Alot of fun really….it’s the kind of song that makes you feel good….there’s a lightness to it despite the struggle with expression….. it’s like taking the struggle all in stride and dancing through life anyway…
by Jaysen Gold / ImoveiLive.com
New York, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh meet on “All This Time,” the first full length release from Carla Bianco. A New York University graduate, Carla has two top ten Billboard Dance singles to her credit (one of which went number one), several Broadway musicals under her belt and enough dance know how to open her very own dance school in Pittsburgh (the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School to be exact). Disney even took notice of Carla when they decided to workshop a musical that she penned called Kaleidoscope. What’s left for Carla? A full length album.
All This Time boasts 14 tracks that showcase Carla’s deep alto, Madonna esque vocal. “Words are in the Way,” is an upbeat Sara Bareilles type tune that kicks the album off. The song, like most of the mid to uptempo songs on the album manage to show lyrical depth while remaining lighthearted melodically. The album concludes with its most powerful contribution, “Can’t Call You Love Anymore.” In the song, the main character is coming to grips with the fact that the man she loved no longer loves her. Carla showcases her vocal range and ability to sing a story in the album’s finale tune.
Carla Bianco has spent the last few years almost achieving success. There are a host of bright points on her resume … a stint in RENT, vocals on a song for a major Disney movie, and an ASCAP award-by-proxy for a club cover of one of her songs that became a hit. Now, rather than waiting for success to come to her, she’s reaching out for it herself with her new album All This Time. She brings a lot to the table and perhaps it’s not surprising that personal growth and moving onwards are key themes in her music.
“Two months after transferring to NYU, I remembered someone telling me that Jellybean Benitez was always looking for new talent. He was a the producer that discovered Madonna. It was Spring break and I had no money to go anywhere. So I decided to find out where Jellybean’s office was and I waited outside for 3 days. I sat on a pipe on Broadway and 57th street.
I made friends with the Security Guard in the lobby. Claude was his name. He told me Jellybean usually came in around 11 and always wore a black suit and white tennis shoes. The third day came and this guy was bee-bopping down the street and smiles at me. I look at his shoes. White tennis shoes and then I see the black suit. I run in after him into the marble lobby and yell ‘Jellybean’. And it echoes and echoes… He turns around and I say, “Hi, my name is Carla Bianco. I’ve been waiting for you for 3 days. Can I have 10 minutes of your time so I can show you what I can do?” And he stares at me, and finally makes a gesture to come with him.
We go up in the elevator to his office and I sit at the piano and play a song I wrote. I give him my demo. And a week later he calls me to his office and offers me a publishing deal, a management deal, a production deal and for one of my songs to be on his next record. That’s how I broke into the music business. I guess growing up in Monaca, PA proved to be the motivation I needed to go after my dreams.”
Bianco performs very straightforward piano-led singer-songwriter material, although she’s often backed up by adult-contemporary or rock elements. Her experience shines through, with a wide range of delivery. Carla Bianco is the star of this show, and that’s the point.
Words Are In The Way is one of the standouts of the album, a forward-reaching bit of mostly acoustic pop, lamenting the difficulty in communicating when meaning seems so uncertain. It starts out with a cute echoplex introduction before Bianco’s lilting voice comes in. There’s a great bit of patter part way through that works perfectly with the theme, making for a sweet surprise in the middle.
“At school, I looked for every avenue I could to sing like the occasional talent show or school musical. I remember specifically my health teacher in high school. I was talking to some friends telling them about wanting to move to NY and making it in music. And he overheard and said, “That would never happen, it’s a one in a million shot.” And I said, “Why can’t I be that one in a million?” I’d never been to New York before growing up. I honestly thought Broadway was a street paved in gold”.
Bianco’s music reflects some of that naiveté and may at times border on being overly sweet, but she delves into the darker spaces as well. Can’t Call You Anymore is a soulful piece presenting a woman who’s been dumped and is facing the certainty of change with fear. Spare Window takes this one step further, starting out with sparse echo drenched production that feels almost like haunted house piano music, before slowly building to a bright finale as she appears to realize her dark omens may not be dark after all.
Bianco’s sound is polished, straightforward, and practically perfect for the adult-contemporary market. She also has some potential for pop crossover with her more upbeat pieces, especially Words Are In The Way. However, her traditionalism may also hold her back: Carla Bianco’s performance and appeal are subtle, and that type of goodness is often hard to get recognized.
She has a powerful voice and good songwriting skills, complete with evocative lyrics. Carla’s got it all, but might need a bit more razzle-dazzle to get herself noticed.
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Carla Bianco stumbled upon one of her first gigs as a four year old, singing “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John for a woman who used to trade her brownies for songs, along with a room of adults at a neighborhood party. The result was one happy four year old and a Styrofoam cup full of change.
“I remember being four, holding that Styrofoam cup of money, walking up the hill back to my house thinking this is cool.”
