By Justin Lee
A laid-back, dream-like feeling passes over you while listening to Brown, the debut album from ex-Base Is Base member, Ivana Santilli. Interspersed with energetic and upbeat sections, Brown creates what Santilli describes as "soul."
"I describe it as soul and the thing is, I’m a little apprehensive in describing it that way simply because I have so much respect for all the greats who created and established and had a part in establishing what soul is," explains Santilli.
Santilli definitely knows a thing or two about soul; her vocals are as smooth and rich as they are intimate and inviting.
Santilli was on tour for the last seven months and has received rave critical reviews for Brown.
After four years with Base Is Base, Santilli, a Canadian of French and Italian descent, made the decision to go solo because she found herself comprising her own musical vision.
"Near the end, when I started improving on my craft, I realized that it was completely a compromise and I really felt that my song deserved a chance, my voice deserved a chance and I don’t mean like I’m some diva ’cause it’s not at all that," she asserts.
Instead of recording Brown under her existing record label, a&m, Santilli decided to start up her own label.
"I didn’t know what kind of artist I was and I didn’t want a contract over my head that basically would have established me as a certain type of artist within a month. Where as it takes five months to write the material and find out whether you are happy with it or not," Santilli explains.
Santilli produced three of the songs and co-produced the remaining 10 songs on Brown, in addition to writing all the songs and playing keyboards, piano and trumpet.
"I needed to prove that I was capable of expressing an idea from the beginning to the end and to have it translate well to other people.
"It just so happened that I found that I was doing it because people that I called into produce the track were talented but at the same time didn’t have the complete picture of what I wanted out of my songs and what kind of artist I was."
On the album and on-stage, Santilli is backed-up by a Þve-piece band that compliments her strong voice. Songs like the current single, "Sun+Moon=Tomorrow," feature carefully crafted live drum ‘n’ bass compositions that drive Santilli’s music to the next level.
"The guys call me ‘boss-lady’ and they use it jokingly because we all have a very good relationship, you know, it’s very respectful and it’s very goal-driven… they’ve embraced the music that I wrote and they help bring it to life with live musicianship," she says of her relationship with her bandmates.
Ivana Santilli is a rarity in today’s urban music scene, demonstrating a real sense of originality in music.
To witness her unique take on modern soul music, catch her at the Liberty Lounge at Mount Royal College Oct. 25.