The Belle Curves is an alternative country Americana singer/songwriter project from Delaney Hafener, the lead singer, writer, and bassist. We sat down at 9am to sleepily discuss their upcoming album, Watershed (available now).
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Adriene Vento: Why don't we just start off super easy. Tell me a little bit about yourself, about the album. How do you feel about it?
Delaney Hafener: Well right now, frankly, I'm sort of like really tired of all of the songs, which I think is something that a lot of musicians feel when they're actually at the point of releasing music-
AV: How long have you been working on it at this point?
DH: So most of the songs have existed for at least two or three years. We started recording the album in February of 2021. It's been like a solid year and a half since their recordings have existed. We finished the mixes back in the fall of 2021. Then it was just about getting all the artwork together and trying to, you know, release it properly. I haven't released a full-length project since before 2019.
AV: So, pre-COVID?
DH: Exactly. So I am really proud of it. Like when I take a step back and I'm not being, you know, grumpy, I am really proud of it. I mean the reason that I called it “watershed” was because it does kind of feel like a turning point for me. It was me finding my sound and the kind of music that I want to be making in the long term.
AV: I love that. You're being honest. You're an artist, and like so many artists, when you’re really deep in a project there are times where you’re like, “fuck this.”
DH: Exactly. It’s been at live shows that I fall back in love with the songs because there's that magic of connection, being on stage, and sharing the songs directly with the people who are listening. Playing the songs live is the point for me. I think that live music and being in a space with people is what gives me energy.
AV: I would love to see that. I'll definitely be at your next New York or Long Island show. That sort of brings me to my next question…it's a very Americana country album…which I don’t think a lot of people would associate with Long Island. Tell me a little bit about growing up on Long Island.
DH: Long Island is a really weird, interesting place. I always tell people, “Whatever you've heard about Long Island is true.” I grew up pretty far east on the island in a pretty low-income community. It’s not really rural but it’s not quite as dense as the rest of the island. I think so many of the things that people associate with Americana and country music are actually just a part of living life as an American in this… complex and rocky country. There are certain things that are particular to different regions of the country but I think there are also universalities in the American experience.
AV: When were you drawn to this sound?
DH: I fell in love with the sounds of Americana and country music when I was a kid. More of like the alternative stuff, less of what’s top 40s right now. When I was a kid I listened to my parents’ music. My dad was really into Steve Earle, Son Volt, Wilco – all the late eighties and nineties stuff. My mom was more folksy – Pete Seger, Nancy Griffith; Peter, Paul and Mary.
AV: So your inspiration came from that?
DH: I was exposed to all that music as a kid and then when I was in college, I started listening to this podcast called “Cocaine and Rhinestones,” which is about the history of 20th-century country music. It really made me fall back in love with that sound. But in the last five years or so, I've just been listening to as much music as I can.
AV: Are you trying to push yourself to listen to music that you've never listened to before? Is that about you growing as an artist or a comfort thing?
DH: Yeah, definitely. I think the more that you can take in as an artist, the better your art will be because it will be less derivative. It’s like, the more ingredients that you have, the better it'll taste. I don't want it to taste like one particular thing. I want it to be complex and interesting.
AV: When did you start singing?
DH: Oh gosh. My mom has a family story that she always tells about this. When I was a kid I didn't speak very well. I had a speech impediment until I was three and a half. My parents were the only ones who could really understand what I was saying… which is sometimes still the case. Apparently one day she was asking me if I wanted to watch a movie and I did… so to convey that I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to her. I didn’t know the name of The Wizard of Oz or how to describe it at that point but I knew the iconic song. I think that story says more than I could say about it. I’ve always found it easier to express myself through music and songwriting.
AV: Why do you think that is?
DH: I don't really know why. I think that pairing words with music convey more information because it’s more than just words. I've read that there are actual tangible, physical things that happen when you sing, in your brain chemistry. Singing is mood-boosting, similar to what happens when you go outside. So even when you're like singing a sad song, the act of singing physically will make you feel better. I think an important part of all of it.
AV: I love the idea that you can sing a sad song that it's still making you feel better just by the nature of singing.
DH: Yes! And that’s related to the blues. So many blues songs are about death and longing and traditionally “sad” things, but there is something about singing the song that makes you feel better.
AV: So talking a bit about Watershed, which song did you write first?
DH: Oh gosh. I would have to look… it was either “Sun and Moon” or “Left Unsaid.” Those are the two old ones. I wrote them while I was still in college. Everything else came after I graduated. The most recent song is “Whole New Homesick,” which I finished while we were rehearsing the other songs on the album.
AV: I know you're probably doing a handful of these types of interviews and press because you're really in the grind for this album… have you learned anything about the album or yourself, in particular, doing press for it?
DH: It's made me think a lot about my relationship to Long Island because a lot of the songs touch on either being on the road or being home. And about how your physical location has an effect on you.
AV: You talk a bit about being an anti-capitalist and your queerness. How do those act as a lens for your music?
