Pittsburgh: Interview with Gina Sicilia by Monica L. Yasher

Posted on 8/28/2009 by Monica Yasher

Exposed to music early on by her music-loving family, Gina began singing at the age of 3 and wrote her first song at the tender age of 12. After spending her teenage years polishing her vocal and songwriting skills, Gina began singing in clubs around the Philadelphia area, and has since branched out worldwide.

In December 2007, only five months after the release of her critically acclaimed debut album, "Allow Me To Confess", Gina signed with the prestigious Piedmont Talent booking agency, which represents such legendary acts as Johnny Winter and James Cotton. That same month, Gina's impressive talent was recognized by the Blues Foundation, earning her a 2008 Blues Music Awards nomination for "Best New Artist Debut".

I spoke with Gina last week. So let’s see what Gina had to talk about.

Monica: Hi Gina. Let’s hear about your upcoming weekend.

Gina; This week I’ll be doing 3 shows opening for Joe Bonamassa.
I’ll be in Arkansas. Getting ready to head out to Evansville Indiana.

Monica: Sounds like a good time, Gina. Let’s talk about your sound. How did you get started with the Blues?

Gina; I got into it when I was…whenever I get asked this question…I can never remember exactly how I got into the music. I know that I was about 14 years old, and I think really I saw a commercial on TV for a blues compilation CD. It was like an infomercial kind of thing. I ordered it and just listened to that CD nonstop for a really long time. That was what really sparked my interest.

Monica: Thank you for your new CD, Gina. I enjoyed listening to it. And, I noticed that you have a very diverse sound with doing Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, and then there’s a big band sound. What do you think your sound is?

Gina: What do I think my sound is? I think that the CD is a representation of all my musical tastes. I love, obviously blues. I love gospel music. And, I love country music. I guess I couldn’t pick just one.
It is a representation of music I love. I did Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors because she was a big influence on me. Big influence on me. And, I think it is definitely a reflection of all the music that I love.

Monica: As an artist today, do you feel that…do they ask you to hone in on a particular sound as an artist?

Gina: No, I mean I’ve never been asked that before. I mean, you know….I can’t….Personally I don’t know if I could fully do that just because I love so much different music. So many different genres of music…and I love singing different kinds of music…and writing different kinds of music. I don’t know if personally I could do that, or if I could ever record an album that is 100 percent straight blues album or 100 percent straight country album. I don’t know if I could do that. Maybe one day I’ll be able to focus in on one kind of music and do that. But I don’t know if I could do that just yet. I’m still trying to explore the different writings of genres. I’m still pretty much the beginning of all of this. I don’t know if I can focus in just yet. But, maybe some day.

Monica: Whenever I heard your CD I thought of Eva Cassidy. ..because of the diversity of the music. Have you ever heard of her?

Gina: I love Eva Cassidy.

Monica: She was great.

Gina: She was country, blues and jazz. She was a great singer and I definitely spent a lot of time listening to her.

Monica: In regard to ….just for those people that are interested in being blues artists and getting started in the industry… is your touring band the same as your recording band?

Gina Yeah, for the most part it is. It definitely changed a little bit since I started doing this. The first band I was with, I met at a weekly band jam during college. I went every Tuesday night to a weekly blues jam at a club called Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia. There I met some musicians and my former first band. It was there I had my first gig at this club. That was the first band . So I guess if I could suggest anything…that was a good first experience for me…go to blues jams.

Monica: I’m a fan of them myself.

Gina: That was a good first experience singing the music with a band in front of an audience.

Monica: How do you go about selecting material? Do you have an upcoming album?

Gina: I am planning a 3rd album right now. It will be a mixture. A lot of original material that I do. A lot of covers…blues covers. I don’t do too much country anymore. Maybe a song or two every now and then. But, for the most part it is pretty much straight forward blues and soul, R&B. A lot of original stuff.

Monica: Are you the writer?

Gina: Songwriter?

Monica: Yes.

Gina: Yes. I write all the material that I have recorded. The originals I write. It’s mine. I haven’t written with anyone else yet. But, I would love to. I would love to do that. I never did that. It is a personal thing. It’s sharing an experience. I would love a great songwriting partner.

Monica: Who do you think influenced you the most?

Gina: What artists influenced me the most? I’d say my singing-as a teenager-influenced a lot by Aretha Franklin. I would spend hours and hours in my room singing along with her blues stuff. Just trying to sing like her. She was a big influence on me. Now my songwriting, a lot of people. Most recently Dolly Parton, who is a great songwriter. She has written so many great songs. She is a big influence on me. Sam Cook has inspired me a lot. All around as a singer, songwriter, performer. It’s hard to name just one person because I’m influenced by everyone I hear. Everyone I hear.

Monica: What are your future goals?

Gina: Just to..every record I make to improve. Be better…better… better singer… better songwriter. I want to continue touring as much as possible. I love it.

