while playing under the name Delicate Steve. Certain riffs and chords only the Fredon Township, NJ native can pull off and without the pretentiousness of other so-called “virtuosos.” Stylistically, his music ranges from surf rock to progressive rock to guitar-evoked acid jazz to ‘70s pop — often intertwined.
As part of a small tour to support latest album, After Hours, which came out on July 8 on Anti- records, Marion will be performing at Café Nine in New Haven on Friday. New York City alt-rock artist Tall Juan will be kicking things off at 9 p.m.
Marion and I talked ahead of the show about playing guitar like a guitar player again, taking some time away from music during the pandemic-ridden year of 2020, his collaborations on the new album and enjoying the present rather than thinking about the future.
RD: Before the making of After Hours, it’s been said that you spent most of your life trying to escape the sound of the electric guitar but the process of making the album rekindled your love for playing the instrument. What would you say was the catalyst for making you enjoy playing and crafting sounds on guitar again after trying to stray away from it for so long?
SM: It just felt like the most interesting thing I could do at the time was to go back to plugging a guitar into an amp and start exploring that sound. It felt exciting again.
RD: Did you feel like you had more freedom with creativity this time around with this record than with the previous things you’ve done?
SM: No, I always feel like I have some sort of freedom when I’m creating because I don’t have any kind of box to fit in. In some ways it’s kind of a similar process with each record, I find a new way to get inspired while creating within a new set of parameters.
RD: You also lived in Tucson, Arizona before the making of the album back in 2020 where you completely detached yourself from music entirely while gaining some perspective. What were you doing to keep yourself busy while not doing anything in a musical sense?
SM: That part is kind of easy for me. If I’m not trying to make music I don’t really think about creating, specifically making records, it’s something that I switch on when I want to. Otherwise, I like to leave it off for a period of time until I’m ready to create something, so I was spending a lot of time outdoors in the desert. It’s really nice out there and it’s a good place to clear my head.
RD: I can see why it would be. Bassist Shahzad Ismaily and percussionist Mauro Refosco joined up with you to work on the album, so how did you connect with the both of them and what was the experience like having them involved?
SM: They’re both masterful musicians so it was really nice to come together and have them do whatever they felt inspired to do with my music, which turned out into their music as well. I would say they really reinvigorated all of the songs when it came time to put bass and percussion on them. It was like I was hearing them in a totally different way.
RD: Would you say there was more of a collaborative vibe with them involved rather than you handling all of the instrumentation outside of guitar? I know you’ve done that before on your record where you’ve played all the instruments.
SM: It was, yes.
RD: Very cool. When it comes to After Hours as the finished product after everything you’ve put into it to make it a reality, what do you think sticks out to you the most about it as an album within your discography or just as part of your journey as a musician?
SM: I think it’s the first I did where I’m exploring playing the guitar like a guitar player on some of the songs instead of like a singer, which is something I feel I’ve been doing pretty strongly with the rest of my records. It’s the beginning of me exploring sounding like a guitar player as Delicate Steve.
RD: Do you feel like you have a different approach to guitar now than you did before because of this new exploration?
SM: It’s always changing a little bit. Right now, I would say that I do and I’m sort of getting grounded back into how I first came to play guitar. As a guitarist, I’m sort of an experimental songwriter so in some way I’m reconnecting with the art of playing the instrument.
RD: You just started this short run of shows around the northeast that includes a stop at Café Nine in New Haven, so afterwards what are your plans going into next year? Do you just plan on touring in support of the album for the time being or do you have any other projects in the works?
SM: I would say that next year feels like a very long way away for me. Even though playing five shows in small clubs around the East Coast is generally insignificant in terms of a schedule for a musician, it’s kind of tough to say what will happen next. It’s really been a challenge to be a musician during these times and find a way to make it work so I’m not really thinking about the future too much and just trying to enjoy the present.
with Tall Juan
250 State St., New Haven
Friday, Dec. 2,