Photo by Celeste Giuliano.
It’s impossible not to feel the excitement in Nancy Micciulla when talking to her these days.
With her first full-length, fully-produced LP in the finishing stages and a series of new musical opportunities opening up, the Philadelphia native has plenty of reason to be excited. She’s been plenty busy, too, tearing up the local open mic scene and performing most weekends with her cover band, Catch 22.
Micciulla (pronounced Mi-Chu-La) will release her debut album The One to Shine this spring, though it does not yet have a definite release date. Despite not having any formal record contract, she intends to promote the album on her own as best she can, through the use of online tools such as MySpace, Facebook and iLike, touring throughout the summer and by sending out press releases to Philadelphia publications. The songwriter’s new Web site, nancymicciulla.com gives her listeners the opportunity to pre-order the CD and receive advance digital downloads and other souvenirs.
Recording an entire album with full band instrumentation proved to be quite a challenging process and learning experience for a normally solo acoustic performer.
“It’s different than anything I’ve ever attempted,” said Micciulla. “I tend to play in such a way that I fill out the songs myself with percussive playing or interesting vocals, so to fully produce a song with percussion, bass and leads was a bit confusing to me. It took a few sessions before I could hear and imagine other parts to my music.”
Performing on her own has turned out to be fairly successful for Micciulla. She has won a few competition-based open mics in the area, including a “songwriters in the round” event at the Tin Angel, which led to her being invited back to the venue for a show of her own, tentatively scheduled for May 23.
Photo by Sean Capuano.
Micciulla’s stage presence is warm and impassioned, and she often seems unable to hide fleeting smiles throughout her performances. Her modesty, which shines through in her personality, seems to fit her rather diminutive frame and girlish face. That face has become a familiar sight at smaller venues around the city where Micciulla was born and she has become a part of the local music scene.
After graduating high school, Micciulla moved away from the Philadelphia area for some time, attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania to focus on theatre and then moving to Delaware for seven years after college. Since returning to Philadelphia last year, she has led a widely eclectic lifestyle, which has included taking classes in circus arts, working and attending classes at University of the Arts, working at the Merriam Theater and teaching family/toddler music classes.
“With my move back to Philly I’ve kind of reinvented myself,” Micciulla said.
“Reinvented” seems somewhat of an understatement for the singer/songwriter, whose recent musical push has her anxiously awaiting the upcoming summer season. During those months, Micciulla said she hopes to travel and promote her music and, furthermore, that it can translate into some kind of career for her.
“I want music to pay my bills – that’s the goal,” she said. “This is the biggest step I’ve ever taken with music. And it’s more of a leap.”
Micciulla’s honest and heartfelt lyrics often derive from her personal experiences and cover a wide range of emotions and life scenarios.
“Things that I repress when I’m dealing with people often come out later in songs,” Micciulla admitted. “I’m bad with words on the spot, but I can write a song later and say exactly what I was feeling.”
Her lyrics are often born out of her own reflection and are later transformed into melodies.
“I’ve actually finished entire songs on road trips when I’m not able to get to my guitar right away,” she explained. “When I get home I try to fit it all in and figure it out. I’m a singer first, a writer second and a guitarist last.”
Micciulla will have plenty of time to come up with new lyrics this summer, when she expects to do quite a bit of travelling. The musician said she would be back and forth between Philadelphia and Ocean City, Maryland, performing both at open mics as a solo act and at bigger, full-band shows. She also hopes to make stops at other East Coast cities such as Miami and Atlanta to visit friends and promote her music along the way at new open mics.
While Micciulla said she would love to make a career out of music, she seems to be keeping her feet on the ground, realizing that there may be some limitations without the promotional advantage and security of being signed to a major record label. Even so, that doesn’t seem to be stopping her from pursuing something she loves.
“I don’t expect to be a huge sensation of anything, but I would love to tour around for a while, playing smaller, intimate venues,” she explained. “I guess I’m just giving it my all, and we’ll see what happens.”
A line from Micciulla’s song “California,” which also spawned the title for her upcoming album, perhaps best sums up the venture she’s about to take on:
“I’m leaving now to head out to California, where I can see the sun, maybe be the one to shine.”
For such a humble songwriter with such a good spirit and passion for music, this really may be Nancy Micciulla’s time to shine.