Arlanna is a singer & songwriter based in Boston, MA. She often writes songs for other artists and sometimes for herself. At very early age she taught herself to play the piano by ear and began writing poetry and melodies for fun and she currently has a songbook containing numerous songs that keeps on growing.
After years of trying overcome her stage fright, Arlanna began performing and in 2011 her first EP “Have A Little Courage,” was released in 2011.
Arlanna is currently working with producer Steve Catizone from Serenity West LA and Serenity East Recording Studios and collaborating with many other artists.
Here’s what she said in an interview for Flowers In A Gun.
Hi Arlanna, can you tell me something more about yourself?
Something more about me – I was born and grew up in a small town just south of Boston with my parents and sister and still live there to this day. I’ve traveled to many beautiful places but I know where home is – where my family is. I have had the best family life anyone could ever wish for, full of constant love and support. My Dad is a dreamer like me, always hoping for something amazing to happen to each one of us. He is the hardest working person I’ve ever known and has taken care of us without ever thinking of himself first. His faith and belief in me is unwavering and keeps me going. My Mom has the biggest, warmest heart; she loves my sister and me more than anything in the world. She’s shown me from an early age that family is the most important thing in life, as long as you have family you have everything. I definitely learned how to love from my Mom. My sister is my very best friend. She and I are only a year apart in age, yet I feel she is so much wiser than me. She is the most beautiful person I know, inside and out. I’ve looked up to her my entire life; she protects me and calms my fears. It’s important that you know about my family because they are such a huge part of who I am. More so than one would think – they saved me from what could’ve been a very dark, sad and lonely life. See, I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic brittle-bone condition that has confined me to a wheelchair and is the reason I will never walk. I am short in stature due to the hundreds of broken bones I’ve had since birth. Physically, I am very different, yes. Mentally…I am just like you. Because my family never treated me differently, because they have always done everything in their power to prevent me from getting hurt, or from seeing anything as an obstacle, I have lived my life as if my wheelchair didn’t exist.
How did you got interested in music?
When I was 4 years old I saw the Wizard of Oz for the very first time.
Watching Judy Garland and her adorable dog hanging out on a wagon wheel, singing about a place where everything is perfect and beautiful – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is what began my torrid love affair with music. I couldn’t get enough. My parents gave me a tiny Casio keyboard and I spent every day teaching myself to play every song I heard. One of the very first songs I learned on that little keyboard was Van Halen’s “Love Comes Walking In.” I loved all music as a kid but 80s rock is what I found myself playing most often. My parents saw that while my sister loved to dance, I loved to play the piano. Immediately they found a piano teacher for me and so began my years of lessons. I never excelled at reading music and I absolutely hated performing in recitals – I had the kind of gut-wrenching stage fright that made the room spin, drenched me in sweat, emptied my mind and froze my fingers over the keys. I hated playing even for one person, I played only for myself. Soon, my parents bought me my own piano. It wasn’t just any piano you could pick out in a store – this piano was built especially for me. Because I don’t have as much strength in my arms, hands and fingers, the company that built my piano made keys that were easier to play and a knee-pedal that was added due to my inability to reach the floor pedals. I’ll never love any possession more than that piano.
And what about writing songs?
As I got older and began realizing there would be a lot of things in life that I would never be able to do and might never experience, I became a bit more emotional but I was always able to get over things quickly and I very rarely cried. High School was enjoyable for me and I had a ton of friends, most of which I still have to this day. However there were times I felt so alone and so angry for very different reasons than what most teenagers might feel. It started becoming more obvious how different I was from other kids. That’s when I really relied on my diary to listen when I couldn’t explain it to anyone else. My diaries became almost attached to me, like a limb. I filled page after page with my thoughts and feelings more in poetic form rather than journalizing. After writing I always felt a little lighter, happier, I was “over it” and moving on. Not only was I writing poetry but I would wake up in the middle of the night with little melodies playing in my head. At the time I never recorded them but as soon as I could get to my piano, I would play them out. Marrying the poetry from my diaries with the melodies in my head I became a “closet” songwriter. Nobody heard them because I only practiced them when no one was around. The last piano teacher I had gave me a different kind of homework assignment than the others – he wanted me to write a song. For me that was simple – I already had hundreds in my head. I remember having a difficult time playing my songs for him but his response was one of utter disbelief and excitement. It boosted my confidence and allowed me to share more with him. He told me I had a gift and insisted I let others in. Because of my terrible stage fright, I decided I would record them. I wasn’t the greatest at reading music and, thus, wasn’t the greatest at writing it down. Instead I bought a music software that wrote the notes as I played them…ah, technology. Voila! My very first demo. When I had a few home demos I began showing my friends and family. It was so frightening for me to, in a way, “publicize” my diary but it also lifted a weight from my shoulders that I never knew I carried. I wrote what I’d never been able to say out loud.
