Talk about spunk for the business – Lauren Ianuzzi is a lot more than you might see on her web site or myspace page. This girl has life! And optimism! The kind of lady who could bring you up any time you’re feeling down. The Jersey girl packs a lot of punch in her little person – using a booming and commanding voice to exercise her musical craft – the kind of power comparable to artists like Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey.
While the upbeat pop star may have an amazing voice, she’s also a classically trained pianist and saxophonist – so she knows the melodies need more than an angelic voice. She says that music “requires a pretty advanced knowledge of theory and harmony — plus a great ear, of course. For that, I’m glad I was classically trained, so I really got to understand the mechanics of chord progressions.” If you’re looking for a shining example of Ianuzzi in action, pick up her latest release, “A Funk I Won’t Forget.” She says “It’s got some James Brown in there, a twisted take on swing, some almost psychedelic funky rock. It’s hooky, it’s ballsy, it’s sexy, and it’s smart!” I like it!
Some readers out there may be thinking that Lauren Ianuzzi is simply stepping into the do-wop sound that made such a comeback not too long ago… but it’s more than that. The best place to see for yourself is at the live show. Ianuzzi allows for experimentation up on stage, bringing a different perspective every time. She isn’t shy about experimenting with her outfits either. So check out a show for sure – she’ll be at The Annex on December 10th. The EP will be out next year, so check that out too and get into the XXQ’s below for more.
XXQs: Lauren Ianuzzi
PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us why Lauren Ianuzzi is going to make a huge impact on today’s music scene.
Lauren Ianuzzi (LI): Because I’m nothing like anyone else! I’ve got a soul/R&B voice, but my lyrical style is more in the Billy Joel vein. I throw in the funk, but there’s also rock, blues, and jazz. Take that, put it all under a Pop umbrella (ella, ella), add a dash of musical theatre, and you’ve got a brand-new treat for your ears! Plus, I’m really committed to killing it at my live shows; so many artists try to come out guns blazing with a hot studio album, and then cannot deliver when they get up on stage without the AutoTune and the vocal stacking. I’m not like that; live shows are my meat and potatoes.
PEV: A proud Jersey girl, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?
LI: I had a really great mix! My dad loves rock and Sinatra, and my mom loves soul and 60s/70s folk, so I had every side of the spectrum covered. As I got older, I went through a pop diva phase (Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey) and a hard rock phase (Korn, Foo Fighters, Incubus). Right before I started writing songs, I got really into Ben Folds Five and Prince.
PEV: You’ve said, “I was a band nerd and I was in all the choirs. I was in every single music thing I could possibly be in and more.” With that, was there a certain point when you realized that music was going to be career for you?
LI: I spent all this time and effort getting into a really tough college, and during my first week there I wrote my first bunch of songs; I knew I was on to something. That same week, there was a Freshman Orientation open mic, and I decided to sing a song from RENT. I was definitely green at that time, but I still really impressed all the kids (including upperclassmen!) there. I was immediately known on the very small campus as “that tiny girl with the really big voice.” I realized that this was my calling: to perform and write songs. I felt bad, because even though I was happy to be at school, I really wanted to just hit the streets of NYC and start working on it ASAP!
PEV: A classically trained pianist and saxophonist, you definitely bring a different style to the scene. How has the background influenced your sound?
LI: Some people think pop music is brainless, but in the cases of the great pop songwriters (Carole King, Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Prince), it requires a pretty advanced knowledge of theory and harmony — plus a great ear, of course. For that, I’m glad I was classically trained, so I really got to understand the mechanics of chord progressions. I’m also glad I stayed in college, because I was really put through the wringer in hard music theory courses. I got horrible grades (and music was my major!) because I was always distracted by my own material and barely did homework, but I really did learn a lot, and theory almost always informs my songwriting.
PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country? The struggles, the lessons learned, etc.?
LI: It’s always a struggle. There’s always a new challenge and a new obstacle. I almost feel like it was easier before the gigs, press, etc, because there were no expectations! Now I’m always getting hungrier, wanting to play more and more, wanting to reach bigger and bigger audiences. It’s just a matter of keeping one’s head up and realizing that making it in music takes time and an unbelievably huge amount of effort. But I’m in it to win it!
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Lauren Ianuzzi show?
LI: It’s different every time. I love to mess around with different cover songs, see how I can engage people with new arrangements and surprises. I also really like to feature my band, because they’re so talented and really instinctive with their choices. I bring them a song, and I just say “Okay, here are the charts, now just put your flavor into the song.” In the show you can really feel each of them bringing an individuality to it. Visually, my show is fun because I’m always wearing something really over-the-top: sparkly leggings, glitter, teased hair and huge heels. At the last show I wore this ridiculous velvet bustier. It’s the only time I can get away with stuff like that!
PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?
