Featured Interview – Gina Sicilia

In an era when it’s considered a “brisk pace” for an artist to release a new album every five or six years, Philadelphia blues dynamo Gina Sicilia should probably be considered a “trend-buster.”

While the golden-throat

ed Sicilia may not exactly be on the same timetable that a lot of acts back in the 1960s were, issuing two and sometimes three albums worth of new material in a year’s time, she is most definitely keeping a schedule that few of her peers dare to keep nowadays.

Since graduating from Temple University and announcing her arrival to the world of the blues with 2007’s Allow Me to Confess (Swing nation Records), Sicilia has not slowed down one bit.

In March of this year, her third full-length offering, Can’t Control Myself, hit stores shelves and radio airwaves, giving Sicilia a pretty impressive resume in a fairly short amount of time.

And according to Sicilia, that’s just the way she likes it.

“Every year, my influences change and I’m always writing songs and my song writing changes and I have all these new ideas, constantly,” she said. “I’m very enthusiastic about what I do and I love writing new songs and then recording them. I love putting out new, fresh songs. As long as I stay inspired and stay hungry, I don’t see that changing. I’d love to put out two albums a year, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”

From the looks of things, with the wave of momentum that Can’t Control Myself is still riding, Sicilia’s fans should have plenty to keep them satisfied until her next trip back into the recording studio.

“It’s been getting great reviews and they’re still coming in – almost six months after its release,” Sicilia said. “People have just responded so positively to the CD and I’m really proud of it. And recently, I shot a music video for the song “Addicted” off the disc. I shot it with Tanya Ryno, who is a producer, director and writer for Saturday Night Live.”

The video for “Addicted” can be viewed atwww.ginasicilia.com.

A common denominator to Sicilia’s first three discs is the multi hat wearing abilities of Dave Gross. And from what Sicilia says, there’s not much that goes on in the confines of a recording studio that Gross can’t do.

“He’s an amazing producer and a multi-instrumentalist. On Can’t Control Myself, he played like 15 instruments and he also engineered it and produced it,” she said. “He’s really great to work with in the studio. He’s tremendously talented and very open-minded. He has a lot of really cool ideas – a very talented person who is just so passionate about music.”

As anyone who has even heard a brief sampling of Sicilia knows, she is truly blessed with an amazing set of pipes. From a gritty guttural growl to a silky-smooth purr, Sicilia simply lights up any track that she sings on, or any room that she sings in, with her endless depth.

After all, it’s one thing to be gifted with a voice that is the sonic equivalent of a hurricane, but it’s another matter altogether to have the skills to channel that power in any direction desired – something that Sicilia has no problems doing.

But what be a bit under the radar is Sicilia’s penchant for penning a great song. Obviously confident in her song-writing skills, eight of the 11 tracks on her debut disc were written by Sicilia herself and the majority of Can’t Control Myself was also self-written.

However, that’s really nothing new.

The 26-year-old Sicilia has been writing songs since she was a pre-teen.

“I’ve always loved music and have always been singing since I was very, very little. And I was about 12 when I started writing songs. Very simple songs,” she laughed. “I guess it was just something that was natural for me to do. I don’t really know how or why I started doing that (song writing), but I had ideas that I wanted to incorporate into songs. And I’ve been doing it ever since. I love writing songs as much as I love singing and I love singing a lot.”

Like most authors, Sicilia is never really sure when the idea or thought for a new song might present itself, or even where the subject matter itself might originate from.

“Every song is different. Some are inspired by my own experiences, through myself and my life, and some songs are inspired by people that I know and some are just total fiction,” she said. “I’m a people watcher and some songs are certainly inspired by that. And I like to think a lot – I’m a big thinker, so every song is different. You never know when you’re going to be inspired to write something. It happens in the strangest places sometimes.”

With the love of song already occupying a big spot in her heart since her earliest days, it was through the power of the television that Sicilia was first bitten by the blues bug.

“I’ve always loved soul and R&B and when I was about 14, I saw an infomercial on TV for a CD called Solid Gold Soul and it had soul and R&B artists on it from the 50s and 60s,” said Sicilia. “But it also had B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland on it, and that kind of got me into the blues genre. And that’s about the time that I started writing it (blues songs), also.”

An adoring respect for all kinds of music strongly comes through when spinning one of Sicilia’s albums and one can pick up traces of everything from gut-busting blues to soul to jazz to country and even a bit of doo-wop from track-to-track.

That, too, is a natural occurrence says Sicilia.

“I guess it just happens. The more music you listen to and the wider variety of music you listen to definitely has an influence on you,” she said. “I’ve always kept an open mind and have always been open to different styles, so I’ve always been influenced by everything I hear – whether I know it or not. And that’s reflected in my signing. Everything inspires me. I mean, my idol is Sam Cooke and I love Otis Rush and gospel music … the list goes on. And I love country music, too.”

The blues has never really grabbed the headlines or gotten the attention that it deserves in Philadelphia, with sweet soul and smooth jazz being a prominent part of the City of Brotherly Love’s musical fabric.

But that doesn’t mean that the blues are not alive and thriving in the city.

“There is a really cool blues scene with some really cool musicians in Philadelphia,” said Sicilia. “The whole music scene in Philly is really cool. There’s some really cool venues here, like the World Café Live and Warmdaddy’s. I started out going to blues jams in Philly when I was still in college every week and I met my first band at Warmdaddy’s and had my first gig there.”

And things have been on an uphill climb for Sicilia and her band (Dave Gross (guitar); Tom Papadatos (drums); Scott Hornick (bass)) ever since, culminating in what has been her busiest and most productive year to date.

“It’s been a really great year for me – a lot better than 2010,” she said. “A lot of things changed for me this year and I’ve done a lot of fun and exciting things. I got my first manager this year – Cindy Da Silva – and to start off the year, I got to go on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, which was an incredible experience. I would do that again, anytime they ask me. It was so much fun and I was so honored they asked me to do it.”

Sicilia and her crew have played all over the map this year and come mid-September, they head to the west coast for a string of shows in sunny California.

“These guys have been playing with me for quite a while now and we’re a happy little band. We have a lot of fun,” she said. “We love traveling and playing music.”

Armed with a degree in journalism from Temple University, Sicilia might not have thought that less than a half-decade later, she’d be rubbing shoulders with Bob Margolin, Debbie Davies, Tommy Castro and Taj Mahal and others over the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean.

“If you’d asked me five years ago where I’d be now, I’d probably have had no idea,” she said.

And as for five years on down the road?

“I see myself still touring and putting out albums and hopefully, doing some fun and exciting things. Hopefully, I can become a better singer and a better songwriter and play in some really great venues. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

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