Musicvein had a chat with Maria recently about joining the group, her background and future with Camera Soul
MV: Hello Maria, let’s start off by you introducing yourself to Musicvein readers in 5 words
ML: “Alice in ‘Camera Soul’ Wonderland!” (she laughs)
MV: Hahaha that’s a great introduction! So tell us, who would you say are your musical influences?
ML: “I fell in love with music since I was a child. My father used to travel a lot for business and everytime he came home he brought me a gift – usually an LP of his favorite artists, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and so on. These are the artists that made me fall in love with Soul music and, a few years later, Gospel Music. I’ve been a part of a Gospel Choir for 10 years now and I think that, except for Camera Soul, this was the most important musical experience of my life. It gave me the chance to know artists like Donnie McClurkin, Richard Smallwood and Bob Singleton.”
MV: How do you feel those artists have inspired you?
ML: “The first thing you have to learn when you sing Gospel is that ‘singing’ is not only what you can do with your voice. When you are on stage you must give all of you, you have to sing with your body, eyes, heart and soul. A lot of people can sing or play an instrument but what makes an ‘artist’ is the way they show their soul. I mean, when you listen to Stevie Wonder singing you think to yourself ‘This voice is full of heart, you can see his soul,’ that’s the goal I’m trying to reach.”
MV: How long have you been singing professionally and were you in any other groups before Camera Soul?
ML: “I started singing when I was 5 years old, becoming part of the choir in my church but my first experience as a professional singer was definitely when I joined ‘The Wanted Chorus’. I’ve been part of that choir as I mentioned earlier for a decade and have had a lot of great experiences. When I was 27, I decided to leave the choir to become the lead vocalist of the group ‘The Beautiful Sinners’ with a repertoire of mainly Latin Jazz and World Music. Then, finally, my big break came – the one I’ve been waiting a lifetime for – Camera Soul!”
MV: So what was it like joining the Lombardo Brothers who have worked with a couple of great singers already (Francesca Leone and Serena Brancale)? Do you feel like you have much to prove?
ML: “I’ll tell you a funny story. A while ago, when I found out about the Camera Soul project, I was talking to Liviana Ferri (Camera Soul’s percussionist), I told her that I would love to be the backing vocalist for Serena Brancale whenever the need arised. Before Camera Soul formed, I already knew of the Lombardo Brothers and knew of their previous group ‘Marchio Bossa‘ of which Francesca Leone was a great performer. Could you imagine my delight when I was called by the brothers to work with them! Arriving after two vocalists of their level is certainly not a simple feat and I have chosen not to enter into competition with them. Each singer has their own personality and I have tried from the outset to ‘wear’ the Camera Soul project like it was always my dress to wear, without trying to be like others before me. In this sense Piero and Pippo have been excellent tailors – they have made me feel like one of them from the first moment we met, I’m part of the family.”
MV: How have the Camera Soul fans received you?
ML: “I have certainly had a great reception from everyone, both here in Puglia, other parts of Italy and the rest of the world. In fact anyone who loves Camera Soul and loves the whole project, loves the music these amazing artists produce regardless of their individualities. That’s why everyone trusts the Lombardo Brothers and their choices. Our live shows have confirmed that people are accepting of the change and left the shows feeling happy – thankfully!”
MV: Is it daunting being part of a group with a lot of men or are you all just like one big family?
ML: “I really love being part of a group mostly composed by men! Together with Liviana Ferri – our percussionist – I feel kind of like a princess! Seriously though, having worked in a choir with many women, I know that very often women are more competitive than men and tend to want to excel among others, which can often lead to problems. From this point of view, men are usually more intelligent, so that for me makes Camera Soul a perfect formula.”
MV: You’ve recently done a show in Bari and there is more to come. What was it like performing live for the first time with Camera Soul?
ML: “My first live show with Camera Soul was incredibly exciting. There were years that I was so tense before a concert and this made me feel very happy because emotions are so important in this line of work. They are what makes you strive for the best. Also sharing the stage with musicians of this caliber, to call them friends and to sing beautiful songs – it’s a kind of Wonderland to me.”
MV: You’ve started recording the 3rd Camera Soul album, are there any surprises the fans can look forward to?
ML: “We begin recording the third album soon and for what I may say – it will be the most beautiful of all! It will certainly be different from the previous two albums because my vocal characteristics are different from those of Serena Brancale’s. Considering this, the new songs are mostly cut on my voice, working on the composition with the Lombardo Brothers is truly inspiring and a great opportunity to grow as an artist. I really can not wait for everyone to listen to the results of our hard work. This album will be produced and distributed by Azzurra Music – the label always chosen by the Lombardo Brothers for their projects. We will also continue our working relationship with Kathryn Ballard-Shut, owner of TimKat Entertainment (USA). Kathryn follows each step of our work and is extremely important in the process of composing our songs, not least from a linguistic point of view – we feel it would be impossible to do without her!”
MV: Finally, if you could perform live with Camera Soul in any part of the world where would it be and why?
ML: “Without detracting from Puglia and the whole of Italy, given the international inspiration of the Camera Soul project, we hope to be able to play abroad soon. Maybe starting with the UK because of the warm welcome received by the second album ‘Not For Ordinary People‘ that reached No2 in the UK Soul Charts. Also there is a particular Jazz Club in London that I really love, I’ve been there often, each time attending great concerts – the place I’m talking about needs no introduction – it’s Ronnie Scotts!”