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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Veteran music journalist with 20+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, & B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Artist Of The Week - Mariella
Monday, September 06, 2010

It’s rare, but every once in a while the entire hip-hop community embraces a female singer and makes her an integral part the scene. In New York City that singer is Mariella. Along with iLLspoKinN, Mariella co-hosts Freestyle Mondays at Sin Sin, one of the city’s longstanding hip-hop events, and that, along with the respect everyone has for her singing abilities, has made her one of the first ladies of NYC’s underground hip-hop scene. This week I caught up with Mariella to find out about her journey in music, how she became a part of the city’s hip-hop community, and the interesting way Bob Ross has had an impact on her life. Yes, that Bob Ross, the king of the white man afro.

Adam Bernard: Where are you originally from and what were your first experiences with music? Something tells me you were the kid kicking ass at talent shows when you were like three.
Mariella: {laughs} I was indeed the queen of talent shows! I was born in Washington Heights, but moved to Miami when I was about three. We settled in Hollywood by the time I was school age and I became that little girl that stood on tables and either sang, danced, or did impressions of teachers and celebrities. I was obsessed with Diana Ross, and briefly changed my name to Diana Ross. That turned out to be a phase and I went back to being Mariella. I come from a musical family, so I think my relationship with music started before the womb. My grandfather and uncle were both pretty famous musicians in Ecuador and my summers were spent practicing with my abuelito. We'd play scales, with him on alto sax, and me on the flute.

Adam Bernard: I know before your music career took off dance took you to a lot of amazing places. Was there ever any trepidation moving from dance to singing and potentially having the path you’d blazed for yourself suddenly roped off?
Mariella: I've always gone with the flow and when singing took a front seat it wasn't forced or planned, so it felt like the natural evolution of things. I also always knew that the two would wind up becoming connected and they have. I'm in the process of planning a music video and it is very heavily choreographed, so it looks like I'm coming back home.

Adam Bernard: You have the unique quality of being one of the only female singers that’s totally accepted as a part of NYC’s underground hip-hop scene. Why do you think that is? What do you think it is about your style, or what you do, that attracts emcees to your work?
Mariella: I think a lot of cats really respect the fact that I can freestyle sing, I'm not just ooing and aahing to fill up space, or riffing annoyingly. I take less than five seconds to hear where all the instruments lie, and come in and drop a solid melody, concept, and support the music and the emcee. I think if the music, lyrics, and melody are solid you don't need too many bells and whistles to “blow people away.” I also think I've been around forever and dudes just got used to having me around!

Adam Bernard: You co-host Freestyle Mondays at Sin Sin. How did you get that gig and how long did it take for the freestyle emcee crowd to warm up to a female singer co-host?
Mariella: I walked into Sin Sin on a Monday night with my friend Julius, who also introduced me to iLLspoKinN, and there was a hip hop/dub band playing. Even though it wasn't an open mic they let me jump on the mic and sit in with them. The following week I brought iLLspoKinN and we became regulars. Fast forward a month or two and we wound up taking over the night, brought in our musicians, and turned the night into a cypher style jam. There is a lot of love and support in the underground hip-hop scene and emcees welcomed the idea (of having a woman as co-host). It was something totally different than anyone else was doing and it added a much needed female energy to an otherwise male dominated world. I soften the edges and I think they really appreciate that.

Adam Bernard: What are you working on right now?
Mariella: I'm working on an EP, which is long overdue, and a serious labor of love. Two of the tracks are produced by my studio/production house Rogue Pop with my partners Nic Coolidge, Lex Sadler, and Dan Mensch. There are also dope collaborations with Jean Shepherd from Navegante, DJ Vadim, Casbah 73, and Nickodemus. I also had the pleasure of working with Zeb and Sabo on the single “Rise Again,” which has been released on several compilation CDs, and has some dope remixes out. I LOVE the J-Boogie remix.

Adam Bernard: Something else that’s been keeping you busy is your work with the after school program Urban Art Beat. What do you do with UAB and what have you found most rewarding about it?
Mariella: Aside from being a songwriting mentor I am the resident vocal mentor and I also teach basic music theory. It’s truly inspiring to see the kids grow in confidence and flexing their creative muscle. The most rewarding part is empowering them with their own words, voices, and watching them shed their shyness. Shine babies, shine!

Adam Bernard: I apologize in advance if there’s an awful traumatic story behind this next question, but you have a ring finger that’s a little shorter than usual. What happened? Is there an exciting story to tell? If not, would you care to make one up? If you do, please note, I’m a big fan of lions.
Mariella: You know, when children ask I tell them an alligator took off with it. The look on their horrified little faces is priceless. But the real story is that I actually lost the tip of my finger to a renegade door when I was four. Once my finger healed my parents got me a piano to keep the nerve endings from dying. You could say the accident was the catalyst to my career as a performer and songwriter. My parents offered reconstructive surgery when I turned 18, but I like my nub, it reminds me of a little alien.

Adam Bernard: Finally, I checked out some of your interests on Facebook and noticed Bob Ross is there. What makes Bob Ross so damned gangster?
Mariella: I live my life according to my favorite Bob Ross quote, “we don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Also, It doesn't get any realer than “happy little trees.” Believe.

Related Links

Website: themariellashow.com
MySpace: myspace.com/mariellaxo


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:43 AM  
  • At 1:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    GO Mari Go!, I always wondered about the finger,lol. Can't wait for the EP!!

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