Gabbing with Grey DeLisle

interview conducted Sat. September 2, 2023

by Jen “Lil’ Bit” Schleusner

(notice: interview has been edited for clarity. Out of respect for the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike and in accordance with Dragon Con policies, no conversations were held or questions asked involving any participants’ struck work.)

Mature Content warning towards the latter half of the interview

In my opinion, Grey DeLisle is a natural born story teller -whether it be through her music, comedy or in a room full of people eager to chat with and listen to her. With her infectious laugh, quick wit and a knack for walking folks through her life and career, here are some of the tales she shared during a media sit down at Dragon Con 2023.

On her friendship with Mary Kay Bergman:

“Oh, she was one of my dearest friends and my teacher, my first voiceover teacher. She was just so encouraging and wonderful, and I wasn’t on anything when I first took a class with her. I had just gotten out of theater school, and I was just fresh and wide-eyed, and she was the most nurturing, wonderful teacher. So when I actually ended up getting roles, it was so exciting. I got to be working with my teacher… I just felt she was just so extraordinary and she taught me how to voice match things, even though I’m sort of a lazy drive, always like, it’ll work out. We’ll be fine. We’ll just wing it. But she had this wonderful formula for it. 

But a funny story, she loved the Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride at Disneyland, and I got called back to replace to be Voice of Pirate Red. I was at the callback and I was at Disney Character Animation. I was like, ‘oh, Mary Kay.’ She was a voice of Snow White. So I was like, this was your place. You were always here. ‘What advice would you give me?’ I’m just talking in to her in my head, and I felt her telling me, ‘You need to prepare more, get prepared.’ But I was thinking, ‘prepare more?’ I’ve only got one line. It really was one line for this pirate. And so I was like, well, I guess I could prepare. She was always so prepared and I thought, well, I think I’ll learn some pirate slang or something. So I went on the internet and started learning all this pirate stuff. I was waiting. I might as well learn something. I went in there and they’re like, ‘it’s only one line, so we’re just going to have you improv for 30 minutes’, 30 minutes of pirate improv. I was like, thank goodness Mary Kay had me do that because I knew all kinds of pirates slang. I was I calling eggs: cackle fruit and all this stuff. And they’re like, ‘wow, you know lot about pirates.‘ And I was like, ‘yeah, it’s just a curse. Yeah, I’ve always been really into pirates.’ I wasn’t. And so I booked the role and the day that I called Dino Andrade – he was her husband, and we became very good friends and we always, every time the anniversary of her passing or whatever, we check in with each other or her birthday or things. And so I called him to tell him I got that part, and he goes, ‘well, it’s the anniversary of Mary Kay’s passing today’, the day that I found out about it [getting the part]. So I just felt like I always feel like she’s my little guardian angel, my little red-haired guardian angel. 

I’m going to sound come off really unstable in this interview, but I went to a psychic once and he was a medium, and he goes, ‘there’s a woman here who does the same weird job. I don’t know what job you do, but she had that job when she’…and I was like, okay. I was thinking, oh my God, Mary Kay. And he goes, ‘yeah, and in my mind I’m seeing her hand do this little plant and in your hands, you take it and in your hands, I’m watching it grow into this big plant. Do you understand that?’ And I was like, yes, I understand that. And he’s like, ‘she just wanted to stay how proud she is of you and that she is with you all the time’. And I was like, oh my God. And he said, ‘there’s another lady here who’s got a really weird name like Shushi or Shishi’…well, Russi Taylor had just passed away, and he said, ‘and they were friends on the earth’, so he said, ‘they’re together there and they are so happy for you. And this person with the Shishi name, she says, you’re going to do the same thing for her, what you did for this other woman, you’re going to do for her.’ I was like, okay. Well, I mean, she had just passed and I loved her so much too. They’re just both such wonderful women. And I hadn’t even auditioned for anything that Russi had done, but [a part that Russi has held] came through and I read for it and I got it. It’s been a few years now, but I’ve been doing [this role] usually [it only involves] a couple wines here or there, but there was one episode where [there is a] huge character arc and you really get the backstory. And I was scared because I’m only used to doing two lines. And so I was like, ‘be with me. What would you do? How should I do this?‘ And I really felt Mary Kay and Russi, my little angels on my shoulders just getting me through that. So anyway, it was a really remarkable time. And that guy, he couldn’t have looked that up on the internet or anything. He didn’t, I didn’t even audition for that [role]. So anyway, it’s very strange.”