Monica: You love it?

Gina: I do, I really do.

Monica: Any challenges with being on the road?

Gina: Of course.; It is tiring. From time to time you get frustrated. In the end I love it. And I prefer it, I think, maybe because I’m new at this. If you ask me 15 years from now if I feel the same way. I don’t know if I will. But I prefer being on road to home, that‘s for sure. Only because I’m new at it.

Monica: So how long have you been at it?

Gina: I haven’t been touring that long.. Touring heavily for about a year and half when I signed with Piedmont Talent Agency. And I haven’t been touring too much before that. But, then they started booking me heavily. So now I go on the road more. I’ve been at this for 3 years. I want to continue doing this as much as possible. I love it.

Monica: For all of those people who find you to be inspirational. How would you suggest a new upcoming artist to get an agency to sign them on? What are the things you did right to make that happen?

Gina: I don’t know if I can tell you what I did right. I can tell you, I guess…what ….I’m very persistent. Very ambitious. I would say just put yourself out there, and meet as many people as you can. Network as much as possible. Even if you don’t have an agent or manager, just try to get your name out there as much as possible on your own. Be very persistent. Don’t give up.

Monica: I know I found you even before this interview and made you one of my myspace friends. I went out and looked in Pa and blues and see who…I see you are one of the top ranked artists in the state. I discovered you long before this.

Gina: Cool. I don’t log into myspace nearly as much as I used to. I log into face book. It seems the communication in myspace has slid off.

Monica: I guess I’ll have to move. What is immediately next for you?

Gina: I would say working on my 3rd CD. I’ll start next month.

Monica: Are you in the process of writing or that is completed?

Gina: I have done a lot of writing in the past 6 months to a year. A lot of writing. A lot of original material. I write everyday. I try to come up with new ideas. I write songs everyday. Hopefully by the time I record the album I’ll have a few new ones that I want to do. Maybe do one or two covers. I’m trying to pick them. But, I want to do mostly original songs for my new album.

Monica: Do you play?

Gina: I play a bit of acoustic guitar, which I’m working on and I’m learning. It definitely changed my songwriting. So, a little bit, which I’m happy about. Very happy about. It added something.

Monica: Do you develop accapella?

Gina: That’s what I used to do. I don’t do that anymore. I guess that phase of my songwriting is over.
I come up with ideas driving in my car. I write them down and record them. Recently writing on guitar.

Monica: Do you keep a songbook?

Gina: Yeah-Always a notebook with me. Pads of paper. Big mess..huge mess actually. They are not very organized at all. I make sure I date all of my ideas. I always did that. It’s nice to look back and see when you wrote certain songs.

Monica: Is there anything else you want to share with me?

Gina: You covered a lot. What do you think?

Monica: Well I could always ask more! OK. What was your best moment so far as a performer?

Gina: On stage some of the festivals I’ve done. They are exciting. Travel. A west coast tour this past winter. Something very exiting for me was in 2008, I was nominated for a blues music award for best new artist. That was very exciting. I just graduated from college and wasn’t touring a lot and I was very very new. One of the newest of all the nominees. It was such a big surprise. It was flattering. A big honor.

Monica: That sounds like a great ending for the interview. I know that you will be playing at the World Café. Are you excited about that?

Gina: This will be my second time there. I love that venue. It’s always one of the places I love. It has great music. It has a great reputation. A lot of great artist come through there. I was there last Valentine’s day, and this time I will be doing a co bill with Seth Walker from Austin Texas. He is one of my favorite artists out there now. I have a lot of respect for him. So, I am very excited. Very excited doing the bill with him, and seeing his show at the live venue in Philadelphia.

Monica: Well Gina have a good time, and congratulations on your accomplishments. I’m sure we’ll hear more from you.

Gina: Thank you very much.

Gina’s upcoming tour:

Upcoming Shows
Sep 5 2009 6:00P Marquette Area Blues Festival Marquette, Michigan
Sep 11 2009 8:00P World Cafe Live Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sep 12 2009 8:00P Madam’s Organ Washington DC, Washington DC
Sep 16 2009 8:00P The Living Room NYC, New York
Sep 17 2009 8:00P Hill Country New York, New York
Oct 24 2009 8:00P Americana Stage Morganton, West Virginia
Oct 25 2009 7:00P Diana Wortham Theatre Asheville, North Carolina
Dec 9 2009 9:45P Dinosaur BBQ Rochester, New York
Dec 10 2009 9:45P Dinosaur BBQ Syracuse, New York

Next Week: I had the opportunity to meet Derek Trucks, who happened to be in the neighborhood (well not really-he was sorta scheduled). I'll tell you about the here...same time, same place next week!

In a Few Weeks: Nelson will be meeting up with Gina to do some photos of her performance at the Living Room.

Copyright © 2009 Copyright Monica L. Yasher. All Rights Reserved.
Photographs used by permission Gina Sicilia

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