DH: I think that queerness is inherently anti-capitalist and I think that anti-capitalism has an inherent queerness. You're at odds with the society and the sort of roles and structures that you find yourself in. I think the most overt song on the album that reflects this is “Rosé Drive-Thru.” The song was inspired by when I was working in the Hamptons. It was during the pandemic and there was a sign on one of the wineries I passed that literally said “Rosé Drive-Thru.” It was a place where you could drive through, pick up Rosé, and never have to be in danger getting out of your car. It just felt very Marie Antoinette. It was very “Let them eat cake.” A stark moment of me seeing the inequalities that the pandemic brought to the surface–
AV: Super elitist.
DH: Exactly. It was shocking to me. So that song is about questioning the system I was living in. And it’s also about how easy it is, despite all of these philosophical dilemmas, to just drive out east or back home and completely forget what the rest of the world was going through. It's unsettling how easy it is to slip into that kind of comfort.
AV: So I’m going to be biased and ask you to talk about “Spent,” which is my favorite song on the album.
DH: I have a very clear memory of when I started writing “Spent.” I was on tour with my friend’s band – Leland Sundries – and we were at this outdoor venue in Hudson, NY. I remember sitting on the patio of the bar we were playing at and it was a beautiful June evening. The time of year when sunsets take super long and the light stays past sunset. I was watching both the sun and the traffic light patterns and how the light changed how everything looked. I was broke at the time and would always spend whatever I earned the night before on beer at the next venue. So that is what the opening verse is about. The song is about wanting to stay on the road, keep living that way, meet new people, see new places, and never wanting to go back to Long Island. “Spent” was really my breakup song with Long Island.
AV: It has a rock feel to it. I love that about it!
DH: Thank you! I’m really proud of the vocal on that one. Layering and recording all of the vocals was really fun. I remember getting Anne and Sarah to bring out more of their alternative side on the backup. They are both phenomenal songwriters but often don’t sing loud like they do on the track. It was great to get them to explore their voices a bit more too.
AV: You can definitely tell that it’s a song where you’re having fun.
DH: And that’s one we love to play live. It’s just the best.
AV: What’s your favorite song on the album? I’m sure it changes, but right now.
DH: Hmm... “We Haven’t Been Talking” or “Whole New Homesick.” “We Haven't Been Talking” is one of my favorites because it's about a platonic breakup that I went through.
AV: Why the name Watershed?
DH: I was driving home from Albany with my younger sister. We were on the Long Island expressway and I saw a sign that said, “Now entering the Great South Bay Watershed.” I asked my sister Shelby, “can you look up what the word “watershed” means?” Because there's something about that word that just struck me. She looked it up. So the two definitions are, you know, the metaphorical definition; a historical moment that when you're living through it, you don't necessarily realize it's a turning point. But then when you look back at it, you see that it's significant. There’s also the ecological definition; land that the water feeds to a particular body of water. Both of those definitions just felt really relevant to me. This particular collection of songs is a turning point for me. In finding my own sound and my voice as a songwriter. It also feels like the collection of all of these influences coming together into this single body of water – the album. So it just felt right.
AV: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
DH: I don't know if there was ever a time when I didn't. I'm pretty sure I started playing piano when I was like seven or eight. When I learned how to read music, I almost immediately started writing music. Then I started playing the French horn-
AV: The sexiest of instruments.
DH: Oh yeah. Literally. I was actually very good at French horn. There's like another universe where I'm like a symphonic French horn player.
AV: You play bass on this album – when did you learn the bass?
DH: This is like my favorite question… started playing bass because of The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon. They had a girl in the band and she played the French horn and the bass. I was like, “I wanna be like that!”
AV: That is hysterical.
DH: Honestly, that’s why representation matters. Cause I was like, “Oh wow… a girl playing the bass. That means I could do it too.” So my dad bought me a bass in seventh or eighth grade. I still have it.
AV: I love that The Naked Brothers Band is a part of your origin story.
DH: I know! And I feel like no one ever talks about them – we always talk about the Jonas Brothers.
AV: Also what an absolutely wild name for a band.
DH: That was for middle schoolers!!
AV: It made them feel scandalous…
DH: That’s why they were on Nickelodeon and not Disney.
AV: What’s the last song you listened to?
DH: “Five and Dime” by Nancy Griffith while I was making dinner last night. Unless you count the Star Trek soundtrack because we watched that after dinner.
AV: What’s your favorite song to cover?
DH: We did a Lady Gaga song a few months ago that is actually going to be on the deluxe version of the album. We also do a punk cover of “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan which I love.
AV: You have five minutes to live. What’s the last song you’re listening to?
DH: Oooh – who does that version of “O Death!” In O Brother, Where Art Thou?
(Both of us Googling)
DH: Ralph Stanley. Yes.
AV: Love it – going out with comedy.
DH: Exactly. I might as well just face the reality of it.
AV: Are you working on your next project?
DH: It’s stewing in my brain. I've been thinking about it a lot, which… sounds like I'm not doing anything. I have probably an album’s worth of pieces of songs.