On her music career:

“Yes, Oh my gosh, I have two lives. I’ve been giving people stickers at this thing that have my Spotify, you can scan it. It’s got my Spotify on it. And because I, in my spare time, which I don’t have a lot of, I have three kids and I’m a single mom, but in my spare time I write classic country music. It’s sort of like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, that kind of stuff. There’s some stuff that’s got a little bit of a rock and roll, rockabilly kind edge to it. But I just played the Lonesome Rose and she (myself/Jen) was there for the show, and she’s good friends with my music partner, Eddie Clendening and Deke Dickerson, they produced my last record. And so every time I do a panel, people are like, ‘are there any parting words?’ And I’m like, ‘follow me on Spotify, please.‘ I mean, it seems to be the only thing. I was like, I’m not even going to be on Spotify. And then my manager was like, ‘you are.’ And I was like, ‘well, Joni Mitchell’s not on Spotify.’ And he’s like, ‘you’re not Joni Mitchell.’ Anyway, so now I’m always, please follow me on Spotify. But it’s good. I mean, I write new songs every week and I put new songs out every week. So it’s like Linda Ronstadt kind of”

Her musical influences for songwriting or her singing style:

“Well, My favorite songwriter Tom T. Hall of my favorite song, I love a story song. And of course Dolly, I just went to Dollywood and all my friends were just indulging me all day. Nothing is ever really my cup of tea. I go places and I’m not really [into] that because I have such a retro fashion sense or whatever. Usually things – I don’t want a t-shirt or a picture. I’m like, I’m good. But there I was like, ‘take a picture of me in Dolly’s childhood home. Take a picture of me by this water well.’.. And they were just like, okay, she never asked for this. We’ll just take a picture. But yeah, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, and I do love a story song. I grew up listening to the Carter family, so Johnny Cash and June Carter, I play the Autoharp like June Carter. And so I got to be on June Carter’s tribute album that her son John did for her. And it’s so funny because if you look at the list of credits since Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, all these huge kind of [artists] and then Grey DeLisle.

I did Big Yellow Peaches [on the tribute album, Anchored in Love]. Yeah. But I really literally am the only person on there that you wouldn’t recognize. Everybody else is super recognizable, but I don’t care”

“ That was funny. I knew somebody who had, I did a tribute to Steven Foster called Beautiful Dreamer. I did a song on there and it won a Grammy. And my old acting teacher from college had that record, and he was like, ‘I never noticed that you were one of the people on it, but we loved that song. And he’s like, we were driving one day and I picked up the, he’s like, who is that that does that song? And he’s like, I picked up the thing. And I was like, oh my gosh, that’s Grey on this record. And her, his husband was like, what? No, she isn’t. No, she isn’t. And anyway, He Contacted me on Facebook. He’s like, oh my God, you just realized you’re on as record Beautiful Dreamer.”

[Myself interjecting a bit during the conversation –  “ I [had previously told you] I had no idea you were a voice actor. I only know you from music and our friends”]

“ It’s so funny. Eddie’s like, well, you hit it off with all my friends. I was like, you have good friends. Yeah, I always say, if you’re talking to somebody that you want to talk a lot, ask them something that people don’t normally or ask them about their weird little thing that only they like. There’s one guy that I love and he loves model trains. And so every time I talk to him, I’m like, ‘so model trains’, and he’ll just talk to me for hours. And so somebody was like, ‘what’s your little thing?’ I was like, classic country music. I saw a guy that said that his hat said F Nashville on it, and he was in the back. He was just supporting his friend as his friend got an autograph. And I was like, ‘do you follow We hate Pop Country on Facebook?’ He [replied], ‘you’re damn straight. I do.‘ I was like, ‘oh, lemme give you a sticker, you might like my music on. So he [said], ‘I’m going to look you up.’

