her first album of original material
interview and album review
interview and album review © Russell W Elliot 2013
artist photos © Patricia Recourt, et al | used with permission
click on photos below to visit Aria's FaceBook
Last updated: 01 April 2013
Canada's rapidly emerging Aria Tesolin is a classically trained vocalist who began her musical career at a very young age. Her first album was recorded after five years of formal education and was released in 2006 at the age of twelve. Entitled Baby Soprano: Opera Solos, the project is a fourteen track collection of famous pieces.
In 2012, as part of the run up to her new album, Aria delivered a three-track self-titled EP (review) to vast acclaim. She continues to write original material and also participates in the spoken word scene. Read Aria's story in our exclusive interview with her below and be sure to check out our review of Ascension that follows.
Musical Discoveries: What can you tell us Aria about your musical foundations.
Aria Tesolin: I grew up in Mississauga, the suburbs just east of Toronto. It's just far enough away from the city that visiting is no trouble, but you won't get stuck there, unless it's rush hour. It's hard to say exactly when I began singing because I can't remember I time in my life when I was not singing. I gave my first performance to an audience of about fifty or so people when I was only three.
When I was really young, I would watch Disney movies and when the songs came on, I'd sing through them, rewind the tape, and sing through them again. I began to grow interest in pop-classical when my mother played an Andrea Bocelli CD for me at the age of six and I loved it so much that I started dancing around the room. She took me to my first opera when I was seven. It was Bizet's Carmen.
I decided that Carmen was the perfect role for me, and I became determined to learn a recognizable piece entitled "Habanera." I started taking lessons and learned "Habanera," as well as several other opera favourites. I think my Italian background was a huge help, because I never had problems with pronunciation of Italian, or French lyrics, and picked up Spanish and German easily as well. The Italian culture is a very musical one, and although I did not grow up around a lot of my extended family, I can feel the Italy in my roots.
My dad was a talented jazz musician, so I think I got my musical ear from him. When I was twelve, I compiled fourteen tracks of my favourite songs from opera and sang my debut album, Baby Soprano. I'm really glad that my voice was recorded back then, because it has changed slightly since then, and there are not a lot of singers that have the privilege of hearing their younger voice.
What kind of music education have you had?
I've been taking music lessons for over ten years now, and I will continue to do so. I graduated from high school and even took a year of Political Science at University of Toronto. But then I realized that the only thing in my life that can make me truly happy is music. Doing anything else for the rest of my life would just not do, so despite whispers that I should have a back-up plan from friends and other people, I quit school to pursue music, and since I have done that, everything that could possibly come together for me in music has done so, some crazy combination that you get from focus and luck, and I feel happier than ever about my decision. I have no plans to go back to school for the next several years. There is so much to learn outside of school right now. I will definitely continue taking music lessons; you can never really be finished learning music!
What were you doing musically between your first album and last year's EP?
I don't think I was doing a whole lot musically between my first album and my EP. This would have been between the ages of 12-17, and I had a whole lot of becoming-an-adult things to do. I needed to have a fairly normal life at that time. My voice was going through some serious changes during that time as well, so it was best to lay low for a bit.
I also went to an arts high school in their vocal program, which was truly fantastic and a great learning experience for me, I gained knowledge of related arts industries and made friends who were as artsy as me, which is rare for a high school. It was kind of like the show Glee, people would be singing and dancing down the halls at any given time. I'd be washing my hands in the washroom and suddenly ten people would come in to set up a visual arts display.
I also started writing music at this time. A few good songs, and a few terrible songs, and a few songs in between. This is where the songs "The Key" and "Now That I Know" for my EP came from. "Dolce" was written by Popi Fabrizio, a composer from Italy. He sent me the music and I wrote the lyrics and it was a great collaboration.
What artists have influenced the development of your unique vocal style?
I was born with voice that always had a classical sound to it, and my classical training made it more so. I grew up listening to singers like Bocelli and Maria Callas and my vocal style hasn't changed since then; they are always at the back of my mind when I sing.
However, my writing in music comes from very different inspirations. I am a pretty big music nerd. I'm really crazy about cool chord progressions. The Beatles and Radiohead drive me absolutely insane with that stuff. I have to listen to music that has something a little odd about it.