You write songs for other singers, how do you meet them and do you have a favorite one to work with?
At the risk of sounding corny, the recording studio has been like my “somewhere over the rainbow” – there’s honestly nowhere else in the world I’d rather be. Recording studios are a mecca for talent – musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers. For me, personally, it has opened up so many doors. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible producers who have helped me to find my sound, my “voice,” my courage. I’ve said goodbye to stage-fright and, because of that, performed and recorded with musicians that are so filled with talent, it completely blows me away. Here are a few of my favorites:
Gifted guitarist/musician BJ Knights, a member of many well-known local MA and RI bands, and I met about six years ago at Mockingbird Recording studio on Boston’s south shore. I knew as soon as he picked up his guitar and began playing along with the first run-through of a demo of mine that my music needed him. He plays guitar like he’s nurturing a baby – he’s a natural, he just gets it. He is the featured guitarist on most of my album “Have a Little Courage” and a soon-to-be-released track I wrote. BJ and I continue to record and play live acoustic gigs and artist showcases, another place I’ve been blessed to meet some unbelievable musicians.
Boston singer/songwriter Louie Bello, a multiple Boston Music Award nominee and I recently collaborated on a song I wrote called “Exception,” a ballad that my producer and I felt needed a male vocalist.
It was the first time I wasn’t the vocalist on my own songs. Although I love to sing, I’m a songwriter at heart. I knew that a skilled vocalist like Louie would do my songs justice and take them to the level they deserved to be. Meeting Louie and watching his energetic stage performances at Boston’s Serenity East Artist Showcases that I was also performing in, I knew immediately that he was the vocalist who would breathe life into “Exception,” a song that came from an emotional wound that I had been trying to heal from for a very long time. Working with Louie was effortless and fun. He’s a true artist and, like me, music is his entire soul and it shows in every note. His emotion-filled vocal on “Exception” nearly brought me to tears. He’s on the brink of stardom
For my song “A Little While,” I wanted a female vocalist – not necessarily a power-house, but someone who could really add depth and character to the song. At another Serenity East Artist Showcase I heard the first few notes out of artist Natalie Duffy and instantly, I was captured. Her voice is a perfect blend of cool, sweet and soulful and after her performance (my favorite of the evening) I went home and watched every YouTube video she had – all of her covers and originals. Once again, I was blown away by her artistry and instrument, she WAS the voice of this song. I couldn’t imagine anyone else. Working with Natalie was so enjoyable and inspiring. She’s not afraid to go anywhere with her voice and it’s magic. She had so many of her own ideas that made the song 10x what it originally was. She isn’t the “next” anyone, she’s like nobody else in the industry right now; you’re going to love her instantly.
Which are your favorite genres?
It’s hard to say what my favorite genre of music is – these days there are so many blurred lines between the genres, they’re all running into each other. Originally, and what is closest to my heart, is Pop/Rock. I crave that “hook.” Not only listening to it, but finding it for my own songs. I have been getting into country music over the last few years, but I kind of attribute that to the country/pop crossover. I’m digging EDM (Electronic Dance Music) right now, as is the rest of the music world. It’s powerful and I love hearing little bits of it peeking through in songs from artists you’d never imagine using it. I’m even experimenting with it a little bit, working with producer Steve Catizone, we’ve incorporated EDM into some of my own projects. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but when it does – its ethereal.
What type of singers inspire you?
Singers that inspire me are those that sing as if they were hanging up their coat. A strange way to describe it, but again, effortless. Whether it be a powerhouse, a singer/songwriter or just a voice that could never be mistaken for another, a voice that I can listen to for 8, 12, 15 songs straight and still love is one that I can be inspired by. Sara Bareilles, Ryan Tedder, Christina Aguilera, Karen Carpenter, Adele, David Gray, Michael Jackson, Missy Higgins, Norah Jones, Prince, Selena…Judy Garland…of course Judy Garland.
What is your dream as an artist?
I’d be lying if I said hearing one of my songs on the radio or being nominated for any kind of award for my music (can you say Grammy?) wasn’t part of my dream. Obviously, these are things I will dream about until the day I die. But my dream as an artist, in so many ways, is happening right now. Even though I’ve always known who I am, I never felt others could see the real me. I didn’t know how to communicate it until I began writing it down and playing it out. The lyrics are my feelings and the music tells my story. Creating and sharing them with all of you has been my dream as an artist. I never want to stop creating because I can’t imagine what life would be like without it.
If you can pick one artist to make a duet with who it will be?
One artist who I’d love to collaborate with is Ryan Tedder, no question. He’s a genius. Incredible songwriter. I can’t even stand it.