Music Interview: Ivana Santilli

By Alan Cho

“I had a bit of a root canal last week, we removed the dressing today and finding out what other damage there might be,” Ivana Santilli winces over the phone. “I asked the dentist, ‘I’m a trumpet player and singer. Is this going to be a problem?’ and he goes ‘we haven’t encountered a trumpet player before.’ So I found out the hard way.”

Even with major dental surgery and a jaw still sore from the drill, she laughs it all off. It’s a day of interviews, phone pressed to her ear as she reviews distribution deals for her latest album Corduroy Boogie and finalizing itineraries before heading off for a cross-nation tour. Just another day for the Canadian soul songstress; brushing the pain away as if just another strand of auburn hair to be tucked behind her ear. Forgoing major record deals to retain a greater sense of control lacking in her Bass is Base days, she’s in a good place right now.

“I have tons of control, ’cause it’s my record company and my project,” says Ivana. “But I don’t think it’s ever been about control, because I find that’s not a healthy thing. Basically, [it’s about] being responsible for your own future.”

Not a cutout pop star wiggling her plastic ass on television or faxing out a digital voice on radio waves, Ivana brings a real blast of soul-infused pop with trumpet in one hand and keyboard at the other. That’s the music she wants to create, and she’s not afraid of her younger and corporate approved contemporaries.

“As far as pop goes, no I’m obviously not a 14 year old girl who lip-synchs,” muses Ivana on the current state of pop music. “There are always going to be that aspect of it, where people completely see music as a product and others see it as an art. Sometimes the balance leans more on one side than the other, but it kind of reestablishes itself when you get tired of prefabricated pop.”

But don’t blame the DJs for the manufactured pop, as some cultural pundits have declare from their parents’ basement. DJs, specifically King Britt, cured Ivana of the writers’ block that set in after her first album, Brown. A trip to Philly and getting out of Canada gave her synapses a chance to crackle into neuron superstorms of creativity.

“King Britt being a DJ, one of his jobs is to open people to new music and inspire people,” she explains. “The circle of DJ and musicians is so important because they remind us how much great music there is and how much is being made.”

Sifting through contracts and press releases needing approval, Ivana is without a DJ to lend a hand on the business end. Taking a peep out the frosted window, she’s warily excited to put the business side of things on pause to get out on the road.

“I don’t love touring Canada in November” says Ivana. “But I really do like Calgary. I get wicked vibes when I’m out there. I’m telling you, Calgary’s dope, but if it was only a little warmer.”

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