My favourite current bands are Mother Mother and Metric. I'm also huge on the lyric end of things; I'm in love with Elliott Smith, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Conor Oberst, all of them musical poets. They have all had huge influences on my writing style.
How long has the Ascension album been in the works?
The album has literally been in the works for years. Some of the material from the album is about four years old, and some of the songs are just a few months old. Unfortunately, I was busy with school and having trouble with funding for the album. When I quit school to focus on music, all the problems somewhat magically disappeared, and work on the album began almost immediately.
I picked out my best songs, took them to my producer Douglas Romanow and told him the kind of sound I was looking for with each song. He did a outstanding job of interpreting the music as well as my vision for the songs, evolving them into what is now a full length album that we are both very proud of.
How do you go about writing the music and the lyrics?
I write the melody, lyrics, and chord progression for all my songs--except those with music composed by Popi Fabrizio--and occasionally part of the arrangements, usually for piano. I'm pretty stubborn with my music, so I don't think having a co-writer would do anyone any good.
On occasion, a word or two would be changed if my producer and I agreed that it would work better in the song, but this was rare. Douglas would interpret the music based on what I'd say about my vision for the song, and the song itself. He wrote all the arrangements on the album, so that was his role in the writing process.
What influences have you drawn upon from the album's inception to the complete work?
A lot of things: inspiration may come from life, other music, out of mind experiences, or just moments of inspiration. Sometimes I will start with a melody and the lyrics just seem to flow with it at the same time. Sometimes I just write a bunch of lyrics, and often I'll go back to them and pick and choose once I've figured out a new melody or chord progression that I want to use.
Sometimes I'll write half a song and never go back to it, sometimes I'll spend days completing a song, sometimes I'll write the whole thing in an hour. Sometimes I'll go back to one of my half finished songs from years ago and suddenly find the inspiration to finish it. Every song has a really unique process to it.
How would you characterize your music--sound, style, lyrical content--to people that have not heard it?
This is a really tough question to answer because there isn't any artist that I sound quite the same as. My voice is like Amy Lee of Evanescence, but maybe a little more bright and classical. I think my lyrical influences are more in the style of people like Joni Mitchell and Conor Oberst, and my melodies go all over the place.
I think maybe the closest artists all around to me are Corinne Bailey Rae and Fiona Apple. But they're a little more on the jazzy side than I am. So I guess I'd say this album is pop alternative--like easy listening or adult contemporary but with an edge, a little more modern.
How was the team formed that worked with you on this album?
Well I worked with Douglas Romanow, my producer, on my previous EP and had the intention to work with him to create my full length album as well. My mom has continued to be my manager. The rest of my team is made up of my publicists Jessica and Chrissy at GLO Communications, who have done a great job along with my manager at securing interviews, publicity, doing press releases, and getting the word out.
What's involved in managing the image of a young woman in music right now?
I think visual image is a very important thing in the industry, not necessarily in a shallow way, but in terms of memory. I think it serves an artist well when people remember not only their music, but their face. Most people are very visual. If I were to hand someone my business card and say "go listen to my music" I'm not sure that they would be super compelled to do so. But if I give them a great picture to go along with it, the interest level is raised.
What part is social media playing?
Social media is also huge because it allows me to reach an international audience. Unlike a lot of artists, my international audience is significantly larger than my local audience, so I get to keep them updated with what I'm working on, and little sneak peeks into what I'm doing while they await the album launch.
What are your plans to promote the new album?
The CD release party is happening in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel Melody Bar on April 9th, and that will be live streamed internationally through Google Plus. I have several media interviews lined up for the week of the launch, and the week following it. I'll also be releasing a music video for the first track on the album shortly.
What should people attending your live performances expect?
The biggest thing I'd say is don't come with expectations of a normal band set up. I'll rarely do the four-piece band thing. In fact, leave all your expectations at home and just come with an open mind. Sometimes I may want to cover songs that you would not expect me to cover, sometimes I may want to involve poetry in my performances, or an unexpected instrument, or no instruments at all.
In addition to music, what else rocks your world these days?