Back to voice acting: When recording in an ensemble – were there times that were difficult to get through because of either the giggles or someone was cracking jokes too much:

“any of Butch Hartman’s shows were hard to get through because he cast so many funny people and comedians and everything. John DiMaggio cracks me up and Carlos Alazraqui, they’re all professional standup comics. Phil LaMar was hilarious. And yeah, we were always laughing on those shows. And also, I love to improv and just say lines that aren’t even in there just to be funny. And so sometimes [they] were like, ‘Grey, can we get one line, just as written on the page, just once?‘ And I was like, ‘oh, alright. Just once.‘ 

I [worked] with Amy Poehler and we would do a whole take as written and then we would do one where she would go, ‘you know what? Let’s just do all improv’. And I loved working with people that love improv because you feel so free to do whatever you want.”

On to another facet of Grey’s career, her stand up comedy:

[Grey’s new self-produced stand up special: Thrupple, came out on September 7th on YouTube]

I always try to bring up newer comics that don’t have the advantages. I mean, this is a heck of a side gig, this cartoon thing. So I have a little bit of finances that I can help people with, and it helps me too, and it doesn’t cost me anything. I’m already renting the studio. I already am doing all the ads and the lighting and hired the crew, and it feels silly and selfish to just have me be the only one up there. So I always pick two more comics so that I can [tell] them: ‘You’re getting a special and you’re getting a special.’ And they share the time with me. 

It’s mostly about my vagina. It’s so funny. People are like, ‘oh, you’re a vagina comic.’ I was like, no. Have you seen guys do stand up? Everything’s about theirs, so …not their vagina anyway. But yeah, so I mean, I do talk about it quite a bit, but it’s a big part of my life, a big part.. Oh, but I do, do voices in it. I do the voice of my vagina… she has a lisp and she’s very cranky.”

Finding the vocal style for her vagina:

“One day I was in a bathroom stall and there was a lady next to me and she said, ‘hi’ [using a woman’s deep voice with a lisp]. And I said, ‘hi.’ ‘She’s like, what you doing?‘ And I said, ‘I’m, I’m just peeing, I guess.’ And she goes, ‘do you mind? I’m on the phone’. And so my friend goes, ‘you talked to the lady?why did you answer her?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ And I guess I think that’s how my vagina would sound if it had a voice. And then after that, that sort of took off. In this special, I talk about how my vagina looks like an old library book because the spine’s all broken and the pages are all torn out. I was like, my kids used it. And then it got passed around with all my friends in college, and it’s just been through a lot.” [lots of giggles and laughter throughout the room]

Grey is also a bit of a fashionista and makes her own jumpers. She’s asked if those are something she would ever consider selling to her fan base:

“I am so protective of them that I’m like, don’t copy me. So I probably am not [because of other fashion designers], I’m like, ‘don’t use this.‘ But Vinessa Shaw is here, a beautiful blonde woman who I totally bonded with. We do all these things together on the weekends, and I just love her. But she’s like, I love those jumpsuits. And I was like, you got to get one. So she got one. I said, but don’t put patches on and like me, because that’s my thing. Anyway, so hers, she’s wearing one. She wore one yesterday, a denim coverall suit. But it’s just that this is such a, with the kids and everything, I have such a hectic life. I’m running a record label, raising three kids, doing cartoons during the week in my garage. And then every weekend I fly out on a Friday to do these [conventions]. My kids are in private school’s, a big expense. I am doing this on my own. 

So packing was just, I hate packing even for fun things, like Hawaii. I wait until the very last minute and then I’m like, oh God. And I throw a bunch of stuff in a bag, and then I’m there going, I can’t believe, why didn’t I bring anything? It’s just endless cycle. So I thought, I’ve got to make these coveralls. I’ll put patches of all the shows that I do on them, and I’ll just make four pairs so I can switch ’em out. But every weekend I just throw three of them in a bag and I’m packed. My makeup bag’s all packed. I just throw that in there and I’m ready. So mostly a convenience thing, but people love them”

A story with silver lining when her luggage was previously lost before appearing at a different convention:

“I finally got it, but of course after the, I was completely done with the convention. I took pictures with people in the same outfit all three days of the convention. But I did have a lovely day in Chicago. I was stuck in Chicago for a day, and I was going to be mad because I was going to sleep at the airport and stuff and then I thought, ‘Hey, you’re in one of the best cities in the world. Go get yourself a hotel and have a good time.’

