Jessica Delfino, NYC’s ‘Dirty Folk Rock’ Comedy Gal, Embraces Life as a Mountain Mama

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I don’t remember the exact moment I met Jessica Delfino in the fall of 2005, but I remember being dazzled by her big personality and ballsy lyrics. I was an intern for Village Voice’s music department, trying to carve a name for myself both as a critic and a musician (yup, I still can’t choose!). And at some point we crossed paths (maybe at a rock show?), and she invited me to a club down the street from the Voice’s East Village offices to see her perform.

Jessica Delfino

As she sauntered on stage and launched into her song “My Pussy is Magic,” I realized I had met a kindred spirit — a master lyricist and sex-positive feminist who didn’t take herself too seriously. Who is this enigmatic creature? I wondered. Jessica’s songs were smart, unapologetically funny, and so memorable. They still are, as evidenced by her Bandcamp page.

Many moons later, Jessica is still a “dirty folk rock” comic genius, whose side gig as a freelance writer lands her bylined articles in esteemed media outlets like The New York Times (as well as lots of under-the-radar ones). But having recently run for the “hills” — literally buying a home in the Poconos a couple of years ago with her long-term partner — she’s kind of transformed into the folkie Maria Von Trapp. 

I suddenly have recurring visions of her twirling on the hillside with her young son Wyatt and husband in tow, living her best post-pandemic life to the sound of music. 

In reality, she’s balancing a whole lot more, from a Monday Morning radio show to regular gigs at off-the-beaten-path locales (like a popular noodle bar near her new mountain digs). We recently caught up with her to find out what’s up — and what’s next.

ROCKMOMMY: For those who aren’t familiar with your music (or comedy), how would you describe yourself?

JESSICA DELFINO: I used to write a lot of “dirty folk rock” jokes and songs — youth-infused, blunt, outrageous, and angst-ridden bits and ditties (even that almost sounds dirty!) about womanhood, vaginas, and what not. Today, I still do this, but it’s a little less “on the nose” and encompasses the life and challenges of being a middle-aged mom, wife, and woman vs a 20-something wild spirit with a guitar and nothing to lose. I also play many covers and disseminate them, which is a lot of fun, and sadly, a little easier to book gigs doing than singing songs about vaginas.

Mountain mama Jessica Delfino, armed with guitar.

ROCKMOMMY: How long have you been a musician? Where did you grow up and who were your influences growing up?

JESSICA DELFINO: I’ve been surrounded by music in my life since I was a young child but I didn’t start taking music seriously until I was 15 when I took my first guitar lessons and committed to learning / teaching myself how to play all of Neil Young’s repertoire. So I’ve been playing for a few decades now. I grew up in Maine and influences were Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Page, RUSH, Liz Phair, 2LiveCrew and all the 70s bro rock they played on WBLM the rock n roll blimp, my Maine childhood radio station.

ROCKMOMMY: I met you in the heyday of the ’00s Anti-folk scene, the Sidewalk Cafe era. What was life like for you back then? 

JESSICA DELFINO: Oh man, it was a totally crazy and fun scene. I moved to NYC after graduating from art school to work and pursue a life in comedy. Williamsburg was just becoming hot. Chinatown was still “closed” to whites, but I managed to get an apartment there. 

The city was safer, but still had a distinct edge. Downtown was still really cool. I spent a lot of time at the Bowery Poetry Club and hung out at this great show called Show N Tell run by two totally lovable art misfits “The Odebra Twins” along with a bunch of other comedians and musicians … that rolled through, many from Rev Jen’s Art Star scene, but a lot of people who were then famous or went on to become very famous. 

I would go out early, around 6 p.m., and do comedy sets anywhere I could literally all night until like 2 a.m. On nights I didn’t have a lot of sets, I’d hang out at The Cellar or other comedy clubs and watch more famous comedians and talk to my peers and then busk in the subway for an hour or so on my way home. I survived at the time on busking, on comedy gigs, and selling my CD. 

I got a piece of press early on in JANE magazine for one of my CDs and that kind of put me on the map nationally. I got fan mail from everywhere and sold a lot of CDs. Then I had a couple early viral videos on YouTube and that allowed me to tour and get bigger gigs. 

ROCKMOMMY: When you became a mom, how did your art change?

JESSICA DELFINO: I admit, I was like, shell shocked for the first couple years of being a mom. Though I was never officially diagnosed, I believe I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression following a C-section and I just got the funny knocked out of me! 

It took me awhile to remember who I was. I wanted to just chill until I was ready to get back on stage and it took me a good, long while. But in the meantime, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Tons of mom related stories and songs and jokes and features for national publications and worked that muscle, and that was how I survived financially and creatively, for a while.

This album cover is everything.

ROCKMOMMY: So you have recently been spending a lot more time in the Poconos. How did that come about? 

JESSICA DELFINO: My husband and I got on this kick watching Doomsday Preppers and we were like, “We have no plan” and decided to come up with one so we went camping on the Appalachian trail which was super scary and then we accidentally fell in love with the area and bought a house.

ROCKMOMMY: Do you miss NYC? Or are you in mountain girl bliss? 

