Thursday, March 22, 2007
Gina Catalino Review & Interview with Toaster Magazine
Look & Listen: Damn, Gina!
by Robert Aguiar
The awards season is over and the books on 2006 are officially closed. The music biz, like the economy, goes through cycles. Suffice it to say, we're in need of a turnaround year. So I'd like to turn your attention to the first big deal of the year...
Artist Spotlight: GINA CATALINO
Discoveries often feel like major accomplishments for the discoverer. Remembering back in 1999, I was in Portugal and people kept telling me about this girl Nelly Furtado, who was coming out into the scene, whom I needed to check out. Sure enough, that evening I witnessed a star being born before she made her United States splash months later. I had a similar experience regarding Jill Scott in Chicago a year before that. Now, in 2007, it's my pleasure to introduce you to Gina Catalino. A woman whose music spiritually embodies an organically delicious sound juxtaposed with soul-baring lyrics and a commanding voice.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, Gina, like many aspiring musicians, made her way to Los Angeles pursuing her dreams and, of course, the sun. After a year of various jobs and some gigs here and there, money ran out and, with it, confidence and hope. The issue wasn't talent as much as it was substance. She was being lauded for her voice but her lyrics weren't meaty enough. Did I mention she was 19? After temporarily moving back in with the folks, she situated herself in a little town by the name of Manhattan, New York. Drawing from the trying experience along with a growing pain here and there, Gina emerged with a newfound writing ability.
The break arrived in March of 2006, when a producer by the name of Tom Arlotta approached her about a collaboration project. The result was Keep Showing Me, which was featured in a full-length independent film called Hardrock starring Michael Wright (OZ) and Raekwon of Wu-Tang. Together, they have now created Mark Left Entertainment Inc, in which the launching of Ms. Catalino's career is project number one. She's classically modern, both in her style and her beauty. The contradictions flow onto her music for a riveting ride into a journey that has finally taken off and only just begun...
The Review: SWEPT IN SOUND
At first listen, one begins, as most do, with comparisons. Let me spare you the exhaustion. From song to song, you label her everything from the next Norah Jones, to the newest soul sister, to Ani DiFranco meets Jewel, until you finally settle on somewhere between Fiona Apple and Erykah Badu. It's all pointless because with each new listen, one comes to terms with the fact that they're listening to Gina Catalino and once you get to know her (via her music) you heart's appreciation is overshadowed by your mind's elation.
I don't recall a debut this expansive (in sound and quality, for that matter) since Nelly Furtado's Whoa Nelly! The versatility in her sound and the maturity in her lyrics are all the more impressive once one realizes she's the ripe old age of 22. Much like Furtado, she finds herself delving into many genres and excelling at all of them. The disc has a little something for everyone: Caribbean soul ("11:32 P.M."), jazzy be-bop ("Foolish"), coffehouse folk ("Blue Eyes"), glorious pop ("I Believe"), improvisational neo-soul ("The Walk") and coming-of-age acoustics ("Apple") to name just a few. Her reverberation has a timeless feel to it, as if it were a greatest hits compilation. Pianos twinkle, courtesy of Brian Charette (who has worked with Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper and Joni Mitchell), harps harmonize with tambourines, trumpets and saxophones coexist seamlessly, guitars riff via Ms. Catalino herself along with John O'Toole, and violins soothe (courtesy of Angela Sullivan). While the album as a whole most definitely feels like a collaboration, one never questions who the star of the show is. Gina touches on issues we can all relate to ("the money was spent but the bills weren't paid and there's things on my mind while I'm getting laid and I know nobody's to blame") with vulnerable confidence.
There's a delicious ambiguity to her lyrics as well that makes one feel inclined not to ask her what they mean and rather just formulate an opinion of their own. In "The Walk," she says all of four phrases at one time ("what if they don't/is it ok/was it that way/what did we say") and the rest of the brief number consists of the songstress improvising with ze da de's, boo be bop's and zit dat um do's. Perhaps the song is about a relationship and "their" inability to communicate, or maybe it's just Gina having a good time with wordplay and sound. Nonetheless, it's beautiful and serves as the perfect closure to this record. Similarly, "Apple"could be a metaphor for New York City or, simply, childhood. The only complaint is that the set is short-lived. This is a recurring theme throughout the album. It's as if Gina's giving us a sample of everything but we never get a full course of any one thing. Debuts are supposed to do just this, leaving the listeners wanting more and hoping that the artist then tackles each genre separately by dedicating an album to each. Ambitious? Perhaps, but after making a few laps around the CD, you'll be convinced if anyone were up to the task, it's Ms. Catalino.
The Interview: HERE & THERE with GINA CATALINO
What are your thoughts on Los Angeles vs. New York?
Sun vs. true Happiness.
In Swept in Sound there's no one dominant genre that takes over thematically. While that brings out your versatility, there has to be one you prefer to perform/sing or feel most comfortable playing; which one is it?
While I truly enjoy every genre, my singing/songwriting stems from a love of folk music. With the exception of "I Believe" and "The Walk," each track on the record originated from traditional folk.
Speaking of preferences, is there one song on the album you're either more proud of, relate to most, or you find most relevant in your life right now?
I guess you can say I look at each song like parents look at their children, it's hard to choose one over the other. It was important for me to not limit myself and or force myself into a particular genre or sound. I feel the album reflects many different moods and styles just like life.
Your lyrics display a maturity, in general, unheard for someone your age. Where does this stem from? And besides music, what else "moves" you?
My writing stems from an inability to communicate. Music and writing have always been a way for me to express the feelings I want to convey but never can. As far as what moves me other than music, its the little things in life. I pay close attention to detail. I'm moved by art, culture, old people, children, good food, roller-coasters, time with people that I love, warm weather, running, poetry, books, my dad's pizza, sand in my toes, and staying up long enough to see the sun rise.
If you had a choice to collaborate with two artists, one living and one dead, who would they be?
I am totally in love with the last two albums that Ray Lamontagne has put out. I sometimes cover his song "Jolene" at my shows. Last year I saw him in concert at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York and his song "Burn" brought me to tears. It would be the honor of all honors to one day share the stage with him. As far as artists that are no longer with us, who wouldn't want to do a song with Bob Marley?
We're going to play overrated/underrated. I'm going to say a name and you'll respond with one or the other. Norah Jones? Gwen Stefani? Mary J Blige? Carrie Underwood?
Let' just say Norah Jones and Mary J Blige are underrated.
If there was a movie out there made about the first 22 years of your life, what would it be titled?
I think they already made the movie, and it's called Dazed and Confused.
Last but not least, how do you like your toast?
I like wheat toast smothered in creamy Skippy Peanut Butter...yummy.
For more information, visit http://www.ginacatalino.com/or http://www.myspace.com/ginacatalino
Swept in Sound is currently available for purchase at iTunes and at http://cdbaby.com/cd/ginacatalino3