And the funny thing is, I was leaving, well, everybody got filled up, all the hotels around the airport because we got let out at three in the morning. They’re like, you’re not going anywhere tonight. We’ll get you out tomorrow night. So it wasn’t even the morning. Tomorrow, the next day at night, I got in a cab and I heard a man on the phone going, ‘oh man, this is going to be expensive. It’s going to be $50 even just to get downtown.’ And I told him, ‘Hey, I’m going downtown. You can go with me in my cab.’ And he was like, ‘really? Oh, thank you so much.’ So he and me shared, I paid for the cab and he said [he] was going to stay with a friend nearby. So I was like, great. So he got out of the cab, he’s like, ‘let me give you $20.’ I was, ‘no, don’t you dare.’ He’s like, ‘no, lemme give you 20. You saved me 30, so please.’ And I was like, ‘no, no, no.’ But as I was walking into the revolving door of the hotel, he threw a 20 at me. 

So anyway, I have this 20 dollar bill that’s on top of my purse. So when I get there and the [hotel desk clerk said], ‘I just sold the last room. I’m so sorry you came all this way.‘ At this point it 4 in the morning. And I’m like, ‘oh my God, I’m so tired.’ And he goes, ‘well, let me just call around.’ So he starts calling around and then I go, ‘you’re so sweet to do that. You didn’t have to do that.’ And I said, ‘here,’ because I had the $20 that was free, $20. And I was like, ‘I really appreciate it.’ And he [responded], ‘You know what? There’s people that were in the room and I don’t think they’re coming. It’s four in the morning, and they were supposed to be here at three yesterday. I don’t think they’re coming. I’m going to give you the room.’ So he gave me the room and it was this amazing room with this beautiful view.And then I was stuck in Chicago, so I was like, I’m going to have high tea at the Drake, which I’ve always wanted to do, but I never have time. It’s like a 90 minute experience and you can’t just do part of it, you have to do the whole thing. So I was like, what else am I have to do? I got nothing to do in a great city. So I had high tea and I wandered and it was a beautiful day. 

And the best part, Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel – he and I are doing a project together, and he gave me these lyrics. He was like, ‘if you can do something with this song, I will cut the song.’ And I’m like, okay, because the lyrics are When you take the L out of Lover, it’s over. That’s a great lyric. So I was trying and trying and trying. I was in Chicago and walking around and I see the L Train, So I wrote this song… 

My Lover took the L and now it’s over. 

He hopped the CTA on New Year’s Day

Union station’s freezing

There’s no reason to stay sober

My lover took the L and now it’s over 

It was a whole song about Chicago, but I wouldn’t have seen that had I not been there. So Asleep at the Wheel is cutting my song.”

On some memorable fan interactions:

“There’s so many. One time somebody knitted me a gigantic Appa, and I felt so bad because so many fans that bring you these big, giant gifts, and it’s so sweet, but we can’t get it back on the plane. But I didn’t have the heart to tell the girl, she had probably spent months knitting this Appa. So I was like, thank you so much. I love it. And it was gorgeous. So I was hugging it. I took a bunch of pictures with her. Then I’m like, ‘what am I going to do with this Appa?’ I can’t throw it away because it’s gorgeous. 

But then this girl, about four people later, she was like, ‘I just lost my dog, and I’ve been so sad. This has been the happiest thing that’s happened to me. And my dog used to sleep with me every night, and I miss my dog.’ I was like, ‘oh my God, you’re getting an Appa. Do you love Appa?’ She was like, ‘oh my God, I love Appa!’

I gave her the Appa and she was just in tears. And then later on she wrote to me, ‘I sleep with Appa all the time, andI feel my dog with me.’ It was just like beautiful circle moment.”

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