JESSICA DELFINO: I still spend a lot of time in NYC in my Chinatown apartment, but I try to spend as much time in the woods as I can. It’s a lot like where I grew up in Maine so it feels very familiar and comforting and secure.

ROCKMOMMY: How are you carving a name for yourself in the local music scene?

JESSICA DELFINO: I have been performing more and more in the Poconos, which happened during the pandemic. I started really performing regularly again only probably last summer. I am not performing as much as I was before but I’m older! I don’t want to be out til 2 a.m. anymore. I want to be home with a warm cup of tea, writing and then watching Alone or some other mindless whatever or a good movie I’ve seen 100 times.

ROCKMOMMY: Have any upcoming gigs, projects or news you want to share with us? 

JESSICA DELFINO: I am on social media @JessicaDelfino and TikTok @JustSomeMom. I wrote a book of jokes that was a bestseller in puns and wordplay on Amazon called Dumb Jokes For Smart Folks. I’m always working on a million projects and that is what keeps me feeling young. 

I have a couple of regular shows I do in the Poconos. One is at a noodle house called Sango Kura, PA’s only sake brewery, and one is a morning comedy show called Coffee and Comedy for moms and their babies at a play space called Bloom, which is inspired by a show I used to perform on in NYC and is one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done. 

I also host a weekly radio segment at 7 am on Mondays called The Mom Report on 96.7 FM which can be heard across NY/NJ/PA (or on pocono967.com) where I talk all about mom stuff. I’m also working on 40,000 screenplays and books and features and songs. And raising my son, who sometimes sings with me on stage, which is really the best. It’s so much fun. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

High-Strung And Harpy: Lessons Learned While Trying to Pass on Guitar Skills to a Toddler During a Pandemic

by Jessica Delfino

I have a pretty vast amount of useless talents. I can throw food high up into the air and catch it in my mouth, like a seal. I can whip up a stunning batch of luxurious, golden pancakes from scratch. But not all of my useless talents are food-related. I can also play any instrument you can think of, with a passable skill level, even if I’ve never played it before. Though I’ve done every kind of performance from busking in the subway to playing my original comedic novelty jams on international television, it hasn’t amounted to what I might consider a useful life skill. Fun? Yep! Necessary in the event of an emergency? Perhaps more so than I had thought, prior to March 2020, but still, not so much.

harmonica2
The author Jessica Delfino jamming with her son in 2020

A sad, but well-loved guitar and a beat up, yet, used daily baby grand piano were some of my first toys, in an era when there weren’t a bajillion toy manufacturers on the market. I had some little plastic people, and the crusty acoustic six-stringed dreadnaught. I’m certain the thing was missing an E string. The little people lived in and on the guitar, and over time, I learned to pluck the strings and make music. At 14, I was playing “Old Man” by Neil Young and “Crazy on You” by Heart and by the time I was 23, I was writing and performing comedic dirty folk rock songs on stages up and down the East Coast and sometimes even on TV and the radio (mostly in the UK, because America hates women’s’ bodies). Today, I still perform, write and lately teach music from time to time. I’ve branched out from piano and guitar, and I can additionally play ukulele, sax, autoharp, singing saw, electric autoharp, banjo, dulcimer, the glockenspiel, a flute, a pan flute, heck, a skin flute. I am music’s annoying cousin who always wants to be all up in its business.

Now I have a 3-year-old son, and I’d love nothing more than to teach him to play ukulele and record a pandemic-inspired family band kid’s album. The ability to play an instrument is touted as being, essentially, a miracle drug. It develops young brains and fine motor skills, pushes back the progress of Alzheimer’s, improves math skills, memory, creativity and dexterity, benefits movement-related issues such as hand injuries, and it even lowers anxiety. Call my instruments my Xanax, massage therapist and meditation apps, all in one. Especially during this pandemic, more than anything else, my guitar and my ukulele, especially, have been what I reach for when I feel tense, bored or sad. Playing songs I know passes time.

Figuring out or writing new songs keeps my brain engaged. Trying to teach my son to play ukulele; well, that’s a lesson in patience and letting go. He wants to run his trains over the pretend rails of the neck of the thing, he wants to smash his fingers over the strings with the showmanship of Pete Townsend, he wants to put stickers on it or lay it down altogether and turn it into a home for little plastic people. His lack of interest allows days to slip by where I forget to encourage him to pick up the little four-stringed thing.

“The cobbler’s son wears no shoes” often comes to mind when I think about my inabilities to teach my own son to play an instrument. I scowl and fume as a universe of YouTube’s countless two-year-old’s pluck Bach out on their Lanakais. Then I am ashamed of myself. What do I care what these other kids can do? My kid is my kid, and I have everything — and nothing — to do with that.

But I did witness a magic moment and hope for his musical potential when I broke out my harmonica one night. As annoying as it is easy to play, my son was immediately drawn to it. He ran his little face up and down the harp, making all kinds of weird and wonderful sounds that I didn’t even know a harmonica could make. He was pleased with himself, and I felt like the mother of the year.

Maybe there’s hope for us as a future family band, after all.

Jessica Delfino is a comedian, musician, writer and mom who lives in NYC. Follow @JessicaDelfino on Twitter and Instagram.