Owls and Lions are a wedding band who play their own original music, who then decided to take that original music and create a luscious and gorgeous debut album, There’s A Light. The trio that makes up Owls and Lions first started out when rocker Jay Della Valle met entertainer and violinist Nicole DeLoi at a wedding. The two ended up having great musical chemistry and the band has grown to include drummer, Kevin Walters, who was originally their engineer and DJ.
The trio have released their exquisite music video and single, “God Bless You & Protect You,” which carries DeLoi and Della Valle’s harmonies in their beautiful and touching music video. The song was inspired by the hit TV show, “This Is Us,” a favorite amongst the trio, and the video intertwines between the past and the present, like the show does in each episode, although the storyline remains the same. Check out the video for “God Bless You & Protect You” in the interview below.
Jay spoke with us about the trio’s love of performing at weddings, why they decided to record a debut album of their original music, and the inspiration behind their new album.
It’s not often you hear about wedding bands playing and performing original music. What draws you both to weddings, and other celebratory opportunities?
Jay Della Valle: We were a touring original band called “Della Valle” before we did weddings together. When “Della Valle” fizzled out, we didn’t know what to do next. LIfe started to get more complicated and we really missed performing together. Jay always DJ’d and performed at weddings, so he had this idea for us to do an acoustic duo thing and offer it to his wedding clients. We made a video for him to show and it pretty much took off. Suddenly we were getting hired all the time and it was nice to have the guaranteed income. It also required us to rehearse a lot and this gave us the chance to cultivate our act. We love it when people choose and trust us with the music at their celebration. They have so many options nowadays. It’s seriously a privilege to get hired to basically show up and live our dream at people’s “once in a lifetime” family event that they spend so much time planning. There’s so much anticipation leading up to every event we perform at. Everyone is there to celebrate and we are there to provide the soundtrack. It’s very rewarding for us.
Your latest EP There’s A Light, is a vivid reflection of love, comfort, and warmth. What was the writing and recording process like for it?
Jay: We wrote the songs in the few years before we started recording them. During this time, we were both extremely busy managing young families, our own businesses, and keeping the music dream alive. These songs happened in the midst of some of the most beautiful and challenging times in our life so far. Every song on the EP has a good story and is rooted in a deep and specific truth we learned or experienced. We were thrilled when producer Hanan Rubinstein agreed to record our EP. The transformation those songs took during the recording process astounded us. Overall, the recording process was smooth and exciting, but it wasn’t easy or stress free. Our producer Hanan found out his mom had Pancreatic Cancer just a few weeks into our process. Jay’s dad had just passed away from Pancreatic earlier that year. It was an emotional time. Hanan told Jay that he had a dream that Jay’s late father (who he never met) expressed that he was happy he was working with us on one of the songs in particular (God Bless You & Protect You” inspired by Jay’s Dad) and that he was looking out for his mom. The feeling of “needing” to record this music was so strong and present. Scheduling was extremely challenging at times, but despite Hanan’s family crisis with his mom, he remained committed to us and our music. We had our doubts more than once about the direction we were taking things, but we just kept chipping away at things until they felt right to us.
Was there a specific inspiration behind the EP?
Jay: “There’s a Light” is the name of the EP and to us this just implies a “recognition of life and love in all it’s colors and shades, the good the bad the happy the sad.” The main guideline to creating any of this was to “keep it honest” and not get carried away from keeping the song relatively simple an organic in it’s approach. Every song had a different inspiration whether that was a person, a relationship, or an experience. If there was a specific inspiration and intention behind the entire EP, I’d say it was to just pay tribute to this chapter in our lives. We knew we owed that to ourselves. It is one thing to write songs and play them. It is another to actually go through the process of recording and releasing them properly and introducing them into the world as a timeless entity. Every song has a good story and is rooted in a deep and specific truth we learned or experienced.
You guys had never released your own original music until There’s A Light. What led to to now being the right time?
Jay: We had so much original music written and being performed at events and shows. We’d perform all these great parties and people always wanted to know where and how they could hear us next or listen to us online. It grew increasingly painful to tell them that we had none of our own originals recorded and accessible. Time was just marching forward and new songs were screaming to be written, performed, and recorded. This force bigger than us told us we had to prioritize recording the EP immediately or we’d just be missing this very necessary piece of our artistry. Now that we have a little base catalogue, we’re excited to keep recording new music every year.
How did you guys get connected with your producer, Hanan Rubinstein, and do you think you’ll continue to release albums and/or EPs in the future?
Jay: We searched around for a producer for almost a year before we finally met with and chose Hanan Rubinstein (producer and guitarist for Alicia Keys). Hanan had mixed our first 2 songs (“Perpetual Bliss” & I Do, Me Too”) and one of Jay’s solo songs, so we had the opportunity to work and vibe with him several years earlier. This experience planted the seeds for us approaching him to listen to a few dozen demos we were considering recording for thisEP. Luckily, he loved the songs and wanted to help us “find our sound.” He was great to work with and to spend time with. A consummate professional musician and producer. The process was very much a labor of love, respect, and friendship. We would definitely work with him again.
What specifically from [the television show] “This Is Us” inspired your latest single and music video for “God Bless You & Protect You”?
Jay: That show is GOLD. We’re the age of the characters in the show, so it really hits home in a special way. They so effectively toggle back and forth between these characters growing up in the 80s and then 30 years later/present day, allowing the audience to understand how experiences in their past led to them becoming the people they are today, for the better and the worse. When we were thinking of what we were going to do for the video, we had been watching so much of the show that we just knew we wanted to try and achieve a similar concept to express the emotional storyline of this song. As for the storyline itself, it’s pretty much a re-enactment of memories and experiences that really happened. Once we decided on the “This Is Us” approach, the rest just fell into place.
Who was your first concert for each of you? Do you have a current favorite?
Jay: Billy Joel & Elton John was my first show. Current Favorite person to see live today is Butch Walker & Bruce Springsteen.
Nicole DeLoi: I grew up in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, with a four hour drive to Omaha and a four hour drive to Denver, the only places that had great concerts. So my first concert wasn’t until 2005, when I was 23 years old and I went to see the Honda Civic Tour at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. Fall Out Boy was the headliner and it was amazing. My current favorite person to see in concert would be a toss-up between John Mayer and Butch Walker.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Jay: “Everything I Do, I Do it for You” by Bryan Adams on Cassette and then on CD: Nine Inch Nails- Broken and Led Zeppelin 4
Nicole: The New Kids on the Block cassette!
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Jay: My favorite song of all time is “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley. These days- I love The Eagles, Ray LaMontagne, John Mayer, & Brandon Flowers from The Killers.
Nicole: Cannot live without John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne, Butch Walker, The Beatles and Ella Fitzgerald.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
Jay: Pretty much all Yacht Rock (especially Christoper Cross “Sailing” and some super cheesy 80s music – but I don’t feel guilty!!
Nicole: Crappy pop! I am stuck on all of the terrible, electronic beat-driven, Dancy, same four chord sharing Insanity that plagues the airwaves today. Billie Eilish has to be a favorite.
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