This Year, Gioia Bruno decided to accomodate the Epistle with an interview. Below is the first part of this interview, which I conducted via phone.
JRT: First Question, when did you first get interested in music?
Gioia: Okay, well my mom tells me I was singing when I was a very little girl, and I think my first performance was "Me and My Teddy Bear", when I was in Kindergarten. Just like Britney Spears (laughter).
In 8th Grade I did "The King and I", and I was Anna. And then in High School I met an incredible musician, who became one of my very close friends. His name is David Fields. We were hanging out at my house and he started playing the piano and I started singing. He asked me what songs I knew, and I sang "I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet" by Carol King. He just looked up at me and said "Oh My God, you can sing".
I started singing, basically working together on different stuff, guitar, etc. I was in Sophomore Year in Highschool, age 16. I ended up reforming his band when he went to the Berkeley School of Music. The band was called Kickback and we started touring the three surrounding states, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. It was the most fun band. I remember, we played Top 40 stuff and it was great. And my Mom got me a fake ID. So it really took off when I was 16, that's when I got addicted to the whole performance side of things.
The funny thing is that, now that I'm based in New York, after not seeing David for almost 20 years, he and I are working together again. We have recently written 3 or 4 songs. It's really cool. It's gone full circle.
JRT: We all know the history, how you were discovered, but I'm interested in knowing how the actual recording during your time with Exposé came about. Were they short sessions, long, etc.
GB: I can wrap this up quickly for you. The first album-- The production company wanted me to hear me sing in the studio. There is a difference. A lot of people nowadays actually sound better in the studio, because technology has made huge advances.
Back then you couldn't do as much, there was no such thing as auto-tune. But there is a technique and there is a difference, with the microphone and the headset on. I went in, sang 'Let Me Be the One,' and they were like "Okay, you are definitely in." Blah.
I went into the studio--I think I had 3 takes. "Let Me Be The One"--I did 2 lead vocals and I did one extra. So it probably took about a half hour!
JRT: Wow that was really quick.
GB: It would have been a lot nicer if I had more time to work with different sounds, but it is what it is, and people seem to like it enough.
JRT: And I guess with "What You Don't Know" you did a lot more work--or maybe not.
GB: Well I was pregnant for the following album, and I never sang better in my life. They say when a woman's pregnant--that is a positive thing vocally. I don't know what it is exactly, I suppose it's hormonal. I just noticed a difference in my range.
JRT: Did you do a lot of solo tracks, or was it a combination?
GB: What do you mean? Do you mean were we doing background vocals together?
JRT: Did you perform all at the same time together, or all solo?
GB: No, it's impossible for to record like that. It's one person at a time. You do your lead vocal alone. But we would do our harmonies together. Sometimes the girls would come in, though, and back me up. For instance, I remember Jeanette saying she wanted to come into the studio when I did hmmm...I think it was December.
JRT: I was just curious how the whole recording process worked, because I know you have to do a lot of overdubs...
GB: We didn't do that many. Only when we really need to fix something or change a part. We were singing on the road for so long--I think I'd been playing out for 7 years before I joined Exposé, the girls too, and like any professional you go in and you get the job done, and we were definitely on a tight schedule.
JRT: Okay, I was just curious about that.
GB: Overdub (giggles)--I haven't heard the word "overdub" since I was in Exposé.
JRT: I'm not even sure I'm using the right freaking terminology.
GB: Oh no, you're correct...
JRT: Anyway, I did know there is a lot of production involved. I noticed you had more background singers than members of the group for instance.
GB: Oh yeah, there were many different sounds we wanted.
JRT: Singing dance music is different from a band, so...
GB: When you are singing dance music //with// a band, there are certain sounds on the sampler mixed with live instruments. I like it better. The energy is very different. Much more exciting; organic.
JRT: Use of a band prevents people from getting miffed with lip-synching and tracking, are you concerned about that...
GB: Let's talk about that.
JRT: Okay, sure, because it's topical right now, with the whole Ashley Simpson event...
GB: Absolutely, oh my God what a mess. I'm not going to make any judgements on it, but personally if I go into a soundcheck and they have no monitors then there's a ghost vocal on the track. I lost my voice in the past. I won't compromise my instrument because somebody didn't do their job. You can't hear the ghost track over live singing, and at no time is my microphone ever off.
The only time we ever lip-synced was back with Exposé, when we did a TV show that wasn't equipped for live sound.
JRT: Like Rollergames...
GB: Yeah, exactly. So you have to follow the rules, you know...
JRT: I notice that sometimes on TV shows they use it, sometimes they don't. The weird thing for me was seeing Showtime at the Apollo--The two appearances you did, the first time it was live, the second time it was a track...
GB: Never Ever. Showtime was live both times. There's no such thing as never live at "The Apollo"
JRT: There was no band.
GB: Correct, but the Vocal was live.
GB: Are you kidding? You ever walk your ass into Showtime at the Apollo?
JRT: No, what I was saying that the tape I watched had a track, it wasn't a live vocal feed.
GB: No way Ray. Wait, did you say "live vocal feed"??? You need to get out more John. But's its...
JRT: I know the show was live and the vocals at the show were live, but the syndicated show I have a copy of used a track.
GB: Hmm. I don't think so. They might have messed with it in post-production though.
JRT: Okay. There was one thing I wanted to question you about. In your opinion was Exposé ever a "teen idol" act.
GB: We got a lot of coverage in teeny-bopper magazines, but we had a lot of mom's with they're young kids, and I see them now, and they say "I Loved Exposé".
