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BLUES PLAYER

"I always strive to sound like me and be as authentic as possible in the stories I am telling through voice and music." - Angela Petrilli

Posted: June 23, 2023
The Voices represents significant musical growth for Petrilli—at once, it’s her debut as a solo artist, band leader and lead vocalist. The EP begins with an ominous intensity as if to herald her arrival, droning organ seeping out like blood over the languid yet insistent drum beat of “Red River.” The song’s haunting slide riff finds Petrilli channeling Robert Johnson via Jimmy Page, tracing a ghostly line from the Mississippi Delta to late-’60s London to Sunset Sound, while her vocals rise up from the ocean depths like a siren possessed.

Finding your authentic self in a dark place often is the inspiration that you need. Many artists turn to resources of all kinds. Authenticity doesn’t come easy. However, it is the most important part to succeeding in the music industry. If you sound like everyone else, then what sets you apart from your competition? I have been in the business long enough to hear many artists with similar ranges, looks, styles and performance. Musicians are often cut from the same mold, and they do nothing to set them apart from others. Any professional will tell you, that distinguishing yourself with unique qualities are essential. Find your authentic self. Draw from emotions, heart break or even enjoyable experiences.

Just when I thought I heard everything blues has to offer a unique style comes out of know where. Well at least from the artists I am familiar with. Her name is Angela Petrilli. Honestly, I list to similar qualities of another artist I am used to hearing. The first person, that I thought of as I was listening to Angela Petrilli is Edie Brickell. Which is a huge compliment. However, Angela has something special and authentic about her voice. She is not shaped from the same mold as Edie Brickell. There is so much more to be desired in Angela Petrilli. She hasn’t started to reach her peak. There is more to her voice range, and more of a story to tell. I believe that Angela Petrilli will be a fantastic artist, and one that we will be talking about for years to come.

ABOUT ANGELA PETRILLI

“Red River”—the dark, moody, slide-anchored epic that opens Angela Petrilli’s debut solo EP The Voices—draws inspiration from ancient Greek classics The Odyssey and The Iliad; given the trials, tribulations, and loss Petrilli endured on the winding journey to this redemptive new set of songs, it’s an apt metaphor.

Back in 2019, Petrilli was one half of Los Angeles Americana duo Roses & Cigarettes, along with her bandmate, songwriting partner and best friend, Jenny Pagliaro. They’d already generated considerable buzz on the L.A. scene, opening for the likes of Jim Lauderdale, Luther Dickinson, The Record Company, Marc Broussard and Amanda Shires, and their impressive third album Echoes & Silence—recorded in the midst of Pagliaro’s treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer—seemed poised for a breakthrough. There was a tour in the works, and on March 25th of that year Rolling Stone named Roses & Cigarettes’ new single “Fast As I Can” one of its 10 Best Country Songs of the Week. But in a heartbreaking and tragic turn of events, Pagliaro—who had been fighting off cancer for years—passed away the very next day. She was just 35.

For Petrilli, losing her closest friend and collaborator, and the band they’d both worked so hard to build—right at the doorstep of success—was the most difficult experience of her life. So, for the better part of a year, the grieving Petrilli put down her guitar, left L.A. behind and set out across the world. She traveled to Nashville, New York, Paris, and Italy, eventually making it as far as Australia. Along the way, she spent a lot of time on the ocean, where she was able to find some peace and clarity. As she began to heal, she could feel her muse calling once again.

Finally, back home in L.A., she reached out to some musician friends and booked a bar gig under the name The Petrilli Players. The idea was to shake off the cobwebs, play some covers and have a good time—and that’s exactly how it went down. With a reinvigorated sense of purpose, and a band of simpatico players—Brett Grossman on bass, Stephen Haaker on drums, Matt Lomeo on harmonica & backing vocals, Bobby Victor on keys, and Vic Vanacore III on percussion—Petrilli was inspired to start writing again. After several months playing shows around Los Angeles (including opening spots for Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters, The Immediate Family, and a performance at Joe Bonamassa’s 3rd Annual Stream-a-thon concert), the new songs felt studio-ready, and Petrilli booked a session at Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Sound—the same hallowed ground that has hosted sessions by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Van Halen, Ray LaMontagne and countless others.

