Alicia Romano: Musical Magician
By Sara Fincham
I got sent an e-vite to a cd release show by a familiar friend. In an attempt to be an accountable acquaintance I accepted with no real aim at actually having the time to attend. I already had prior plans for that particular Friday and frankly was frustrated dealing with the detours and persistently ending up at the wrong place in Pittsburgh. However, being fanatic about folk music and realizing that if I rearranged my schedule I could really be reliable about my e-vite, I went to Alicia Romano’s cd release show.
When I walked in the door at Club Café I couldn’t find a couch or table that wasn’t taken. The place was packed with polite patrons including Alicia’s parents. I had just missed the special guest, Ben Alper, but got there just in time to be bewitched by Alicia and her band – Amanda Keenan on drums and Julie Van Wassen on guitar. The show was hexing and hypnotizing, merry and magical.
Following up her first cd “Happiness Is…” with her spellbinding second, self-titled selection, Alicia Romano sung, strummed and celebrated. She banged on the drums and bantered. Before playing a song she wrote for her mother she jokingly jested that her mom couldn’t make it because she “had better things to do tonight,” before pointing her out in the captivated crowd. Her songs were sometimes silly, but always insightful, sometimes humorous but always honest, and always accurate and alluring. Alicia Romano was a musical musician and I was amazed at every single song that she pulled out of her hat.
Sara Fincham: Is humor inevitably a part of your performances, because of your personality, something that finds it way into your folk songs, or do you specifically try to balance the intensity with some silliness?
Alicia Romano: Humor is part of my personality. I crack jokes when I’m feeling uncomfortable and I have terrible stage fright so needless to say my performances can be quite humorous.
SF: Being such an honest songwriter, do you ever censor yourself – do you ever think ‘well when the person who this song is about hears this, they will know it’s about them, and so I should alter it to avoid repercussions’ or is it more like ‘this is how I felt/feel and I’m not changing it?’ I guess the question is, when you write, whose feelings do you take into consideration more – yours or others?
AR: I write about whatever it is I’m going through at the time. I am more inspired by happiness than sadness so if I’m writing about someone in particular it’s typically about the happiness that person brings into my life. Nothing to be offended about there.
SF: Why did you decide to make this cd self-titled?
AR: I decided to self title the CD for the fact that my name encompasses all that this disc is about.
SF: You were so entertaining! How many instruments do you play, or did you just incorporate the drums and other noisemakers solely for this show (P.S. – when you’re counting how many instruments you play, your own lips definitely count as an instrument, just f.y.i.!)?
AR: I really only just sing and play the guitar. Oh and the mouth trumpet! I incorporated the kazoo into “Buds in June” by accident. I meant to fill in space for a guitar solo, but that solo never got written and the kazoo was fun to play!
As far as the drums I like to pretend I know how to play. I secretly wish I were a drummer (no longer a secret now). I never played drums for an audience until the release show. I figured it’s my show I can do whatever I want! I’m no drummer. I did in fact play all the drums on the album. That’s as good as I get!
SF: When did you realize that although music may not be something you can make a career out of, that it also was something you weren’t going to give up?
AR: I come from a musical family. I have always been surrounded by musicians so it only made sense to get involved. I never planned on making a career out of it. It has always been my way of expressing myself and I am grateful that sometimes people listen and buy a CD every now and again. I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon. Unless of course Ani calls me up and asks me to join her record label and go on tour. Wait…what was the question?
SF: How much time do you take to revel in the new release before you’re back with the band brainstorming new material? You played one new song at the release show, already!
AR: It actually takes me a really long time to write music. Some people can sit down and crank out 8-10 songs like THAT! I can unfortunately be pretty self critical so it takes me longer than I’d like. My first album came out in 2007. Hopefully the next one won’t take so long!
SF: What does it add to your show – to be backed by a band, and do they just play with you for special occasions?
AR: I love playing with a band! You can’t beat the energy it adds to a performance. I also never wanted to have to rely on others to play so I write music I can perform solo as well. I am so grateful for Amanda (drums) and Julie (guitar). They learned many songs in a very short amount of time all because I asked them to. They are great musicians and great friends. You’ll be seeing us again in one combination or other.