By MIKE CHAIKEN
Gina Sicilia has been singing the blues since she was 19.
The blues, as the genre’s name suggests, is about gut-wrenching emotion.
Evoking the emotions necessary for the blues is easy enough in a studio, when it’s a one-shot performance that can be recorded over and over again till you get it right.
But live, like any performer, you need a strategy to pull that emotion out of your heart show after show in front of audience after audience.
“I draw a lot of energy from the crowd,” said Gina when asked how she is able to embody the emotions necessary for her music at a show. Sometimes, however, that energy from the audience is not there, for whatever reason. Maybe there aren’t many people in the room or the audience is not into the music. But Gina said she isn’t left to flounder. In cases like that, she pulls her energy from her band or, when she must, she reaches deep within herself.
Gina, who will be in Connecticut June 16, said she fell in love with the blues at a pretty young age—just 14. And it was something she fell upon all by herself.
Her journey to the blues began with an infomercial on TV. There was a pitch for a musical compilation called “Solid Gold Soul: Blues Edition.” She ordered the album, which featured songs by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, B.B. King and James Carr. “It felt really familiar to me,” said Gina of the first time she heard blues. “I connected to the emotion… It speaks to me.”
She then started listening to a lot of Aretha Franklin and Etta James. She began digging deeper into contemporary blues artists. She also read everything she could about the blues—from books to CD reviews.
And, as noted, by 19, she was singing the blues.
Gina is not unknown to step outside of the blues. Her material often incorporates other genres like soul, Americana or country. But the blues is now home.
For her latest album, “Tug of War,” which is her seventh release, Gina reached within herself to write songs about some of her own turmoil prior to recording
She explained she had recently moved from her home in Philadelphia to Nashville. And there were a lot of ups and downs in her new home, and some give and take.
“A Tug of War,” if you will.
When she went into the studio, she said many of the experiences and emotions were still raw and fresh.
“It’s definitely personal,” said Gina of the record. “It’s the most personal I’ve ever written.”
In the process of preparing the new album, Gina said she learned that she liked writing personal songs. And now she is looking forward to doing some more of it in future efforts.
On the album, besides her own material, Gina recorded a cover version of The Beatles’ “All My loving.”
“It’s a good song. It has such a beautiful melody. The lyrics are beautiful,” said Gina.
However, rather than recording a straight copy of the original, Gina said she and her producer David Darling opted to slow the track down and transform it into a soul ballad.
“I’ve gotten a lot of good response from Beatle fans,” said Gina, noting that Beatles’ fans can be harsh critics.
“I’m really glad I did it,” said Gina.
When Gina comes to Bridge Street Live in Collinsville Friday, she said she will be taking advantage of the intimacy of the venue to connect to the audience. She said she likes to tell stories as the show goes along. She likes to speak about what her songs mean and what inspired them. She also likes to share funny anecdotes about her life. And her set list, she said will feature a variety of styles of music from blues to R&B to Amercana and to country—and a good deal of material from her new album.
Gina Sicilia performs at Bridge Street Live, 41 Bridge St., Collinsville on Friday, June 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $25.
For more information, go to 41BridgeStreet.com or GinaSicilia.com