Grossman and Haaker co-produced the EP with Petrilli, with Geoff Neal engineering. Working at peak efficiency with well-rehearsed material, they tracked live, and came close to finishing five songs in a single day. Petrilli was able to knock out all of her guitar parts in the session, using her 2013 Gibson Custom Shop R9 1959 reissue Les Paul, a 2012 Custom Shop 1958 reissue Les Paul Junior, a 1998 American Deluxe Strat with Fishman Fluence pickups, and a Fender Brown Derby resonator. For amps, she went through a Mesa Boogie Fillmore 25 for dirty tones, a Fender Vibroverb with a JBL E130 speaker for clean, and a Supro for the washier tremolo textures.

The following day, sessions resumed at The Vanguard in North Hollywood, with Vanacore adding additional percussion. A few weeks later, Lomeo, Jessica Mahon & Phoebe Crenshaw laid down backing vocals. The finishing touches—including Petrilli’s lead vocals and some inspired sax lines from veteran musician Paulie Cerra—were recorded at Grossman’s studio, Cosmic Voyager.

The Voices represents significant musical growth for Petrilli—at once, it’s her debut as a solo artist, band leader and lead vocalist. The EP begins with an ominous intensity as if to herald her arrival, droning organ seeping out like blood over the languid yet insistent drum beat of “Red River.” The song’s haunting slide riff finds Petrilli channeling Robert Johnson via Jimmy Page, tracing a ghostly line from the Mississippi Delta to late-’60s London to Sunset Sound, while her vocals rise up from the ocean depths like a siren possessed.

The EP’s title track is another gorgeously meandering launch pad for the band’s live sets, the album version ebbing and flowing like an open-ended “Dark Star”-esque Grateful Dead jam but delivered with a gritty soulfulness worthy of The Black Crowes. As its name implies, “The Voices” is a musical and philosophical conversation, illustrated by the animated call-and-response between Petrilli’s ripping guitar leads and Lomeo’s wailing blues harp.

The horn-anchored “High Roller” and instrumental showpiece “Slapjack” are hard-grooving modern updates on Meters-style New Orleans funk filtered through Petrilli’s native SoCal breeziness.

Throughout both, she delivers the kind of slippery double-stop guitar hooks that would make Stax legend Steve Cropper proud.

Bringing The Voices home is “Ghost Inside a Frame,” a sighing, heartfelt, and emotionally potent nod to Petrilli’s beloved Roses & Cigarettes bandmate. The idea came from a conversation Petrilli had with her mother, who also lost a close friend at a young age. She’d told her that the strangest part of losing someone is when you look back at pictures—you keep changing over time, but they look the same. After several false starts, one day the song finally came, as if a transmission from beyond. Petrilli was caught off guard, but opened herself to the moment, got out her notebook, and the words began to pour out. The result is a disarmingly honest and vulnerable song; one that takes the personal and makes it universal.

Reflecting on the events of her life over the past few years, and the ways she’s evolved as an artist, singer and songwriter while making The Voices, Petrilli says that, above all, her journey has been about finding and maintaining an authentic voice and being unapologetically herself. The songs on The Voices celebrate the joy and fragility of life, and for Petrilli—who is embarking on a new musical journey—recording them was a deeply profound and satisfying experience.

INTERVIEW WITH ANGELA PETRILLI AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Hi Angela, thank you for joining us today for an interview. We would like to find out about your style. You have an authentic quality in your voice. Where or who can you contribute the authenticity in your voice?

Angela: I try to sing from the heart. I am constantly humbled by the intricacies and nuances of the human singing voice. Singing is a second language for me, as I started off as a guitar player. Through playing guitar, I learned how to hear and sing harmony. Before I sang lead in my band, Angela Petrilli & The Players, I sang a lot of background harmonies.