Since then, Carla has enjoyed a single’s deal with RCA Records, a demo deal with MCA records, and a 6-album deal with the soon-to-be defunct Savage Records. Her song “The Lover That You Are” was covered by Pulse and shot to #1 on the Billboard Dance Charts, also winning an ASCAP award. Other Billboard Top Ten hits of Ms. Bianco’s include the single, “Music Takes You.” Carla is also the writer of “Kaleidoscope,” a semi autobiographical musical that was chosen to workshop in LA with director, Craig Carnelia/Stephen Schwartz. Other accomplishments include originating the role of Wendla in Spring Awakening, working with Duncan Sheik in its early stages. In LA, she landed the role of Maureen in the Tony award-winning musical “Rent” in the West Coast Premiere and later on Broadway. In an effort to give back to her hometown of Pittsburgh , Carla helped found a new performing arts school, the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School. Most recently, however, Carla has created her most personal work to date, the album entitled “All This Time.”
I had the opportunity to sit down with Carla and hear her accomplishments, advice, and goals for the future first hand. I was inspired by the natural way in which she works, starting off from a place of gratuity and then, simply following her intuition. “I start my day with, first of all, just being grateful,” said the singer. And then from there, she finds her inspiration. As for the rest of the day, “especially since I have my son, I definitely feel like I manage my time like I have ADD; it’s very sporadic. You know? I’ll write lyrics for twenty minutes, and then I’ll do some business. Thank god for internet on the phone now because I’ll do so much that way while he’s watching Mickey Mouse on the TV or something. A lot of multi tasking for sure.”
With a lot on her plate, Carla tries to break up her day, moving from this task to that task, to her career, to her family. “I try to follow my intuition throughout the day. It’s as simple as ya know when you’re hungry or you’re thirsty, you go grab some water, grab some food. I want to open my journal. I want to grab a pen. Then all of a sudden I’m writing. And it ends up being the kind of day that makes me feel good. To say I just followed my intuition. I just followed my heart.”
In her pursuit of living a balanced life, Carla’s innate proneness to following intuition each day coincides with her greater philosophies about her career and life in general. “You can’t ignore a talent that’s been given to you or a passion that’s been given to you. I believe you have the right to follow it … not even a right … a purpose … we have to. You know? We have to.”
So what happens when someone follows this passion their given? We spoke about the difference between working in the arts as opposed to working in any other typical industry. “I just think it’s a little different,” explains Carla, ““Art is life and life is art. You have to live it. You can’t just clock out at five o clock; I think that that’s what makes it really different from other jobs.” So in a job that takes everything out of you with no time to relax, what’s Carla’s best advice?
“Go the extra mile. How can you go a little further in the work? Peel that onion even more. When you think you’ve got it, what else can you do? Even going the extra mile past your fears. If you say, I can’t do this because of this reason, check yourself too. Maybe say, well what if that’s not true?”
Bianco certainly had some words of wisdom to share for aspiring musicians and artists, but looking back, what would she have told her old self?
“I don’t regret that but I think there were times I would have liked to stay on course even more. But that’s me I always feel like I could do more, I could be better I could be greater. I’m still trying to write that one great song, ya know? I think … I hope I don’t go to my grave still feeling like that but I think I will.”
“Is there something you regret?” I asked.
“There were times where I would move away from writing and maybe focus more on acting and performance. Well what would I have written if I had been writing during those years?”
However, “Trust your process,” ensured Carla, “Shifts happen for a reason. Sometimes you come all the way around again. It’s amazing how many circles you make in your lifetime. You come around and you get another shot at something with so much more experience and more discoveries about who you are.”
PITTSBURGH — Carla Bianco sang and danced in Broadway hits, though it took a beach vacation to spark the Center Township native’s debut CD.
“While vacationing with my husband in the Outer Banks, I became wildly inspired and started writing like mad every day we were there,” Bianco, now a Moon Township resident, said. “I came back pregnant with my son and with a slew of new songs ready to get back in the studio. I got back to my passion of writing again and got back in touch with my dreams.”
Those passions and dreams are conveyed in “All This Time,” her piano-pop/adult contemporary CD in the vein of Sara Bareilles or Colbie Caillat. Bianco will introduce the album Thursday with a CD release show at the Club at Stage AE in Pittsburgh.
It’s the culmination of a longtime dream for Bianco, who had pushed aside her recording aspirations to perform in Broadway’s cutting-edge musical “Spring Awakening” and to play the flirtatious Maureen in the Los Angeles run of the Tony-winning “Rent.”
Bianco explains more in this Q&A:
Q: How does singing your own songs in an intimate nightclub compare with the thrill of performing in a hit Broadway musical?
A: Well, to me it’s the difference between creating something from the truest place inside yourself and reaching out into the unknown and seeing how it touches others, compared to being part of something great that is already widely embraced. They are both very exciting and thrilling in their own respects. The first night I opened in “Rent” I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is amazing. I just showed up to the theater and performed this riveting material somebody else wrote, and these people are on their feet.’