JRT: That reminds me, I remember a conversation thread on your message board, the official tour book had a quote from you said you liked to do something, and you stated "I never said that".
GB: Something about...
JRT: Watching "General Hospital"...
GB: I lived with 3 girls when I was 18-19, they would run home at lunch everyday to watch. I guess I ultimately caught some of it but I'm not a TV person. And I don't find it really amusing. There are a few great shows like "Seinfeld" or "Saturday Night Live" possibly. And now I'm even busier than I was then.
JRT: I didn't figure you to be a TV person, as you work a lot.
GB: The computer I am digging though.
JRT: What did you think of critics back then, they didn't seem to give Exposé a lot of respect?
GB: You know what's amazing? They were really harsh on us, I had forgotten but I noticed as I was reading some of the reviews my mom had saved. It's really funny, I remember the people at the label would say, "Record sales talk." Back then, we got beat up a lot, but now we're kind of a cult classic. People love us so much, they love our old songs.
I was really hurt by one review in the past, in People magazine...
JRT: I remember that one, something about you being a "third-rate Cher".
Yeah, they called me a "Thrice removed Cher". I was very upset about that at the time. I was young and well, quite frankly, I should have taken it as a compliment. Cher is amazing! To be compared to her in any way should have made me happy but I wanted to be me.
And for the record, I can do Cher very well. But everybody's different. We are all individuals, and it's not a competitive sport.
On my new record, I needed to put together some new press. I got on-line and typed in my name. I haven't read one negative review for this record. I was amazed and grateful. Before "Exposé This" came out I was a bit apprehensive. I thought, "They're gonna rip me apart". I think that people are genuinely happy for me, they know I got a second chance at my dream. So I'm not afraid to read reviews anymore, I'm a big girl now and I can take it.
JRT: I just thought they were harsh.
GB: Well, look at what they are saying about Ashley Simpson. She still has a million people who love her to death. Can she sing live or not--I don't know. I heard her on the radio awards. She might still have trouble with her voice--I wasn't feeling her at all. But damn, can she square dance!
JRT: Well, if she has acid reflux disease, I know it can be a serious problem from experience.
GB: Not for your vocal cords though. Not unless she's actually...I'm not a doctor, so I don't know. Sometimes people go into the studio and that is the beginning of musical education. I'm lucky, I got to be in a band when I was sixteen. I had to learn, and I had to work on it.
JRT: What do you think of Pop music today?
GB: I don't listen much to the radio much its so controlled and over played. I don't know what pop is anymore. I listen to a lot of "chill out". Dance. I like Zero 7 a lot, Maroon 5. I love so much music, but I honestly couldn't tell you who's singing it or what the song name is. I don't have the time to look into it.
I've love my IPOD, I listen to everything from James Taylor, Earth Wind and Fire, to, like I said Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas, Tina Arena, and the stuff that I'm working on.
JRT: You're actually more advanced than me. I'm the computer geek and I don't really deal with digital music.
GB: You don't go to ITunes or anything? I've got a remix record on it along with my album.
JRT: I experimented with Napster looking for rare tracks a few years ago, but other than that, no. I did get an XM Radio recently to round-out my stereo system.
GB: You hear my song on XM Radio?
JRT: Actually, I don't mean to criticize, but I can't really listen to the dance stations on XM because dance music today seems to all running at the same beat, maybe I'm an old fart.
GB: You are. That's why I made sure to change things up on my album. So farts like you wouldn't get bored! I didn't limit myself. There are so many different sub-genres. It gets confusing online.
Let me tell you what I am doing now. since you're stuck in the 80's. I've been working at the studio everyday writing, singing and producing. Whenever possible I sit in with different groups in the city. They're called jams or jam sessions. Different musicians run them, some have been going on for years. Like The Dave Mann jam. All types of artists show up and just do what they do. I love NY. I was at "The Bitter End" last Sunday, i'd always wanted to play there. Every great rock act in the history of rock played there at some time. I just wanted to read the walls. I sang a few songs, "Will it Go Around in Circles," Steamroller" and a couple others and they asked me back for their Christmas Show on Dec 14th. Hmmm maybe I'll do a Cher tune! Living in NY again has rejuvenated me. I can wake up any day and sing the Blues or Rock or write a dance track, I've sung all my life and I pull from lots of styles. I'm influenced by them all.
JRT: I knew that--I know you like doing dance, but you like doing other stuff as well.
GB: I love song writing more and more. It's very therapeuticand I do it everyday. It's almost a form of journaling for me.
JRT: How do you go about writing your songs? Do you think melody first or lyrics first?
GB: I do it a lot of different ways, but I'll talk about my favorite way to do it. I like to start from scratch, I just take my baggage, that's usually enough to scare the hell out of anyone who's been hanging out with me. I love to collaborate, you need to be open and secure enough to make an ass of yourself.
I've written a lot of songs by myself, but--I love people, when you find somebody you can vibe with, mess with, collaborations are incredible. It's like the difference between making spaghetti sauce with just a tomato, and creating it using a lot of ingredients, spices, etc.
People get stuck, so when you collaborate, you bring in new ideas. I like to go into the studio, and we start with whatever instrument we're feeling and I start creating --I like funky vibe-y stuff--and I listen to the notes,the chords, and I start to get a melody in my head. Then it's what I consider free association, sometimes a song just happens in record time. All inspiration. Other times it's like listening to my niece Elizabeth tell a story and your holding the butter knife in your hand straining to keep from.... sorry.
Part 2 to come soon.