Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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GIANNA: Diva Diverse

Gianna Gianna Gianna Gianna

Blending the emotional melodics of quality soul/R&B with the subtle, gentle tones of smooth jazz, âSomething Trueâ - the classy debut album from Texas-based singer/songwriter Gianna Welling - has unquestionably emerged as one of 2009âs best-received releases within todayâs ever-discerning modern soul fraternity.

Produced by Kloud 9 member Kendall Duffie and largely penned by Gianna herself (frequently alongside Kendall), the well-balanced set boasts appearances from such respected musicians as saxophonist Donald Hayes (Stevie Wonder/ Chaka Khan) and pianist Roger Ryan (Take 6/CeCe Winans) on songs ranging from the lilting, summery title track and life-reassessing ballad âLegacyâ; to the brassy funk of âThings That I Doâ and driving, soulful house groove of âOne Step Closerâ. All of which prompts an audibly-excited Ms. Welling to call Pete Lewis from her Houston home for a breezy introductory chat.

âWell, I was initially raised on jazz. So my instinct, as a vocalist, is naturally to have more of a jazz feelâ, she begins: âSo, when I started writing my own material, I wanted my songs to have a contemporary jazz flavour, but at the same time have that UK soul sound. Because, with me having had the privilege of travelling to Europe and spending a lot of time in the UK when I was younger, that was also a sound that I grew to love. You know, when I was in London Iâd always search for the newest cassette tapes that werenât available in The States at that time. And my ear was naturally drawn towards the more contemporary jazz stuff like Swing Out Sister and Basia, as well as more soulful acts like Incognito, Sade and Lisa Stansfield. So basically what youâre actually hearing on my album is just a mix of that European sound influenced, of course, by the American jazz sound.â

Meanwhile, it was interestingly through her love of UK soul that Gianna also hooked-up with her albumâs producer Kendall Duffie. Who, alongside twin-brother Kelvis, makes up seasoned US contemporary soul duo Kloud 9: âYeah with me having been a big Incognito fan for years, when I discovered that Kloud 9 was associated with Incognito, I tracked them down on MySpace and straightaway just fell in love with their musicâ, she relates: âYou know, to me their music was so soulful and smooth, while at the same time very uplifting and positive. So, with there being nobody locally in Houston that really quite understood the vision I had for my own music, when I realised Kloud 9 were based in Nashville, Tennessee - which was easy for me to get to - I just sent an e-mail, and we started communicating.â

âThen, once theyâd heard some of my music, Kelvis set up a meeting for me with Kendall - and instantly it was just a musical match made in Heaven!â, she gushes: âKendall IMMEDIATELY knew where I was trying to go, and so he was really able to help me bring out my own sound. You know, Iâd bring to him the lyrics and a melody; heâd compose all the beautiful music to go underneath it⦠And whatâs wonderful about this whole project is that, not only have I ended up with a really great album, but Iâve also made two really great FRIENDS! Which is a real blessing.â

Indeed, it was actually Nashville where - as a teenager - Gianna took her first steps to becoming a professional musician: âMy childhood was actually spent in Tulsa, Oklahoma - which is one State north of Texas - before I moved to Houston, where the jazz scene started to influence me a great deal. But yeah, it was actually Nashville, Tennessee where, at 18, I had my first professional gigâ, she recalls: âAt the time I was going to Belmont University there, which is a very well-known school for music. And, with many of the professors actually being working musicians themselves, theyâd actually call on their students to do studio gigs and stuff with them. So, with this being Nashville, I was fortunate enough to sing background vocals and do various TV appearances with a lot of country artists⦠Then, with my dad - alongside his oil business - also being a concert promoter and my brothers going on to pursue professional careers in music, I guess it was only natural that I should follow in their footsteps by choosing a career in music too.â

Gianna meanwhile concludes our brightânâbreezy 20-minute chat by revealing her interesting - and potentially controversial - feelings about todayâs soul music scene in The States: âThe soul community in the United States is more underground. Itâs definitely not as popular as it is in the UK and all over Europeâ, she observes honestly: âPlus another problem - and Iâm actually a bit nervous about saying this - is that Iâve also found it can be a bit discriminating RACIALLY over here. You know, there just arenât that many Caucasian soul artists in the United States. Whereas in the UK - and all over Europe - the scene doesnât seem to SEE any colour. You know, no matter what colour your skin is, or what neighbourhood you grew up in, itâs all about the SOUL and itâs all about the MUSIC! Which is why you have artists like Amy Winehouse.â

âBut, while that is an issue I am very sensitive to, l am also hopeful that maybe that side of things will changeâ, she adds positively: âBecause here in The States we do now have things like The International Soul Music Summit, which is held in Atlanta, Georgia at the end of September. Itâs actually put on by a good friend of mine, and I think heâs definitely creating a place and an event where all the soul artists can come together and realise that, at the end of the day, it is about the MUSIC - and that everybody involved has one goal.â

The album âSomething Trueâ is out now through Expansion Records

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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