Thanks for agreeing to the Interogation Ms. Bello. Please take a seat—don’t worry, the surgical instruments are only used on Gothic Doom Metal Punks when we have to remove the tongue studs so we can understand their replies.
You have been asked here today to answer questions about your album “Can’t Go Home” and certain photos that have come into our possession. These questions must be asked and will require answers, do you understand?
(Ms. Bello nods in the affirmative)
Beginning with this photo of you at an “open mic”, could you please explain the secret signal you are giving while holding an old guitar?
Not sure, it’s capo 2 and looks like I’m playing a G chord. I think I’m playing Frank’s Taylor T5 in the photo — it does have the look of a vintage guitar. It sounds great, but it’s too heavy to use for a regular gig when I’m standing up. The photo was taken a few weeks ago at one of the open mics I run. The guitar is likely from a local music store where Frank buys a lot of his gear (and my Christmas presents). I sometimes grab one of his guitars just to play something different. My Taylor gs mini in koa wood is my favorite guitar, and although it’s the easiest one to play, and the lightest guitar I own, I don’t think it amplifies well. The sound distorts a bit when I’m plugged in. I was advised to change the acoustic pickup system on it.
So you are not giving signals to someone like the Masons, Illumunatti and Baseball Catchers do?
No, I am not that mysterious.
Tell us more about these open mic meetings please.
When I first developed an interest in playing out, Frank and I began by attending open mics together. Open mics provide an opportunity for newer players to obtain some stage time and build performance skills, and for more experienced players to try out new material. Open mics welcome players of all levels, and everyone is given the same courtesy and stage time when it’s their turn to perform. The open mics I run are held at Urban Coffee in Greenlawn, a town near where we live. Urban Coffee is a cool little place with a friendly vibe and patrons who love the music we make. The players who come to my open mics have all become friends, meeting up at mine and other open mics, forming bands with each other and gigging together.
Frank and I belong to the Long Island-based Organization of Open Mic Performing Artists—known by it’s acronym OOMPA. OOMPA is a large, diverse group of Long Island musicians who host and attend open mics all over Long Island, and raise money for charitable causes at a variety of venues using an open mic fomat to attract participation in food drives, toy drives and coat drives—you get the picture! On Long Island where we live, on any give day, there is an open mic adventure to be had!
Right we will move on Ms. Bello.
Why a CD and not just a Deezer digital release? Sales wise has it been worth it?
I would probably go digital for future releases, but for this first one I felt it was cool to have a physical CD, even though it’s getting less practical as we get deeper into the 21st Century. Sales of physical CDs have been mostly at gigs, face-to-face with fans, so it’s been gratifying. For the most part though it seems people access their music digitally, either by streaming or downloading. Thankfully, I have covered the manufacturing costs with CD sales.
10 excellent songs on the album did you have a lot more that were cut and stored away for another release?
It’s great to hear that you are enjoying all 10 songs. We used every song we worked on for the album, so no I don’t have any extra recordings stored away for another release. Originally, I thought I would record 4 or so songs for a small collection, but as I progressed through the recording process, and continued to write, I added some newer songs. At any given time, I always like my newest song best. Keep in mind that recording Can’t Go Home took over 14 months, because I was only working at it only a few hours each week, and kept adding to the collection. Before I knew it we were up to 10 songs! I think it’s worth noting that the first song I wrote (Track #1 Dignity) is on the album. Even though it’s my oldest song, it’s still one of my favorites.
Do you want to do shows in larger venues, not large but larger, you know with say 500 people paying to be entertained by your music?
Yes, I think that would be exciting. I am in the early stages of putting a band together which will likely open up more performance opportunities for us. The music on the CD was created with a few of us playing multiple instruments. In order to play the music live, we need multiple musicians playing one instrument at a time (i.e., we need a band!)
Appearing on the charts must have brought you a lot of attention as well as radio airtime. How did you feel about that?
Being on the charts has been the thrill of a lifetime for me. In my work life, my role has always been of a team player, not someone who got the direct credit for an achievement. The credit always went to the boss, and I was fine with that, but being out front like this is very new to me and very nice.
I have recently come to appreciate internet radio, which can be more enjoyable to listen to than local broadcast radio. There are few, if any commercial interruptions, and there are stations that focus on particular types of music, so you can find stations that play the music you want to listen to. By the way, your station provides a great listening experience, blending classic and contemporary roots blues and rock from well-known and yet-to-be-discovered artists.
What are your favorite tracks from the album?
Crush (Track #10) is my favorite track– both to play live and to listen to on the recording. It’s fun to sing, easy to play, it’s up-tempo, and has a bit of a dance vibe. Audiences respond well to it, and that’s always gratifying.
What are your future goals in music?
At some point I would like to transition to writing and playing music full-time, although currently , I will be sticking with my day job. Music is a passion and a creative outlet, and that works for now.
I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed reading your very complimentary review of my album, and of course thank you for being a fan.
