In this second part of the two part interview with Gina Sicilia, the Blues-Americana singer-songwriter, Sicilia talks about how she developed her voice, why she’s glad she went to college, and also find out how Sicilia is using her success to give back to charity.
RF: Your voice is incredible. How did you develop it?
GS: I’ve always been really bad with that. Like I said, I’ve spent all of my teenage years locked in my bedroom singing with Aretha Franklin and all the great singers, I’ve never taken vocal lessons. I never did. I’ve always just tried to be careful with knowing my limits and not hurting myself. Which is not an easy thing to avoid when you’re trying to sing along with Aretha Franklin. I consider the great singers my teachers.
When I was a teenager I was literally singing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-sixty-five. I was constantly singing. I don’t do that anymore, but that’s how I really built up my voice, got it stronger. Also when you’re on the road, when you’re singing that extra night, you really build up your chops, and your voice is stronger.
RF: What does music mean to you?
GS: It means everything, it’s my life. I was thinking about this last night. I love music so much. I love song-writing so much, I love singing so much. Everyone has their personal relationship with music, it’s a very unique relationship, it’s a very intimate relationship. Sometimes you can’t really describe in words, you can only really feel it. I love music so much, you can’t describe it.
It’s my whole life.
RF: When you were a kid you dreamed of being where you are now?
GS: Oh yeah. When I was eight years old I told my brother and sister that I was going to go on a world tour someday and they just laughed at me, but I’ve always wanted to be a singer.
RF: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
GS: I have an older brother, and an older sister. Yeah, and two parents (laughing) and a dog.
RF: And they’ve always been supportive of your dreams of becoming a singer?
GS: At first they didn’t really want to see me going into the music business. They just wanted it to be a hobby for me, but that was never going to happen. They didn’t really totally understand. They wanted me to go to college, which I did, and I’m glad I did. I went to Temple University, majored in Journalism. I had a great time, and I’m so glad I went to Temple because it’s in Philadelphia.
You know, most of my life, with the exception of doing a few talent shows and county fairs in elementary school, I had never performed live. I had such stage fright, I was so shy. I couldn’t even get up in front of my parents and sing at home. So, what I started doing when I went to college, is that I started going to a weekly Blues jam at a club called Warmdaddys. I’d go every Tuesday night, I would take the subway–by myself, was dangerous, looking back I probably shouldn’t have done that–I went every week, even if one week was a disaster, and felt like never going but I kept going. I’m glad I did. I met a lot of musicians there who were really supportive of me, and encouraged me, gave me confidence. And just performing at the Jam I gained more confidence on stage. Every time you hear the applause you gain more confidence in yourself, even if they’re just trying to make you feel good, who know. I met musicians there that helped me record my first demo CD, that I formed my first band with, and my first gig at Warmdaddys. Then I started gigging around the Philadelphia area, but not too much. Then I released my first CD in 2007 and I kind of immediately started touring nationally.
RF: You’re donating all the proceeds from you Christmas single “Shine Down On Us” to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, tell us more about that.
GS: The song’s called “Shine Down On Us” and 100% of the proceeds are going to St. Judes. I’ve been wanting for a while to write and record a Christmas song, so I wrote the song in September and October and it came out November 16. I’ve gotten a great response to it, people seem to be really loving this song, and I’m donating a 100% of the proceeds to St. Judes. Because I think it’s a really amazing place. They help so many families, and they do such ground breaking research and they never turn a child away, regardless of ability to pay. They house families while their children are receiving chemotheraphy. And this is what really ‘Wow’ed me, everyday they have about 22.5 million dollars in expenses, every single day because of everything they do. They have millions and millions of expenses everyday and they are funded almost entirely by charitable donations. I think it’s really unique that the don’t turn anyone away, regardless of their ability to pay or insurance.
RF: The Philadelphia Inquirer is going to list your latest album as one of the top albums of 2011. How does that make you feel?
GS: Yeah, that’s really cool considering how many albums are released each year. And that makes me feel really good because I never really felt that I was embraced by the Philadelphia music community, even though I’m from there. WXPN, I hate to say this, is all about supporting local artists but they don’t really play my music, which is there choice, which is fine, I’m not angry with them, but, I’ve never really felt much love from the Philadelphia community, it’s kind of like, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. But, it makes me feel really good that a major Philadelphia newspaper picked my album as one of the best albums of the year.
RF: Social networks, Facebook, Twitter, is everywhere, helps reach out to fans. How are you using social media to help you?
GS: I’m a computer nerd as it is, I always have been. When I was 10 years old, I was programming computer games. I read C For Dummies and I was writing computer games. So I was always a computer nerd, good with computers. So the Social Media thing, I love being on the Internet, online, it comes naturally to me. I know a lot of artists who didn’t grow up with computers and it doesn’t come as easily to them. But I have a lot of fun with it, I love being on Facebook and Twitter, and just having fun with it, coming up with the most creative ways to get myself out there.
Recently I held a contest. I have a song called “Addicted” and I held a contest called the Addicted Youtube Singing Contest, what people would do, submit their most creative version of my song, and the Grand Prize Winner would make a cameo in my next music video.
I try to do things like that, just to keep myself involved with the fans, interact with my fans the best ways. I have a lot of fun with it.
RF: What are your plans for the future? How do you plan on reaching a larger audience?
GS: My next album, I’m trying to cross over, big time. My next album is going to be Americana-Roots-Country, that’s the direction I’m going in right now. I just want to continue to record music, and I’m not trying to force it because I love Blues and I always will. I love writing Country and singing Country and American music, Roots music, so that’s the direction I see myself going in for the time being. I want to cross over to a larger audience.
RF: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
GS: The Christmas single- you can get it on iTunes, and you can also gift it to people. So there’s a drop down menu where it says buy, it says gift. And you’ll buy the single and you will send it to someone’s email address and that $.99 will be donated to St. Judes on their behalf.
And also I will be touring a lot in 2012, I will have a new CD out, a lot of things are in the works, please sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Twitter, join my Fan Page on Facebook. I always write people back.