Monday, November 14, 2016

Gina Cutillo: It's About the Focus

The little girl confidently faced her audience as she launched into her favorite Madonna tunes, belting them out with wild abandon. Her audience watched raptly – of course, they could do nothing else, being comprised of stuffed animals, but to the young performer, it was a harbinger of things to come.

Image courtesy of Gina Cutillo

 Gina Cutillothere was never any real question of which road to take. Making her mark on the Long Island original music scene for years, this singer-songwriter is riding high on the Billboard charts with her breakthrough hit single, “Keep On.” Debuting at #34 on the Top 40 Mainstream Chart, the song has propelled Cutillo to levels of excitement that can only be attained through realizing a lifelong dream.  “Keep On” has reached the #1 position on the NMW Indie Chart, #41 on the Mediabase Top 40 Activator Chart and #12 on the NMW Top 40 Chart. To borrow a phrase from Phil Collins, Gina Cutillo has been waiting for this moment all her life.

Despite an increasingly busy touring and recording schedule (not to mention the duties of motherhood to her 4-year-old son), Gina found the time to chat with me about the remarkable events unfolding in her life.

Roy Abrams: What’s the story behind the new single? How is it being marketed?

Gina Cutillo: I started recording my album and then releasing the singles as I was recording them, because we live in a kind of singles-based environment now; the digital world. I’m glad I did (that) because each single has led me to something bigger or newer. “Keep On” was part of the album. The album is finished now. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to do; I’m probably going to wind up releasing another single, and then the full album will come out. I already have four tracks released from the album. did that with her second album; this is the climate of what have going on here with the music industry, unless you are at the point of being a Katy Perry or a Lady Gaga. They still release singles months before; they’ll release three singles, then they’ll release the album. So, at this point, for me, it’s worked in its advantage to release the single and get further with my career. What happened was, Gary Lefkowith, the person who is working the single, (also) works with major artists and indie artists. His partner found me online, because I’ve done a lot with social media. I started trending, so people started noticing my stuff, and his partner noticed. They’re actually going to work “Fly”, my other single, which is probably going to get worked to radio, but this had already been released. It took months of me and him having a lot of dialogue to go the radio route and know how hard it is. I said, “Listen, I don’t want to do this unless we’re going to make major radio.” There are tons of online radio stations, but I’m looking to get to that next, big-big level. I’ve had success and still continue to have success with licensing my music on top commercials and films and TV programs. So, I want the “big-big” …. After a while, I said, all right, we’re going to do this. He said, “I know you’ve been recording these last few months. Do you have anything else that you would consider a follow-up single to ‘Fly’?” I said, “Keep On” … and he said, “We’re going with this one first!”

In hindsight, “Fly” is like Adele … she has very young fans, and she has older fans; she’s that universal. “Fly” is a track that is that universal. “Keep On” is a track that kind of gives you a really good caption of what I am; it’s fiery, it’s different but it sounds familiar, it encompasses so much of everything. He said, “This is the song (that) I want the masses to hear; the introduction to Gina Cutillo.” That’s how it really came about! We didn’t realize how quick it got to where it is now. 

Image courtesy of Gina Cutillo

RA: The first time I listened to “Keep On” I got this image of Annie Lennox in the back of my head.

GC: That’s not a bad image!

RA: Did you ever listen to Eurythmics?

GC: Oh, yeah! When I was a young girl, I loved Annie Lennox and thought she was fantastic. She not someone who I think is influencing me now. I don’t know, I mean, who knows? When you write, I think your brain just holds in so much stuff and it comes in all different ways. A few years ago, we were going to do a Eurythmics cover!

(L-R) – Rob Racalbuto, Zeke Zulich, Gina, Ron Labriola
Ron is Gina's longtime business partner and guitarist .... from the beginning!
Image courtesy of Gina Cutillo

RA: On first listening, I thought, “I know why this is all over the radio.” It’s an extremely radio-friendly track. Is it self-penned or did you collaborate?

GC: I did it myself! I write most of my stuff myself. It’s funny; every song I’ve released from this album has gotten me to somebody else (who helped to advance my career). I can’t wait for the whole thing to come out. There are a lot of great tracks.

RA: What is so mightily impressive to me is that you are one of a handful of Long Island artists I covered in the past who it seems has never stopped.

GC: What does that mean? I have a four-year-old son. I was at the point where I said to myself: “Artists have babies!”  [laughs]  So I did, and everybody was like, “Oh! That means you’re giving up music?” Where does this mentality come from? How do I ever give up music? It’s who I am. Me giving up music is like me quitting Gina Cutillo. How would I quit Gina Cutillo? That’s who I am! I was literally eight months pregnant in the studio, singing in the (vocal) booth, getting kicked! It was funny, because my guitarist was saying, “Oh, that’s the end!” Did I take the first couple of months off from rehearsals and performing? Of course, once I had the baby! The next morning, I called my producer, and (started to talk business with him). He was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Didn’t you just have a baby?” I said, “Yeah, you can congratulate me in a minute! This is what I need you to do!”

RA: What’s your take on the current music scene? I don’t get out as much as I did during the days of The Island Zone.

GC: It’s so available now. There’s the internet, and there’s so much music out there that it’s so hard to see. I guess, back in the day, you would just go to a rock club and you would see what’s out there. Now, it’s like a needle in a haystack. You have to really search because there is tons of music out there. Big industry people find it so difficult to find the “great artists” because there’s just so many out there.

Image courtesy of Gina Cutillo

RA: We first crossed paths when you and your husband Craig were in the band Supergenius. When did you branch out and start doing your own stuff?  Or had you been doing your own thing at the time and I just wasn’t aware of it?

GC: With Supergenius, Craig and I were both writers, and the more I grew, the more commercial my songs were getting. Craig is just a straight-up rock dude. Me, I grew up more listening to Michael Jackson and Madonna. I was always into that kind of pop world. Then, when I started learning guitar, I was very much into Hole and Nirvana and PJ Harvey. I definitely had an “underground” that came out, so Supergenius was cool; it was like, “Let’s do this rock thing!” As time went on, I just wasn’t happy. I was just writing and writing and writing and it was becoming very commercial. Craig was going along for the ride when we started, but crap started and (I realized) that maybe I don’t want to be in a band. It’s funny, because Craig played on six of the songs on my first album, because those were going to be Supergenius songs. Craig was like, “These songs, I feel zero connection to, blah-blah-blah,” so they ended up on my first solo album, and we kind of broke up Supergenius … and then we started dating. Go figure! [laughs]

RA: Have the music genes been passed down to your son?

GC: He’s so musical! He says, “No, Mommy! You don’t sing – I’m singing!” (I tell him) “We don’t have room for two divas in this house, Cole!”

Image courtesy of Gina Cutillo

© Roy Abrams 2016

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