Thank you Ms.Bello but we are not here to be praised, we are here to interrogate you.
Who are your songwriter influences?
Bruce Springsteen is one of my songwriting idols, probably the top of my list, so I’m a little torn about being on a chart or a radio playlist with him, which has happened several times that I’m aware of. I’d love to meet him one day. And of course there are a million questions I’d like to ask him, but I’d probably get tounge-tied and so I might just end up staring at him, and it would be awkward, so maybe it’s best if I don’t actually meet him. As far as other influences, there are many, but four others who stand out are Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brandi Carlile, Toby Tobias, and of course, Mike Nugent.
You’ve mentioned that you want to sell your music? How will you do that?
That is the big question, isn’t it? How does a yet-to-be-discovered artist like me get their songs heard by the stars who could be performing them? I’m on radio stations across the U.S. and worldwide, so maybe someone in the music business will hear my songs and be interested in licensing one of them. There are songwriters who love performing, and others who love the process of writing. Although I love playing out, I have a bit of geek in me, and love to get engrossed in the process of writing — what could be called the art of song. Getting the idea for the song, developing the language to tell the story, identifying the hook, editing, refining, tweaking, writing the melody. I love every part of that processs!
Can you please explain what you were doing when the photo on the cover of the cd was taken, it looks very suspicious almost like a “dead drop”
Can you hold on a minute while I google what a “dead drop” is?
Um, no I was not doing anything sinister in the photo. I was simply checking out a door to an abandoned building where I used to live. You know, the title track “Can’t Go Home” – that’s what the photo represents. “You can’t go home ‘cause it ain’t home no more, and it don’t exist the way it did before”
Right Josie summing up, you have a few minutes to say anything in your defense.
I would love to have famous vocalists/musicians record my songs. I always thought most of my CD would be perfect in the hands/voices of Little Big Town. In my opinion, Marrin Morris, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert would all do my song Dignity justice! (when I tuned into your station late last night I heard Dignity for a little bit, and I was thrilled, but then I lost the connection, due to my own lack of computer skills because I touched something on the keyboard that I shouldn’t have)
I had intended to use my CD as a demo to pitch to artists, but I have never figured out how to do that, or made the right connections to do that, or maybe there is no platform for that, so I get out there and play the songs myself. I wanted to develop a band so that I could re-create some of what the CD sounds like. Obviously I can’t play accordion, keys, organ, rhythm guitar and sing lead and background all at one time, and I love the way all those sound together. If you recall the instrumental solo on Good People Bad Love, it’s accordion and keys, which I think sounds so cool and is one of my favorite pieces of music on the CD– I just can’t do it alone!
My band is just 4 of us right now. Me and Frank, Vicky, our drummer whom we play with on “Duo” gigs and my guitar teacher, Mike Nugent (also my producer and musical collaborator). Mike is a life-long professional musician who recorded and produced the CD at his home studio, in the neighborhood where I live. Mike plays the electric guitars, bass and banjo on the CD, and collaborated with me on working through all the vocal and instrumental arrangements. My husband Frank plays electric guitar on 2 of the album’s tracks: #4 Kit House and #10 Crush.
The CD was mixed with Kevin Kelly, (another lifelong musician & sound engineer) who owns a studio in my neighborhood. A few years back, in 2015, when I decided to start taking guitar lessons, I walked in to a local music store and they assigned me to Mike. That was a lucky day for sure. I had already started fiddling around with one of my husband’s guitars, and knew how to play three chords from looking them up on the internet. Once I started strumming the guitar, I started singing and making up songs. By the time I met Mike, I had already written Dignity.
I was always fascinated with the guitar. When I was little, somewhere around 5 or 6 years old, I asked my mom if I could take guitar lessons, and she said, no, if you want to play music, you have to take accordion lessons. I was like, ok, what have I got to lose. Music is music, right? Well maybe. My parents rented a student accordion, and set me up with lessons and a big book of Italian songs, which I had to work my way through with the accordion teacher. My grandmother was one of 10 children, and her siblings visited our house routinely, and they always asked me to play accordion. By the time I was around 10 years old I could play most of the book, not necessarily well, but well enough that they all sang along and seemed to enjoy themselves.
Any thoughts I may have had about playing music in adulthood were buried by the acquisition of adult responsibilities and the necessity to develop a productive (i.e. paying) work life. I credit my husband Frank for bringing music back into my life. We met in 2005 and married in 2007. Frank was always playing guitar, amusing himself in the back room, and I really enjoyed his playing and singing. He encouraged me to play with him by purchasing a keyboard for me, and we started doing open mics together. Open mics have introduced us to an entire community of wonderful local musicians– some professional, and some hobbyists — and all of them now dear friends whom we couldn’t imagine our lives without.
Thank you Josie, that wasn’t to painful was it.
We all wish you the very best in the future and we will be watching you!
Ms. Bello leaves the interrogation room.