Music is pretty all-fulfilling in terms of rocking my world, but I'm also really into the Canadian Spoken Word scene. I go to a lot of these things called "Poetry Slams" where some really unique poets compete against other unique poets to win titles, money, mostly glory.
It's a really fast-growing scene right now, and it's fun to be a part of. That's my other love. Last year I was part of the Mississauga Slam Team, and we went to Saskatoon to compete at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. I plan to do the same this year possibly with a new team.
Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
Nope! Ascension, my first album of all original music, is being released on April 9th worldwide!
Aria Tesolin's first album of all-original material is a gorgeous ten-track collection entitled Ascension (Aria Tesolin (Canada), 2013). Best categorized by the artist and our editorial team together as pop-classical, the material includes a range of upbeat, radio-accessible numbers as well as tenderly sung ballads. The album's arrangements are both acoustic and electronic with guitar parts and contrasting orchestral washes.
Aria wrote the lyrics and music except "The Catch (Clarabella)" and "Dolce" where the music was written by Popi Fabrizio. The album was produced by Douglas Romanow (synthesizers and programming). Additional artists contributing to the project included Sharlene Wallace (harp) and Wendy Solomon (cello). The album was financially supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters.
Aria's voice has matured since her Baby Soprano album. While her classical training and vocal range are still apparent, she favors a lower register, soaring to the upper end when the emotions of lyrical passages take her there. Listen for her expert application of vibrato and the ever-so-slight whispiness as well. Enthusiasts will be impressed with the fabulous application of control and restraint that establishes a perfect cadence with the arrangements.
The artist selected two tracks for her 2012 EP to bridge her former work to this new project. The EP featured "Dolce" and "The Key," two of the standouts from the new album. The rich arrangements of "Dolce" perfectly suit Aria's new-found style and perfectly straddle the pop-classical range. The more rhythmic, and perhaps slightly more classical crossover styled "The Key" provides the foundation for Aria to deliver crystalline vocal textures. The 2012 EP included the non-album track "Now That I Know," an easy-listening number that would be right at home in a West End or Broadway musical.
The first video from Ascension will be "My Heart Is A Factory." The industrial-style instrumental arrangement and video set fit perfectly with one another. Aria's layered vocals are aligned with the song's tempo. Written by Popo Fabrizio, "The Catch (Clarabella)" draws on heavier bass lines and crisper percussion to create a pop foundation for the evocative vocal passages.
When asked about the album's title, Aria told us, "This album reflects my progression as an artist. It reflects how important the lyrics are to me and the themes I hold valuable." She continued, "Calling it Ascension was inspired by change, the things that we're supposed to do or the way we're taught to live; essentially 'to rise to a higher level, to rise above all'."
The album's title track "Ascension" is superb! We especially appreciated the chord progressions. Aria self-backs her vocal lead with layers of harmonies sung over very crisp percussion and gentle electronic arrangements. The album's first ballad is "Hear Me," played and delivered in a very Evanescence style. Certain to be one of the album's favorities, it is the track where Aria sounds most like Amy Lee (see interview comments above).
"Nobody Knows"--again demonstrates Aria's tremendous vocal control and restraint--is another one of the album's ballads. Starkly arranged with just keyboard and some light electronic effects especially in the midsection, the song is first and foremost a vocal number. "I'm Already Gone" is a cinematically-styled Sarah Brightmanesque music whose orchestral washes provide a foundation for layers of Aria's powerful and emotive vocal delivery.
The mid-tempo radio friendly pop song "The Apology" is certain to draw widespread attention to the artist. The sharp contrast between the light verse and more thickly arranged chorus works extremely well. The album concludes with a similarly styled song called "In A Dream." The singer's lead vocal is backed with light self-harmonies throughout, again controlled and restrained in the verse but this time less so in the chorus. Listen for the vocalise within the arrangements in the latter third of the song. We wonder how these two tracks especially would sound if performed at a faster tempo. What does Aria sound like when she really lets loose?
Aria Tesolin's first album of all-original music is a tremendous re-introduction of her tremendous talent to the world audience. Visit her website for audio tracks, videos and additional background. With a mature style that is certain to draw additional critical acclaim, the singer songwriter has delivered a ten-track offering that will appeal to a wide audience. Bravo!
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