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Gina French: Bio

ABOUT GINA FRENCH - “Music is my sanctuary, singing is my passion” Those are the words that the newly Seattle-based musician and singer/songwriter Gina French uses to sum up her musical vision. Hers is a voice that has been variously described as “volcanic” and “an angelic instrument” by different reviewers. French is not a newcomer. She’s been around, spending years performing both in bands and as a solo act, gradually learning the basics and paying her dues along the way. Long ago she came to realize that she had almost literally been born with music in her blood, but it has taken her time (often while life intervened) to nurture and cultivate her natural gifts through a patient and gradual growing process which has brought her to where she is today. GINA’S RECORDINGS The twin cornerstones of her musical resume to date are a pair of critically-acclaimed and award-winning albums, Sacred Ground (1997) and Of Rapture (2004). The first of these, Sacred Ground, is primarily a solo acoustic album filled with deceptively complex and colorful multi-layered songs which weave tapestries of visionary poetic images of surprising scope and depth. There is a striking cohesiveness inherent in the album, framed by French’s own spare and precise acoustic guitar playing which fits nicely with the warmly pastoral jacket art. But it is French’s sustained display throughout of the most remarkable of vocal capabilities, with a delivery that ranges from the most subtle nuances on some numbers to a carefully measured intensity on others, which really makes Sacred Ground an exceptional album. When Sacred Ground came out in 1997 critics agreed that it was a stunning debut, especially for an unpretentious independent, self-produced album. There followed a gap of nearly seven years before Gina French finally released her second album, Of Rapture. This album represented a radical departure from her earlier release and may have come as a bit of a surprise to listeners who might have expected it to be another colorful and poetic acoustic outing. Of Rapture is a highly ambitious offering that is characterized by the kind of intensity one would expect to find on the most mature post-modern rock album. A key element to the new direction this second album would take was manifested by French’s decision go primarily electric and use a solid backup band on most of the new material. This intensity reflects to what degree French’s artistic talents had grown during the intervening years that followed the release of Sacred Ground as well as her strong desire, in a musical sense, to reach out and conquer new territory. A key element to the new direction A key element to the new direction this second album would take was manifested by French’s decision go primarily electric and use a solid backup band on most of the new material. Notably, the musicians she brought on board for this project were some of the best session players in the greater Salt Lake City area, including Bill Frost (a.k.a. “Mr. Bill”) on guitar and Lance Lee on bass, and former Salt Laker-turned-New Yorker Adam Sorensen on drums. Other key performers included fellow singer-songwriter Stacey Board doing backup vocals and veteran session man Phil Miller playing saxophone, as well as Dan Morley and Tom Cram, adding their talents with various instrumentation on 3 of the tracks. Interestingly, one standout track, “November Days,” features a different band entirely, which represents a reunion of members from the short-lived band known as November that French had been a part of in the 1980's, including Mike Doran on guitar, Sean Meade on drums, and Melissa Warner on bass and doing backing vocals. Like Gina French’s earlier release, it is also a highly cohesive work. While the cohesion of her earlier album may have revolved around a rather abstract acoustic and subtle, almost dreamlike theme, it would appear that the theme found in Of Rapture is most overt, and that is clearly an intense Passion. Its colors are hues of red, which are implicit in both the cover artwork as well as in French’s songs, which range from hard-driving, sensual and fiery rockers to hypnotic, world-beat tinged numbers and then all the way to strident atmospheric homages to a special child as well as to a band and a place in time when one’s course in life was set. She says that right before the year 2000, when she started planning the album, she thought it would be “sort of a bluesy rocker, and the world music concept was not part of the mix because I hadn’t written those songs yet.” “Then I wrote the song “Of Rapture” in 2000. It was a fluke that came from out of the blue. So then I thought, this album’s going to be a bit different. And so, synchronicity again came into play.” French had been struck by the images in the Oscar-winning movie, The English Patient, and had been especially moved by the effect of the plaintive and ethereal, Eastern-sounding quality of the ethnic singer whose voice was featured at crucial moments (Hungarian folk singer, Marta Sebestyn) of the film soundtrack. So that sound was on the back of her mind, where it eventually made a cerebral union, of sorts, with another bit of music that had also struck French in a similarly profound way, the sound of the exotic Middle Eastern vocalist (the famous Algerian “Prince of Rai,” Cheb Mami) in Sting’s 2000 world music hit, “Desert Rose.” So after that, unbeknownst to her at the time, these two elements began a subconscious incubation in Gina French’s mind, with the end product down the line destined to become the award-winning title track to her new album. Of Rapture was the end result of four years of intense studio work and demanding songwriting. GINA FRENCH: HER BACKGROUND AND HER STORY Gina was born on January 4th, in Salt Lake City, Utah. As for music in her life, Gina gives much credit to her Utahn father, who loved the arts with a passion despite his disability, and was especially fond of singing and opera, as well as classical music in general. “At an early age I learned about the importance of music. My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. There was a gradual decline in his ability to walk and in his coordination. Although this must have been devastating at age 37, he always maintained his love for music. He’d been an opera singer in San Francisco. I grew up watching him listen to and appreciate his favorite styles, opera and classical. Music was always playing in his room.” She believes that music gave him comfort and hope as he dealt with the debilitating disease. “I’ve become aware that my inspiration and love of music were learned from his example.” But she also recognizes a significant musical influence coming from her Nicaraguan mother as well. “She always knew that I had an interest in music, but I’m not sure she was too thrilled with the rock songs that I’ve created or liked,” she says, adding that “she’s always preferred for me to sing the Carpenters or Dolly Parton!” But to be fair, Gina also says that her mother “does play piano and always had a great voice, and I grew up hearing her play and sing Spanish songs, which I am sure had some influence on me, plus she’s never been a shy person, so whenever she would perform, it was with a lot of confidence and charm. Somehow I must have learned from watching that, just what a performer can do to capture their audience.” Gina found herself encouraged to start to write and perform her own songs later on in her 20s. Shortly after graduating from high school and then starting in college, she responded to a “Rock and Roll Singer Wanted” ad and soon became the newest member of a band called Driving Sideways, where she found herself singing a lot of wailing and screaming hard rock tunes, usually covers of songs by Pat Benatar, Lynyrd Skynyrd and other rock bands. A short time later she became the singer in the Crazy Jane Band, where she did more covers, sometimes of country tunes but also some Led Zeppelin-type numbers, before she finally ended up joining a more innovative alternative band known as November, in 1989. Since the members of this band preferred to do original material rather than cover old ground, Gina found herself encouraged to start to write and perform her own songs. But she really did not have any formal training in the art of songwriting. Instead, she learned it by doing it in the context of her part as a band member and singer, which she augmented through listening to the work of other singers. Of course, her list of influential singers features a broad array of talent, including the likes of Peter Gabriel, Aretha Franklin, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Annie Lennox, and Patty Griffin. And she feels a particular debt of gratitude to Bono of U2 whom she considers to be her biggest single influence.

Gina will soon be heading into the studio, in Seattle, to record her long awaited EP -  entitled - "Songs in Transit." Look for its release in 2018!

She will be launching her crowd funder, sometime in the fall of 2017.