Voice actress Grey DeLisle and in-demand rocker Eddie Clendening have teamed up for The Roughhousers, a band that makes children’s music that adults will also enjoy. VENTS Magazine recently interviewed the duo about how they got started, the new “Azucar” music video, and more.
How did The Roughhousers come to be? What is the inspiration behind the name?
Grey DeLisle: I was homeschooling my three kids during the lockdown and trying to make up funny songs on my autoharp to keep them entertained during “Mama’s Music Class”! They were laughing so hard and begging for more and it was really surprising! I realized how little kid-directed music they had heard in their lifetimes. I mostly just played things like Johnny Cash, Dolly, and The Beatles for them because I just couldn’t stomach most music written for children. Eddie and I had recently become virtual friends on Facebook and he suggested we start a band for kids that adults wouldn’t hate! As for the name, I think we wanted something that was kinda tough and not too “goody goody” sounding or patronizing. Eddie came up with the name. He’s good at naming stuff. He named my cat
Eddie Clendening: I’ve had occasion to perform at some schools and for audiences of children many times over the years and it always struck me what a great audience they are. Much better than adults. Willing to dance and be silly and get lost in music as long as it’s good, and when you get a room full of kids to pay attention, you know you’ve done well.
So, I’ve always wanted to create some sort of project that was conceived and executed specifically with kids in mind, but that would also hold up alongside the sort of music I make for grown-ups, too.
After me and Grey had discovered our common thinking on that fact, it didn’t take long for us to get the ball rolling. Greys enthusiasm and work ethic certainly were and are the driving force behind what The Roughhousers are turning out.
The name just struck me as a good description of the concept, playful but not playing around. When you’re roughhousing, sure it’s fun, but occasionally something gets broken, or somebody gets hurt.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye…
How would you describe the band? What audiences do you hope to connect with through your music?
GD: Well, everyone has been performing in regular bands for decades. I must admit I was a bit starstruck to be working with DJ Bonebrake from X. Eddie played Elvis on Broadway and has been in his own bands since he was 12, my ex-husband, Murry Hammond, is still touring with his band Old 97s and we’ve got Deke Dickerson on lead guitar and Carl Sonny Leyland on piano. Everyone is a powerhouse in their own right!
My kids and I do a thing called “song swap” in the car when we listen to music and everyone gets a turn to play whatever song they want. We all have pretty good taste in music so there’s never a time when any of us are rolling our eyes in agony. That’s the experience I’m hoping to bring to other families! Good music is good music! Our music is fun for EVERYONE!
EC:The band is maybe best described as roots rock and roll for kids, but with a strong hope that parents will enjoy it all just as much, and anybody else who might need a little fun in their ears.
Everything we are doing owes a lot to the great artists we (as a band) all admire from the middle of the last century through to present day.
I don’t want any of our music to ever feel like homework. But if some kid out there listens to one of our songs and it leads them on a road to discovering a Bo Diddley record, or Chuck Berry, or Hank Williams etc etc… I will be very happy and content with the job we’ve done.
Tell us about “Azucar”, what was the songwriting process like? How do the two of you collaborate and what makes you a great team?
GD: Eddie has great ideas for songs and he’s a phenomenal musician. I write a lot but I’m terrible on an instrument. I write the songs in my head and then plunk them out on the autoharp and send Eddie voice memos that he turns into beautiful, fully-formed songs. He’ll feed me a great idea and I just kinda throw in in the Crock Pot of my brain and let it stew for a few days and then it just sorta tumbles out & Supper’s On!!!!!
EC: We’ve been collaborating now on this and a couple other projects, but our partnership is still a new one. So, we are constantly finding out the best ways to work together after both being pretty used to just going our own way, and creating alone, however we please.
That has turned out to be such an enjoyable process, and I would have to credit Grey for that. She really has the enthusiasm, and her mind never stops working. She can take the smallest idea and before you know it, she’s turned it into something really great.
I’ve found the ways I can use my talents to best serve that. Which typically ends up being sitting down with her demos, and playing around to make what she’s done come to life as a full arrangement. It’s so fun to get to (ideally) turn Grey’s already stellar song ideas into fully formed, living, breathing rock and roll.
The animated video is a nod to Grey DeLisle’s career as a cartoon voice actress, how does that aspect of your career play a part in your music?
GD: Well, I don’t much consider myself a great “singer”. I find my voice much more tolerable when I’m ACTING the songs out. Also….doing voices for cartoons makes me unafraid of making a fool of myself. You’ve gotta make bold, weird choices and be completely uninhibited. I feel that kids really respond to things like that because that’s how THEY are!
EC: Grey has a great way of being very silly and not taking herself or much else too seriously, while not ever looking like a joke herself. She’s a natural entertainer, and the voices she uses in her work all appear in her life too. All you gotta do is hang around her a while and you’ll start to notice when she’s telling a story, or conversing with somebody, you get to see all the characters living inside her head come out and join in. She brings things to life in a great way.
The music, and the videos 100% benefit from that too, I think.
I have adopted the more “straight man” role in this group so that never gets stepped on or challenged in anyway, because it’s just perfect the way it is.
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