Montvale, New Jersey (November 20, 2018) – Parts of this country are overflowing with musical talent and New Jersey is a literal hotbed of talent with a very active music scene. One of those fresh faces is Brianna Musco. A singer-songwriter out in the scene sharing her original songs and re-takes on cover songs. A working musician who is currently in the studio working on her first EP of originals. We were recently in New Jersey and had a chance to catch up with Brianna and talk about her path so far and what she has coming up in the future.
Splice: I’d like to start off by talking about a non-musical accomplishment. You played Division I Soccer for Delaware State University and won league championships. How does that hard work on the soccer field translate to the hard work you put in as a professional singer-songwriter?
Brianna: It definitely translates very easy. I find that especially with athletics, just the life lessons alone, you know. You have to be there early, not on time, but early. You have to put in your maximum effort. So when it translates to the music world where everyone’s a little bit laid back, just the small things – showing up early, already tuned, already knowing your music and knowing what you need to get done in the moment. It definitely will set you apart from some of the other musicians. I find that the athletics have helped me probably more than one would think. It was definitely an honor and a privilege to play Division I soccer especially for Del State. Ending on a win, you can’t really beat that.
Splice: That’s what those things do. They give you the dedication and hard work ethic you need to succeed and can help you get over the top. Also when you were in college I noticed you studied classical guitar.
Brianna: I’m definitely a random person to interview when it comes to what I’ve done in the last couple of years.
Splice: And that’s great. How does classical guitar help out with your playing style of indie/pop rock?
Brianna: My uncle owns a music school so I had free guitar lessons my whole life, which goes along way because we all know lessons get expensive. He studied classical guitar at Montclair University which is a state school in New Jersey. When he would play me classical pieces by Bach, Tárrega, all the really great composers, I would just be mesmerized completely and I wanted to be able to do that. I think it sets me apart from the norm being able to accent certain strings or certain notes with the finger pick. I still love it to this day. I’ll set time apart throughout the week to still practice my classical. I think it’s definitely a good tool to have in my back pocket to use.
Splice: Is there currently anything that you’re working on with your guitar playing that you’re changing up or you’re trying to master?
Brianna: Yes, I know for a fact I will never master the guitar, I don’t think anyone will, but right now I’ve been making a huge swing with electric guitar. It’s gonna sound crazy but the Scorpions guitar player Uli Jon Roth has been a huge influence on me. My professor actually knows him, so we’ve been studying a couple of his pieces – it’s like a puzzle for me trying to hit all those notes in a negative amount of time. The electric guitar right now is what I’ve been focusing on we’re rearranging and re-writing a couple of the songs for the EP that were on my demo. One of the songs Ringling is a typical happy acoustic song and we actually changed the whole thing – it’s more like an angry hard rock song, so you definitely hear a little of bit of that influence in that re-write.
Splice: Yeah, I realize you’re currently in the studio recording your new EP. Is that going to veer away from the acoustic and be mostly electric?
Brianna: I would say a little bit of both. There’s a couple of new songs on it that are definitely acoustic driven but I also wanted to balance it out with getting myself and my bandmates the opportunity to have a little bit more fun on stage with the electric guitar stuff, so It’ll have both flavors in there.
Splice: I am going back to 2017. You released your four-track EP The Demo, which was covers. I know a lot of musicians when starting off do start their career off performing cover songs. You took it one step further and released four tracks of cover songs. Do you have a reason why you decided to release the EP of cover songs first?
Brianna: So I originally did those covers, I studied abroad in Florence for a semester and as soon as I got back I knew that I wanted to do the music thing full-time. So what I did with those covers was I recorded them in my bedroom, all of the instrumentation and all of the vocals, and I was using that project as practice for my originals. Now I do have a feeling that I will be re-releasing those covers… I wouldn’t say correctly, but a little bit more professionally after the (new) EP is out.
Splice: Do you have a title for your new EP yet?
Splice: Where do you get your influences from when you’re writing your music?
Brianna: I definitely get my influences from I would say 70s classic rock, modern day indie, folk, and pop bands. I am a huge James Bay fan. He’s an up-and-coming singer-songwriter and he’s had a couple of hits on the radio. Of course Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift but I always like to say that Stevie Nicks has probably had the biggest influence as far as my songwriting goes. Not as much as my instrumentation, but just lyrically, I think she’s a genius. I’m a huge Alicia Keys fan as well, so I recently took up learning piano just because of that. If you want to hear funny story when I was growing up we’d have to clean on every Sunday morning. I would definitely not look forward to cleaning on Sundays but my mom would blast eighties pop music Whitney Houston all the greats. She would throw Donna Summer on there. Just all of her influences I think subconsciously has given me a little of an eighties pop (influence) especially if you listen to my EP you might hear little bit of it. I always thank her for that. It’s nice to have a nice well rounded music-ology.
Splice: When you write your songs do you write the music first or do you focus on the lyrics first?
