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Let me tell you a little story. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, the second-eldest of four kids in a boisterous Italian-American family. We were two boys and two girls, and because we were four, we made a perfect team when it came to playing games and sports. So, from an early age, I learned how to be a good “team player.”
But what I found out the hard way is that when you start to play in the adult world, you aren’t always recognized for your work. You aren’t always given the same respect or opportunities as your male counterparts, even though you’re doing the same quality work. That “team player” ideal is really just an illusion when you’re on a less-than-level playing field.
I can recall going into the studio many times with songs to record and feeling like someone else took over my session -- making artistic decisions about my work when, had I been a different gender, the treatment might have been different. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and learned how to produce and engineer so I could guide my own art and make my own musical decisions. Turns out, that has been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. Now, more than ever, being a songwriter or artist means having to be self-motivated and willing to stick your neck out to get where you want to go. You might have a team, but you have to have your own skin in the game. You can’t just dream about it – you have to be willing to go out there and DO it, whatever “it” requires.
I was really inspired by the Women’s March in 2017. For the first time in a long time, it felt like women collectively were saying, “We’ve had enough already. We aren’t going to let things stay the same.” It’s time to come together and DO something about it, rather than just keep dreaming about it. Change can be so slow, but it does come. And for me, the best way I know to influence hearts and minds and do my part to initiate change is through what I love and know the most about: Music.
I named my new solo project FELICE for a few reasons.
First, it’s my middle name and my mom’s surname. I have a great sense of pride in carrying the name that came to this country by way of my Italian grandfather, Joe Felice. One of 12 kids in his family, he did like a lot of immigrants at that time: worked hard to create a better life for himself and his 11 other siblings. He eventually brought his entire family over and built a whole new life in the United States. So, FELICE keeps me connected with my roots.
Second, the word “felice” means “happy” in Italian. Something I am and always strive to remain. I take no pride or comfort in being a “tortured artist.”
But third, and most important, is that creatively speaking, this project is the fullest expression of myself. It gives voice to my truth, musically and lyrically. It is informed by my deepest musical influences, what I have figured out in life, and what I stand for as a human being. FELICE is my soul’s essence.
In a departure from my typical creative process, I opted not to bring in any co-writers for the songs on FELICE. I needed to speak on my own as a songwriter, as a producer, and as a woman. And though there are definite advantages to co-writing, I felt that this project was just too personal.
From the beginning, I wanted to have ownership of all aspects of FELICE: songwriting, arranging, vocals, background vocals. I recruited some talented friends to play on the tracks, and then I co-mixed and produced every track. There hasn’t been any aspect of this project that I haven’t consciously poured my time, energy, and love into, or put my stamp on. Again, this one is personal.
So, for me FELICE is something more than just aspirational. I wanted to have 100% ownership and control of this project, and I’ve achieved that and more with all of the sweat, stress, and responsibility that has come with every detail of it.
There is a window of opportunity and momentum for women to speak that is unique to now. Nearly every woman I know or have spoken with has experienced inequality or felt completely invisible and ignored at times. My mission with FELICE is to inspire and uplift young women who are just starting out in life and in their careers, as well as those who have lived it some. I want to make their journey just a little bit easier. I hope to inspire and encourage women to do the things in life that they LOVE, even if they haven’t seen a woman doing it before or feel like they keep hearing “no” at every turn.
FELICE is my voice, and in sharing it with the world, I hope other women will hear it and know that I hear them, too. The playing field may not be level yet, but we are a team. And we’ve got this.