LI: Musically and vocally, we are all WAY tighter. I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve really found my voice (figuratively) as a frontwoman: sassy, free-spirited, and a little naughty! And now I add fun breakdowns and audience participation into the set, and it feels really natural to me. I’m also way more confident behind the keyboard. In terms of arrangements, I’ve varied the songs a lot more. I gave a reggae feel to the song “Man-Boy” where it used to be just a plain jazzy pop song. Crowds have especially responded to that change.
PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure…
LI: At the last show, there was a guy there that I met on an Internet dating site. I know, cheesy — that kind of thing isn’t for me, I don’t think. Anyway, he seemed really cool when we talked on the phone. I invited him to the show, and when we met, for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. Usually the band and I go out after our shows, so I just ditched him and we went to dinner; the guys were ripping on me for it! The dude called me a few days later and I never responded. I hope he isn’t reading this…
PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?
LI: Hard question! I could answer it like a fantasy question, and then I’d probably say Prince or Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters. But if I answered it like “Who is your more established indie counterpart?” I’d say the funk band Lettuce. They’ve never had a chick singer — I’ve seen them enough times to know I can handle it! Lettuce, if you’re out there — give me a chance, boys! Or just let me open for you!
PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?
LI: There’s this guy Sam Sparro – he’s from Australia -, and he does this awesome variation on funky dance/pop. Listening to his album is like doing 3 Kamikaze shots, eating a slice of pizza, and then meeting Morris Day and the Time in an American Apparel store. Does that make sense? Anyway, he’s got a really warm soulful voice, and his song “Clingwrap” is absolute pop genius. I ordered his CD from the UK because it isn’t out in stores yet!
PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your latest release, “A Funk I Won’t Forget”? How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?
LI: I’ve finally found my sound. Some of my older demos are more pop or more urban or more generic. This is completely me; I’ve been on top of the production, helping make changes and make creative choices.
PEV: How is “A Funk I Won’t Forget” different from other music out today?
LI: It’s “old soul” without being retro. I admire and respect all the girls coming out with the 60s-inspired doo-wop girl-group material, but my EP isn’t that same kind of thing. It’s got some James Brown in there, a twisted take on swing, some almost psychedelic funky rock. It’s hooky, it’s ballsy, it’s sexy, and it’s smart!
PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?
LI: Depends on the song. Sometimes I write an entire song in the shower and then figure out the chords later. Other times I’m in front of my computer, actually typing and singing. Then, there are the times when I’m just playing around on the piano and I find a good feel. Next I want to try writing something with my band!
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Lauren Ianuzzi?
LI: Onstage I look very confident and sultry, and around my best friends I’m really out there, but in many ways I’m still that shy band-geek book nerd.
PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? What is it like for you when you get to go home?
LI: I live at home! They’re used to me. I’m just Lauren who hustles with a bunch of day jobs and happens to do music too. But everyone believes in me; I feel really lucky to have a great support system around me. I’ll never grow a big head as long as I’ve got my closest friends and my fam by my side.
PEV: When you are not touring and performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?
LI: Babysitting; cleaning up messy babies. Working at a restaurant. College essay consulting. Whatever I can get, really! I’m also looking to become a published songwriter and write for commercials and for other artists.
PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts? Any fun stories? Or favorite hang outs along the way?
LI: I’ve really been mostly performing in NYC. When we did a show in Connecticut this year, though, that was pretty crazy/fun. I had to pick everyone up — in Queens, in the Bronx, just all over the place. My car was filled to the top with gear because the place had no backline; I couldn’t see out the back at all while I drove. My band spent the entire ride talking about government conspiracies, ha ha! We got there like 5 or 6 hours early so we just walked around the town looking for food — the entire time, I was in full costume with heavy eye makeup, skin-tight leggings, and heels! We hung out and hung out all night until midnight, when we finally went on. I drove everyone home to my house at 2am. We sat outside in my backyard for 2 hours and then my band slept in the basement. They ate all of my secret candy stash, and in the morning we all ate bagels and drank coffee, courtesy of Mama Ianuzzi. It was great bonding! Definitely not a badass rawk story, but I’m sure we’ll have one of those eventually.
PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?
LI: Well, I’ve always loved Philly soul. I’ve never played there, but I know we were meant for each other and someday I’ll get there.
PEV: Saturday Night Live calls and asks you to be their musical guest, who would be your dream host for the show?
LI: Wow! Great question. Well, if I can’t do both, I’d have to say Jason Segel. Hilarious; great writer; great comic timing. He wrote a puppet musical when he was 22 and is now single-handedly bringing back The Muppets. Plus he’s dreamy. Need I say more?
PEV: So, what’s next for Lauren Ianuzzi?
LI: More of the same — playing out, my December 10 show at The Annex (www.theannexnyc.com), releasing my EP in 2009 (looking like Spring or Summer), updating my blog (http://laurenianuzzi.blogspot.com), and going wherever the industry takes me! I’m also going to be on late-night network TV in December — Fearless Music TV on FOX. Be sure to check out my sites for info on that, because if people vote for me and the band, they will air a second clip of us playing one of my original songs!