Brianna: Honestly, I’ve done both. I find that whenever I do write the lyrics first and then I try to match it up to the music I wind up changing a bunch the lyrics anyway, so I would go as far to say it is music first. The arrangement first and then the lyrics for me.
Splice: So once you get that melody in your head you lay that down?
Brianna: I usually do. I’ll come up with some type of progression or phrase that I like with probably the guitar – that’s usually my go to. Then I will upload that into my loop pedal and I’ll scat sing over it, like melodies. Then I’ll figure out melodies I like that I just scat sing and add words to it that I think will have some type of reaction from the audience.
Splice: That reminds me of a funny story that involves Phil Collins.
Brianna: I love Phil Collins
Splice: When he came up with the song Sussudio, he was just scatting it. He just did it and he couldn’t come up with any words to replace it so that was how that came about, which I thought was pretty unique. I see you have a few tour dates coming up in December and January are you looking to add any?
Brianna: I think we leave the day after Christmas we’re playing DC, Asheville, Nashville, Florida, Atlanta, West Virginia, I think there’s a couple of off days that typically If I were just the guitarist I would say hell yeah, let’s book some more shows. Singing two weeks in a row might not be great, so (we’re not) adding shows, but definitely trying to get as many people out to the shows that we currently have in those areas.
Splice: Now I’m gonna go back to the band. It appears when you started off you were pretty much just a solo singer-songwriter. Were you using background tracks at that time or did you have a band from the get-go?
Brianna: I was definitely not that sophisticated a year ago. I would play every show with just my acoustic guitar and just me singing. I play a Taylor acoustic/electric guitar and I would open for up and coming coming acts that were touring throughout New York City and New Jersey. I actually opened for Robyn Adele Anderson, she sung with Postmodern Jukebox which is an awesome band on YouTube where they’ll take modern pop songs and make them sound like 1920s, 1930s jazz. It’s just me and my acoustic guitar and I’ve got the confidence to perform on stage. When I was able to put a band together, I just have so much fun up there. I don’t have to worry about playing every single little part, they have my back and it’s it’s just so much fun.
Splice: The energy level is probably 10 times more with the full band.
Splice: When the full band is on stage do you expand on the songs that you have already out?
Brianna: What I love about my band is that all of my bandmates are… I wouldn’t say their degrees are in their instrument… my guitarist is actually a hockey broadcaster. They’re all smart enough in a sense that they know whatever the song calls for that’s what they’ll do. No one will ever try to be the “I” in team and try to out-show anybody. Everyone’s always trying to get into the song and my favorite thing to do is to extend a song that somebody might have heard on Spotify, or something of mine, and extend it with solos and slowdowns. Really feel the music for a little bit and not just do what’s exactly on the recording. I think that honestly helps because if they wanted to hear the recording… just listen to it. Why would they come to a show if it’s gonna sound identical.
Splice: Right with a jam band style I guess you would call it, being in the moment, that’s what makes it special. It’s good to see a live show because maybe that’s the only time you will ever hear it that way.
Brianna: Yeah, the Allman Brothers have a huge, huge impact these last couple of months I’ve been nonstop listening to them.
Splice: They’re definitely one of those good ones. I like the fact that you listen to so many different decades and genres and that they have influenced you. One of the things you reminded me of when I listened to you was a little bit of Alanis Morissette.
Brianna: Everyone always says that. That’s the best compliment ever. I love Alanis Morissette
Splice: I think it’s more from your lyrics. And that’s one of the things if we can circle back to your songwriting. When you are writing the lyrics are those from experience or are those from more fantasy type stuff?
Brianna: It’s always genuine I always have a difficult time trying to fake lyrics to a song if I’m not feeling I’ll usually just scrap it. I love Grey’s Anatomy and I’ll watch an episode that’s super depressing. Oh, I’m in a sad mood I can go write, but because it didn’t happen to me, nothing good comes out, but if something happened in my life that was sad. When my grandma passed away a couple years ago that was when I wrote Not Enough which was on the demo which I’m actually currently re-writing right now, piano wise. That one I definitely felt had more of an impact especially if I gotta go on stage and sing these songs, I gotta sell them on the way that I feel them. I definitely feel better writing wise when I’m able to relate to what I’m actually saying
Splice: Do you collaborated any time with anyone when you write your songs?
Brianna: Yeah. There are a couple really good up-and-coming local bands in New Jersey. One is called A Boy Named John, I do writing sessions with that singer. They’re really big on Spotify right now, I’m really proud of them. I’ve done writing sessions with a couple of other friends. One is Dan Amato he’s on Spotify… fantastic singer-songwriter and guitarist. I am always open to making sure the music is as perfect as can be. When it comes to credit I always give credit to who helped me out and it’s just who I am, down to earth and make sure everybody gets credit make sure the music sounds beautiful and make sure everyone that listens to it can relate to it.
Songs from the heart. Relatable and in the moment. That seems the recipe for Brianna’s music. Check out of her current releases, and keep an eye out for her upcoming shows and EP.