In this eighth episode of the IndieViews, we are going to chat with the Laura Campisi.
Jazz Singer and Songwriter, Based in New York City, born and raised in Palermo, Sicily.
Laura Campisi is a unique, new voice on the jazz scene. She’s an award-winning songwriter and jazz singer with a warm voice full of colors. Her music is firmly rooted in the Jazz tradition, but her original songs and her singular versions of jazz standards create a world that is both unique and universal.
Laura has performed at many prestigious venues and clubs such as The Kitano, Bar Next Door, Zeb’s, New York University, Westchester Italian Cultural Center and the Italian American Museum, among others.
- 2017 – Laura Campisi – Double Mirror
If we cast your mind back to when you were a kid and a teenager: what are your earliest musical memories?
Which was the first album you ever bought?
Which musicians do you particularly admire and which one do you think influenced your music?
This one is always the toughest question for me. I love all kinds of music and I get my inspiration pretty much everywhere. But if I had to name names I’d say Billie Holiday, Fabrizio De Andre’ and Joni Mitchell.
Which is the best concert that you have been to?
What does music mean to you?
Music to me is a language that goes beyond words, an incredible communication tool and a powerful healing force.
Are you still in love with your profession as a musician? How do you keep your enthusiasm always live?
How do you manage your music life with your “common” life? What is your typical day like?
I have never had a “typical day” in my whole life! I’m just too undisciplined for that… LOL!
Tell us more about your latest works (album, live tour, new projects).
My debut album “Double Mirror” was truly a labor of love. It took me a few years in the making because I had to overcome a lot of obstacles before I could release it. The whole process broke me and put me back together, so to speak, and I am a stronger person and a better artist because of it. It’s a daring double trio project with two drums and two basses accompanying my vocals. As far as I know, that has never been done by a singer before! It features a mix of original compositions of mine (in English), a few jazz standards rearranged as well as a couple of pop and rock tunes. I wanted it to be a reflection of my multifaceted personality and for this reason it’s not mainstream. Currently, I am working on bringing the album live on stages around the world – that is my goal! I am doing the work myself so it might take me a while to get there but I can’t wait for that dream to become a rea
“Campisi is something else… On her debut album she attempts something fairly daring: singing against a stark background of electric bass and drums. Fortunately, Campisi pulls it off, thanks to her sweet-toned, sturdy voice, precise pitch, lilting delivery and first-rate support from two duos” Allen Morrison ~ DOWNBEAT
Are you self-taught or have you studied music? You think is important studying music to be a Pro?
I studied jazz privately for many years, back in Sicily, attended masterclasses all around Italy and took private lessons both there and in the States. Learning from great musicians is important, especially in the formative years, but for me there’s no better school than the stage. If you play with good musicians (possibly better and more experienced than you) you will challenge yourself on so many levels that you will undoubtably improve and grow.
Did you keep on studying?
You never stop learning, my friend 😉
Speaking of culture, which is the last book that you read?
“Il tempo migliore della nostra vita” by Antonio Scurati, a beautiful reconstruction of the life and work of Leone Ginzburg and his brave opposition to Italian Fascism.
Can you describe the process you go through when you are writing a song? What inspires you to write?
My creative process is usually pretty random: Something pops up in my mind and I write it down or record it, depending whether it’s an idea for lyrics or melody. Some times a whole song will just flow out of me, music and lyrics, top to bottom like a fountain. Some other times it’s just sparkles of ideas, fragments that I can go back to and work on later on. Similarly, the inspiration can come from anywhere: the mood I’m in, a challenge I’m facing, the news, or simply happiness.
How do you plan an album production and his release?
Frankly I’m still learning on that department. I guess the first and most important thing is the music material. You have to have your songs down and an idea of the direction you want to take in terms of sound, style, etc… It’s my understanding that some people start with asking themselves what is their audience and that might be a smart approach I haven’t really used yet.
When you release an album how much is important for you the tracklist? And the time between the tracks?
Tracklist is fundamental! Just like when you’re performing live but even more so because an album is a fix media. It took me a while to figure out the best tracklist for “Double Mirror.” It’s hard work because you need to listen over and over as you make changes and try to be as objective as possible, putting yourself in the listener’s shoes. As for time between the tracks, I think it depends on the kind of record you are creating.
“Campisi is a good tune writer, finding attractive melodies which she then sets to unusual rhythms… she has a great sense of style. She uses her voice like an instrument, moving it around the beat in a manner similar to Sheila Jordan… an extremely interesting debut disc!” (Lynn Rene Bayley, The Art Music Lounge)
Do you produce your records by yourself or do you prefer to have some extra ears or a producer to guide you?
For “Double Mirror” I started working with Emilio D. Miler, a producer from Buenos Aires, Argentina about an year before the album came out and at that point a lot of it was already recorded. I found it an illuminating process to work alongside with someone who is involved in the project but not as much as you are, as a creator. An extra set of ears can be a great resource to pinpoint what needs improvement. As artists we can be really self involved in what we create and a producer or co-producer can bring more richness to the table, widen your view on the project and help it reach its fullest potential. Personally, I think next time I’ll get a producer involved from the pre-production. I am curious to see what that is like, especially considering that in the past I have always been the producer of my own projects.
Did you record your music in a rented professional studio, home studio or in any other way?