I was glad to perform another composer’s sweat and tears. And I was lucky in that “Rent” spoke to me directly so I could be inside the work and live it like I would something I had written. But I’m happy to be home doing what is closest to home for me, and that’s singing my own songs.
Q: What were some of the lyrical inspirations for your “All This Time” CD?
A: I had closed the book on my recording artist aspirations for a long time. It was not the right timing I guess. I thought maybe that book was buried away somewhere never to be found again.
But weeks before I got pregnant with my son, Luca, I guess the creative channels opened allowing new life to grow literally and spiritually. And I got back to my passion of writing again and got back in touch with my dreams. You know the kinds of things that you think have passed you by in life … that maybe it’s too late. I got honest with myself about still wanting something, about the hurts from the past that buried it in the first place and got right back in the center of it again and wrote from that true personal space.
Q: On the lead-off track, “Words are in the Way,” our tongue-tied heroine tries to muster the courage to boldly tell a potential love interest “All I want to do is you.” What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever told someone?
A: After two months of living in New York, I realized it was going to be a hard slow climb making it in music. So on my spring break from NYU and with no money to go anywhere, I decided I would wait outside of Jellybean Benitez’s office. Jellybean is the music producer that discovered Madonna. I figured he would eventually have to go to work and I’d introduce myself.
I only had a distant photo of him to know what he looked like. So on the first day, I waited outside of Broadway and 57th Street saying the name “Jellybean” to anyone that remotely looked like the photo I had.
By the second day, I went into the lobby and made friends with Claude, the security guard. He told me Jellybean wore a black suit and white tennis shoes and came in around 11 a.m.
By the third day, a man walked down the street and smiled at me. I look down and see the white tennis shoes and look up and see the black suit. I run in after him into the marble lobby and yell “Jellybean,” my voice echoing. He turns around and I say “Hi, my name is Carla Bianco. I’ve been waiting for you for three days. Can I have 10 minutes of your time so I can show you what I can do?”
He gestures for me to go up the elevator to his office with him and I play a song I wrote and give him my demo. A week later, he offers me publishing, production and management deals and puts one of my songs on his next record. And that’s how I broke into the music biz.
Q: On “After All This Time,” you sing about being a walking contradiction; a grown woman who still feels like a child. What’s one absolute, 100 percent certainty you can promise people coming to your CD release show Thursday at the Club at Stage AE?
A: You will see something rare … Someone fulfilling a lifelong dream. You will absolutely feel something special, something inspired. You will leave the show a little different than when you came in, maybe even a lot different. Your perspective will shift. Your world will move a bit. You may even decide to do what you’d never thought you’d do. You may even feel inspired to entertain a dream that once was discarded.
Q: You are director of arts education outreach at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland. Will any of your talented colleagues from there be backing you in concert?
A: No, not this time. I have been working with Rob Deaner, my producer and owner of Market Street Sound in Pittsburgh on this record for the past 2-1/2 years. As music director, Rob rounded up a few of his colleagues to be part of my band. And they absolutely rock. Oh, there’s another absolute.
But I agree with you that there is certainly a ton of talent down at Lincoln Park, faculty and students included. It’s been wonderful to be able to give back to the community where I’m from and help start such a great performing arts center and school.
Carla Bianco played her first gig when she was 4: a neighbor’s party, where guests put money in a Styrofoam cup after hearing her perform. On Thursday, she’ll be playing at her own release party at Stage AE — it seems like destiny.
Ms. Bianco of Moon, a graduate of Center High School in Beaver County, will be celebrating the release of her CD “All This Time.” A disciple of the piano, Ms. Bianco hit it big as a member of Broadway’s “Spring Awakening,” in which she originated the role of Wendla, and as Maureen in “Rent.”
Acting and singing “are both exciting, and thrilling in their own respects,” Ms. Bianco said. “It was awesome, of course, to be playing Broadway, because — it’s Broadway — and singing material that was written by another composer. Where with the material I’m writing, it’s a little bit of reaching out to the unknown and seeing how it lands. It’s something that means something to me, that’s an expression of whatever I’m going through during this time. It’s seeing how that is going to reach people, if it’s going to move people, and how it speaks to them.”
“All This Time,” her first full-length release, is a piano-driven production with pop sensibilities, rising from the peppy first track “Words Are in the Way” and subduing to the powerful, somber “Lean Into You.” All throughout, Ms. Bianco’s devotion to her instrument — the piano — is plain to see.
“I would spend hours and hours every night in the basement with my piano,” said Ms. Bianco, describing her beginnings in playing it. “I’d do my homework really quick, and then I’d go downstairs and I just lived in my imaginary world, writing my songs. That’s where I’m happiest. ”
Her show Thursday should be a new, exciting experience — both for the fans, and the singer herself. But most of all, Ms. Bianco is excited to finally share her passion with an audience that’s come to see her.
“I’m really excited to finally put out my music,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming, and recording the CD and putting the CD out.”
Regardless, her career is clearly on the rise. Perhaps she will grace Stage AE once again.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 day of show.
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