Phil Collen has done the whole world tour with a major rock band thing before. He’s played the guitar parts of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” more times than anyone would care to count in every corner of the world imaginable.
So you really can’t blame him for wanting to do something new in his free time, and that’s where Delta Deep comes in. Collen’s new side project brings together Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo along with some old friends, and it allows everyone to go back to the roots of their art form.
“It started with just Debbi (Blackwell-Cook, Delta Deep’s vocalist) and myself,” Collen says. “She’s my wife’s godmother, and she started singing when she was 2 years-old. I’d be just sitting around playing acoustic guitar and next thing I know, we’d be doing a song together.”
Collen’s wife initially suggested a blues song, leading Delta Deep to still draw heavily from the genre. Despite not sticking strictly to blues, Collen believes that the band’s diversity makes them bluesier than many modern bands that fall into the genre.
“I look around now, and a lot of blues bands are very narrow-minded and only stick to the blues,” Collen says. “It used to morph into funk and soul and rock and it was all combined. I mean, Hendrix played with the Isley Brothers, or look at bands like the Stones or Led Zeppelin. They’re bluesy but they still rock.”
The biggest struggle for Delta Deep so far has just been finding time to play together. Between DeLeo’s STP schedule and Collen’s near-constant touring with Def Leppard, the band’s shows have landed in the small windows at the end of tours and between trips to the recording studio. Going from Wembley Arena to playing a small pub over the course of a weekend might not seem like the right move for everyone, but Collen thinks the smaller shows (like the one at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday) bring a whole different energy that’s just as much fun.
“These shows take the roof off,” Collen says. “At the first show in LA, people freaked out at Debbi’s voice. It sounds like Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner in her prime, but with Led Zeppelin on top of it.”
Delta Deep probably won’t be Collen’s main band (or DeLeo’s, for that matter) anytime soon, but it’s not about selling millions of records and filling giant stadiums for the quartet. As evidenced by their “‘40s jazz” flavored Christmas song, Delta Deep is really just focused on making music and having a good time.
“The great thing about it is just being able to do your own music and not being jaded about things,” Collen says. “I still get a buzz out of putting out new music and getting that artistic expression. We touch on everything in our songs, like slavery and other topics people aren’t comfortable writing about because we have two black members and two white members. It’s really all about artistic expression for us.”