Guitar Thrills: I mentioned a comparison between you and Edie Brickell. Have you ever
considered who you sound similar to?

Angela: Thank you! Edie is an amazing artist. I am constantly inspired by so many musicians and singers. As an artist, we are all storytellers. I always strive to sound like me and be as authentic as possible in the stories I am telling through voice and music.

Guitar Thrills: How important is it to you to have your own style and uniqueness in your
voice?

Angela: Being authentic in my art is of the utmost importance to me. I will always be a perpetual student of the craft, and I will always be in constant pursuit of how to best tell a story that is in line with what is in my heart.

Guitar Thrills: Was there a particular point in your career that you felt the need for change? Or have you always been this good?

Angela: I believe there is always room for growth in all aspects of life. I consider myself a perpetual student of music and guitar playing. Living as a student of life has brought me immeasurable joy as well as many growing pains! You learn so much about yourself and the world around you through growth. There is always more to learn. The only constant thing in life is change.

Guitar Thrills: Do you believe that you have or haven’t reached your full potential as an
artist?

Angela: I am a student of life! There's always more to discover about myself and where music will take me. I give in to experiences life brings my way, and I do my best to stay authentic to my voice. There's always more to learn, and there will always be room to grow.

Guitar Thrills: What changes do you think you need to make? Does it apply to your
writing, playing, or singing?

Angela: There's always room for growth as a guitarist, singer, and bandleader. I am endlessly inspired by my band mates and colleagues I play with here in Los Angeles and in my travels. Learning from others and sharing our stories with one another is always an uplifting experience for me. There's so much we can learn from one another by sharing our experiences—and a stage—together!

Guitar Thrills: Tell us more about your latest release. “The Voices.” I know it is a tribute
to a band mate. Is there more that you can tell us? Also, how much of an influence did your band mate have on your progress in the music industry?

Angela: We recorded "The Voices" in Studio 2 at Sunset Sound in August 2022. We had an incredible time recording in such a historic place. My bandmates Brett Grossman (bass) and Stephen Haaker (drums) co-produced this EP with me. Along with Brett and Stephen, Bobby Victor (keys) Matt Lomeo (harmonica) and Vic Vanacore III (percussion) did an absolutely phenomenal job bringing these songs to life. My band mates inspire me so much. They make me want to be a better musician every day. From recording to mastering, the EP took 3 months to complete. We are so proud of the music on "The Voices". I dedicated the EP to my Roses & Cigarettes band mate, Jenny Pagliaro. She inspired me to start writing songs, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. It was a joy being in a band together and writing our songs together. Jenny's legacy lives on in the songs we wrote together in R&C.

Guitar Thrills: Is there a particular artist that you are interested in performing with?

Angela: I would love to open for Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gary Clark Jr, Jason Isbell, Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones. I could go on and on!

Guitar Thrills: What are some of your “go to” instruments. Do they give you a level of
confidence when you perform?

Angela: The 3 main guitars I used during the recording of "The Voices" are my 2013 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul 59 Reissue, my 2012 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Jr with a single P90 pickup, and my 1998 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with Fishman Fluence pickups. I use those three guitars when I play live shows with the band too. They constantly inspire me as I play. They are heavenly guitars, and I am so grateful to call them mine.

Guitar Thrills: What is in store for Angela Petrilli? Do you have other projects in the works?

Angela: I am currently writing songs for the next Angela Petrilli & the Players release. I have two new songs in the can that I am very excited about, and I look forward to seeing what the next batch of songs will sound like.

Guitar Thrills: Do you plan on touring soon? If so, where can your fans come to see you
perform live?

Angela: I will be playing some shows in Nashville in June 2023. You can check my website www.angelapetrillimusic.com for news and tour dates!

Guitar Thrills: Now, this is our first time interviewing you, and would love to follow up soon. Is that something you would be interested in?

Angela: Sure!

Guitar Thrills: Awesome. We look forward to your progress in the music industry. As we mentioned before, you are unique and have a long career to look forward to. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions today.

Angela: Thanks for having me.

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