Take Five with Joanna Pearl

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Photo by Gary Johnson
       

Southern California singer-songwriter Joanna Pearl has had a passion for music since a young child. Pearl released her EP, Sensitive Material, in 2014. Her most recent projects as a solo artist include releasing her single, “I Am Woman,” in March of this year and is featured on Chicago’s album Born For This Moment, on track 10, “The Mermaid” (Sereia Do Mar). Pearl is also the leader of a 10-pc soul/funk band called SoulCal.

Tell us a little about your musical background; how old were you when you started playing, and what inspired your musical desire?

I have loved to sing and write for as long as I can remember. I would often sit in my room with my double-deck cassette karaoke machine listening to 99.1 KGGI on the radio and waiting anxiously with my finger on the record button, so I wouldn’t miss the new Mariah song. Once captured, I would sit and play it over and over again and write down every lyric and listen to every tone in her voice. I was a bit obsessed, lol, but that, to me, was fun!

My journey to becoming a professional recording artist has developed much like a pearl does. I was a shy child, in my shell, developing alone in my bedroom. It wasn’t until high school, when I joined the show choir, that people, including my family, started to hear me and realize my dream. I did the American Idol thing straight after high school and made it to the rounds right before tv… then I was cut. Music took a backseat to life, I went to college (where I actually appreciated Music Appreciation class), had a full-time job at Lowe’s, got married, got divorced, and when the entire country’s bubble burst, I found my music mentor, Thomas Barsoe… and in the Fall of 2010, in a San Juan Capistrano single-car garage of a Danish pop-star, my professional music career was born.

There are so many things I can talk about from training with him… one being we started a songwriting camp (still going today) where most of the material off my EP Sensitive Material came from. I remember sitting at the dining room table of Thomas’s house with my co-writers, creating a tempo by banging my hand on the table, and my friend Parker Hernandez played guitar. At that particular camp, Jamie Hartman from Ben’s Brother was there and heard what I was doing; he walked over and pointed to my hand and said, “That! Keep doing that! And put it in the song!”

I have been seriously lucky to work with some of the best in this business. But I also know that I would never have had those opportunities if I didn’t work hard, too. I know that writing and singing are my life’s purpose, and although it’s one of the most challenging things I have ever done, it’s also the most fulfilling. I’m very grateful to have a feature on the new Chicago album, Born For This Moment, on track 10, “The Mermaid” (Sereia Do Mar). I also can’t wait to share the new single this October and new album coming beginning of 2023. In the meantime, I will be performing with my 10-piece R&B/Pop band, called SoulCal.

Where do you find the inspiration for your music?

The inspiration behind my music is life. Honestly, observing life and living life. What I write is always based off an emotion. I truly believe to be an artist, you have to be willing to torture yourself, lol. What I mean by torture is not run from the things that you feel. You have to live through them, come out the other side, and regurgitate that into a song. Also, I am often inspired when I am driving for long periods of time.

What is your songwriting process?

My songwriting process is not set in stone. It can start with a word, a melody, or a sound. I feel like a song is a living thing… maybe that’s why most artists refer to their songs as their babies. Whether writing solo and being still to “listen” or co-writing in a “ping pong tournament” style, the song always gets what it wants. On a structural level, I treat the chorus as the “top” of the song.

What’s your go-to instrument for songwriting?

I love starting acoustically with a guitar or piano. In my opinion, if it doesn’t work on a guitar or piano alone, then the song just isn’t good enough. As for the microphone, I use Neumann U87 in the booth and Sennheiser e835 for handheld.

Music to me is…

Music is the oxygen that I breathe to survive here on planet Earth. Music is the only medication worth ever getting addicted to. Music is life… I mean, isn’t that the reason our hearts keep a beat?