“Double Mirror” was recorded in multiple stages and various professional studios all around the globe: New Jersey, Milan, Washington, New York and Buenos Aires – a true citizen of the world! 🙂
How did you choose the musicians for your album?
Most of them are great instrumentalists that I admire, a few others where suggested to me by my co-producer. It has been such an honor to work with all of them!
Did you mix and master your album/tracks in different ways for digital and physical releases?
Are your records only digital or also physically distributed?
Digital distribution only
What types of promotion and marketing have you found to work best for an independent artist?
Being this my first experience with promotion on large scale I don’t really have much comparison to use in order to answer your question. I can tell you that I hired a press PR and a radio PR and that they both did a great job with “Double Mirror.” Social media is very important but it’s also a crazy jungle. I think independent artists need to work especially hard because they need to acquire skills to manage themselves. It’s a learning process.
There are some music industry analysts who argue that the CD is dying. What percentage of your sales are physical CDs and what percentage of your sales are in other forms (e.g. online)? Do you see that changing significantly in the future?
I think we are in a sort of middle-earth: some people still love a physical CD while others don’t even have a CD player in their homes anymore. Same goes for the press, radio hosts, and booking. Maybe we will move passed CDs at one point but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
Do you use Facebook/twitter/instagram sponsored post for promotion? You think could be they helpful?
I did that once or twice so far but didn’t really have much money to invest so the results were scarce. Some colleagues have shared a different experience though, so I believe it can really help. I guess it depends on the budget you have available.
Have you a mailing list? I personally use MailChimp.You think is a “must have” as most people in music business said?
I do have a mailing list but I have not been very consistent with it. I think it’s an important tool to have but also that in order to make it work you really need to keep it regular and engaging.
Do you think that, with all the digital alternatives, radio airplay still has an effect on the success of a release? And how does an independent artist get radio airplay?
Radio is definitely still a thing. Personally, I used a PR specifically for that but I also know of artists who have done the work themselves. In any case, I think it’s worth it. You got to put your music out there and radio is still a media that people follow, whether is airplay or digital.
What do you think about streaming services like Spotify and Pandora?
I think they are great 🙂
Listen to Lauras’s Music and the other IndieViews Artists on our Spotify Playlist:
Did you work with booking agencies or you manage your own gigs?
I have always managed my own shows so far but I would love to start collaborating with a professional to help me enhance my reach and better my chances.
Somebody says that House Concert are the future of live music as many club are closing. What do you think about it? Have you organized any?
I have been featured in a number of House Concerts in my hometown and I love it! It is a fair business, while clubs can have pretty unfair booking policies sometime. Also, it’s usually more intimate and personal than most venues and that works well for me as I am very comfortable in a cozy, acoustic setting. I do believe House Concerts might very well be the future of live music: it’s democratic, from and for the people, and it brings artists closer to their audiences.
Every time you play your music you are giving a big part of you to your crowd, do you feel tension before a concert? If yes how do you manage it?
Sometimes I do, depending on the context and the venue. I usually use breathing exercises to relax and warm up at the same time. Then, once I’m on stage, the tension just goes away and the magic starts 🙂
Which is the difference between a big audience or a small one?
The smaller setting is of course more intimate but I believe an intimate connection is also possible with a larger audience that is attentive and captured by the music.
Each of us has some expectations before a show, which are yours? What would you love to “have back” during a concert or what you already receive?
This one is easy: Emotion. There’s nothing more thrilling than feeling the audiences emotions, their fun, their pain and everything in between. For me the best gift is knowing I touched my audience with my music, that I am able to give them something valuable that they can take with them and make their own.
Have you a daily business routine? Checking/writing E-mail, phone calls, create new connections?
As I already said before, I usually pretty chaotic but I’m working on that!
Do you think that the Artist status is compatible with the entrepreneurship? Do you think that an Indie artist needs to be also an Entrepreneur?
I think that we kinda really have no choice… Gotta work it! I’m really not the entrepreneur kind but we’re on this earth to learn, right? 😉
As an artist, which are the biggest differences between being represented by a major label or being represented by yourself?
I don’t know for I have never been represented by a major. My guess is that they have more resources but the truth is that they don’t invest in all their artists the same way. So being with a label can be a blessing or a curse – or at least so I’ve heard.
Which PRO (Performing Rights Organization) are you affiliate with and why did you choose that?
At the moment I am with the Italian PRO (SIAE) but I am thinking about splitting the geographical coverage with one of the American ones in the future.
As a full-time musician, I immediately realized that I can’t only work as a instrumentalist and I should extend my expertise in different fields. So, I became a Sound Engineer, composer, producer too. Did you also develop different fields? Which one? What do you like and do not like about each one?
I have had a lot of fun teaching vocals and songwriting. Although I have not done it a lot so far, I’d like to repeat the experience and make it something more steady. Teaching is a beautiful way to transmitting your passion and your knowledge while enriching yourself.
Do you have any suggestions for a young musician that is thinking to start with his career?
Give yourself to music completely. You are young and the world is your oyster!
Thank you so much Laura, would you like to say something more?
My mantra: Love yourself. Love what you do. Be patient with yourself. Respect your struggles and cherish your happiness. Be kind with yourself and with others: nobody is perfect. And when you feel you lost your way, go back to the heart. Peace!