'The Voice' alum Gigi Rich debuts soulful breakout EP 'All in My Head'
You might remember Gigi Rich as Gianna Salvato, the soulful 18-year-old singer with bright red hair mentored by Gwen Stefani on 'The Voice'. Three years later, Gigi is showcasing her songwriting and knack for classic soul and R&B on her debut EP 'All In My Head'. The five-song EP ranges from neo-soul opening track "Mr. Bossman" which evokes Amy Winehouse to bouncy pop in "Same Kind of Crazy" and a powerful ballad called "Still Want You". Gigi's red hair is representative of the fiery talent fueling her blooming singing career.
We sat down with Gigi to talk about working with Gwen Stefani, her songwriting process and what to expect next from her.
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When did you first fall in love with music?
I was surrounded by music growing up because my family was super into listening to it. I don't have a lot of musicians in my family, but I always heard soul, like Frank Sinatra and Al Green. I always had a love for that music since I was a little girl. Then as I grew up, I kind of evolved and discovered my own tastes. Mix that with starting to write from what I was listening to. Then when I was 12, I wrote my first song. It was called 'Believe Me'. And that's when I really fell in love with the idea of being a recording artist, knowing this what I wanted to do with my life. That's around the time when I fell in love with it. Ever since then, it's just been constant focus and obsession.
Did you have a moment when you realized music was going to be what you dedicate your life to?
That would probably be when I started recording my EP, the first song on my first EP. I was in a really nice studio. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to some awesome producers and co-writers, and we were getting into the studio for a week. I was just so immersed in it. I was so excited to basically wake up, be in the studio all day, wake up, do the same thing. That was when I was 15 that I started. This EP has been a few years in the making for sure, just working on my writing and choosing the best songs. That's when I realized that this is absolutely what I want to do with my life.
What is the songwriting process like for you?
I write all from personal experience. It's my form of how I get through things. It's not always talking about it for me. It's more so singing and putting it in song. It helps because I do write a lot about relationships and different situations. Of course, I write happy songs too. But a lot of the topics are about falling in love, falling out of love. I'll just be walking around, and I'll either get a melody or a chord progression that I think might be cool. My voice memo app on my phone is filled with these thousands of really awkward sounding voice memos where I'm like walking through the grocery store. I'll sit down. I write everything on piano because that's where I started out. That's where I take whatever idea I have or I can just sit down and start playing around and see what happens. There are just so many times I approach writing songs. There's definitely not just one. I'll sit and just play and figure it out and lay down a demo. I'll do some research on who I want to produce it because I'm a perfectionist and I have this idea in my head of the production already as I'm writing it. That's kind of how my process works. I also like collaborating with people because people write in so many different ways. Some people just start out with a beat. That's why I like working with other people. It keeps me open-minded and trying new things all the time.
What was it like being on 'The Voice'?
It was very intense is how I would put it. There are numerous rounds of auditions before you even get to the televised one. They actually found me on YouTube. They were in New York having auditions and were like, "We're having auditions. Have a few songs ready, just come." I didn't really know what to expect because at that point in my life, I wasn't sure what I was doing musically. I was writing stuff, I was gigging, but I wasn't sure what the next step was. This kind of came at the perfect time. So I went in and they had me go through interview rounds. Then, they flew me out to LA a few times. People were just getting cut and flown home that day. I was praying that wasn't going to be. Luckily, I got onto the blind auditions. I was waiting in this back room for 10 hours. I was in hair and makeup, the entire day. Just sitting in this fancy dress, waiting for my turn. I ended up going on as one of the last people. I was in the middle of the highest note of the song when I see that Gwen turns around, and it was definitely a surreal moment. I've been a fan of her since her early No Doubt days. Seeing her face, and she's just so beautiful, it was just amazing. It taught me a lot about myself and how I can help myself handle my emotions better under pressure and the artist I want to be in general. It was great.
What was it like working so closely with Gwen Stefani?
I wasn't sure what to expect because she's so animated on stage. I sort of half-expected that to translate into her personality, but she's super chilled out and very laid-back. She's so sweet. She's just a very kind person. She gave a lot of great advice on stage presence because she's known for going crazy on stage. That was something I hadn't had much experience with when I was younger. But ever since then, I want to be out, away from the piano on stage, interacting with the audience. It seems scary to people who don't perform, but people in the audience just feed off your energy. She talked about that, so it was really great.
How do you hone your music to have its own unique sound?
Growing up, like I said, my family was always listening to certain types of music. But I always gravitated to the soulful stuff, no matter what they put on or what I was listening to. I feel like everybody has that music. It doesn't even have to be a genre. It can be a song or a record that speaks to you in a certain way that you just understand more so than other genres or records or songs. For me, that was what soul music was. I took that and I took what era I'm in, the very mainstream pop era. I do really enjoy that music. It kind of naturally mixed together. I really love Lana Del Rey's lyric writing, Amy Winehouse and I love Lady Gaga. Those are the more modern people mixed with people I am inspired by from the past. I kind of just took it and ran with it. I also blocked out people's opinions. I wasn't close-minded by any means. But of course, pop is very instant gratification. If the song is super catchy, people really pick up on it. You get kind of tempted to always want to go down that route. If that's where your passion lies, then that's awesome. But for me, I just followed what I was into. And so far, it's worked out.
What advice do you give to aspiring musicians?
Social media is really the way of how people get to know you now, especially being an independent artist, since the Internet is so swamped with people releasing new stuff every day. Really, putting out content, writing songs and doing the YouTube covers, really digging into your online presence. Also, just going with your gut. If you look at artists who are super successful, they kind of paved their own way. The have a something a little different about their music. If you're music isn't exactly mainstream, that doesn't mean that you are making something brand new that people are going to love. That would be my advice.
What's next for your career?
I've already started to work on my next EP. I would love to get that out by the end of the year, early next year. I really want to go on tour. I have my people that I would like to open for. Also, collaborating with different producers that I've always wanted to. Dream collabs. I've always wanted to work with Mark Ronson or Jeff Bhasker, those people because I'm a huge Bruno Mars fan. I definitely want to work with those types of people. I really want to work on establishing myself as an artist, somebody that's going to be around for a long time. So, I'm just laying the groundwork.
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