Angela Petrilli: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Angela Petrilli Interview

Angela Petrilli Feature Photo by Max Crace.

Dating back to 2019, when guitarist and songwriter Angela Petrilli was one part of Roses & Cigarettes, an Americana duo, she was generating considerable buzz around L.A. and beyond.

And now that she’s got stints as an opener for the likes of Luther Dickinson, Marc Broussard, Amanda Shires, and more under her belt, as well as her band, Angela Petrilli & The Players, whose EP, The Voices, is a stunner, she’s preparing to take the next step.

But it didn’t happen overnight. In addition to facing a harsh and unforgiving music scene, Petrilli’s partner in Roses & Cigarettes, Jenny Pagliaro, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Just as the duo’s track, “Fast as I Can,” began to rise, Pagliaro passed away at age 35, leading to a chain of events that would change Angela Petrilli—and her trajectory—forever.

It wasn’t easy to lose a close friend, confidant, and collaborator, let alone a top-flight musician in Pagliaro. Understandably, Petrilli needed time away to recenter, leading her to leave L.A. and travel the world to spots like Nashville, New York, Paris, Italy, and Australia before her drive to create music via six-strings drove her home.

Once back in L.A., Petrilli formed her band, shook off the rust, and began writing music that would become The Voices. With a selection of gorgeous curios lovingly selected from her favorite spot to shop for gear, Norm’s Rare Guitars, Petrilli recorded some of the more poignant music of her career, showing the world that while her friend and collaborator may be gone, her muse remained strong and resilient.

With The Voices now out in the world, Petrilli’s growth as a songwriter and guitarist is apparent. She’s proven capable of leading a band on her own, and from here, the sky is the limit. Be it her lyrics, vocals, or guitar playing, Petrilli’s talent shines through each track, leaving listeners in sheer anticipation of where she’ll go next.

During a break in the action, Angela Petrilli dug beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to reflect on her origins, songwriting process, where she likes to shop for guitars, and more.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar, and what keeps you motivated to pick up the guitar?

My mom played guitar for my brother and me when we were young. I remember watching her play and thinking, “I can do that.” I am so thankful to have had parents who nurtured my interest in music. They created the space for me to get lessons and be creative. What keeps me inspired to pick up the guitar now is that I am and always will be a student of the craft. There is always more to learn, and there is always room to grow.

Can you recall your first proper guitar and amp? Do you still have it? 

I got an awesome Fender Blues Jr on Craigslist many years ago. I gigged with it a ton, and I loved it. It served me well for many, many years until the transformer decided to throw sparks, and I had to retire it! I gave the usable parts to my pal John at Norm’s Rare Guitars so they could live on in his repair shop.

What type of scene did you grow up in, and how did that shape you?

When I first started playing guitar, I joined the choir at my elementary school. I learned to work with others and grew my music conversational skills there. In high school, my guitar teacher, Jimmy Scott, would take me to blues jams in L.A. I learned how to apply the theory and musical concepts from our lessons in a live setting.

Those first few times, I felt like I was being thrown to the wolves. You really know what you’ve learned when you need to apply it in those “do or die” situations. Every single one of those jam nights was like a hundred lessons, and I learned a lot. I knew the language of music and playing guitar, but I truly learned how to be a conversational, ‘think on your feet’ musician on those stages. I often look back on those nights as a teenager and am so grateful to have had a teacher like Jimmy.

Where were you pulling from in terms of songwriting?

On my latest EP, The Voices with my band Angela Petrilli & The Players, my songwriting was inspired by many different styles of music. First and foremost, I am a fan and a listener of music. Regarding songwriting, some of my favorite songwriters are Paul Simon, Ray Lamontagne, Jason Isbell, Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow, Chris Cornell, and Norah Jones. Each of those songwriters is uniquely different, and in turn, they inspire me equally and uniquely.

 

Storytelling and imagery are two pillars I always have at the forefront when I write a song. Regarding guitar playing, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Lindsey Buckingham, Bonnie Raitt, and David Gilmour are huge influences on me as a guitar player. They all tell a story and paint a picture through their unique and heartfelt phrases. Their eloquence and grace with the instrument are something I constantly strive for in my playing.

Do you have a favorite riff and solo? What does that process look like for you?

One of my favorite solos is Louis Shelton’s guitar solo on Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” To my ears, it is one of the most beautifully played guitar solos. It has soul, it is pensive, it breathes, it takes its time, and it is very conversational. A well-crafted guitar solo takes you on a journey and tells a story. That one hits all the marks for me.

Which song best represents the player you are today, and why?

I am deeply proud of my tune, “The Voices.” I love playing with dynamics. That song captures the conversations I love with fellow musicians when we play live or in a studio. The dynamic dance between the lyrics and the music in that song is fun to play with as a storyteller. Huge kudos to my bandmates Brett Grossman (bass), Stephen Haaker (drums), Matt Lomeo (harmonica), Bobby Victor (keys), and Vic Vanacore (percussion) for helping me bring that song to life. It’s my favorite original song to play live for that reason. It’s a fun musical conversation.

How do you view today the way you play versus the past? What has changed most?

I am a perpetual student of the craft. I am always growing, and there’s always more for me to learn. What has changed most in my playing is my comfort in being present as I play. I give in to my experience every time I play live. I have “deep breath” written on my pedal board as a reminder to be present at every gig.

How do you view guitar solos in the modern era? 

Melody always wins. A great solo is one that is memorable and has honest emotion and authenticity. That never goes out of style.

Do they need to be deconstructed and changed from being overblown?

For me, a guitar solo needs to tell a story. It needs to be conversational; it needs to ebb and flow; it needs to be melodic. Most importantly, a guitar solo needs to serve the song.

Tell me about your gear: guitars, amps, pedals.

When I play live with my band, I play three guitars: my 1998 Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with Fishman Fluence pickups, my 2013 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul R9, and my 2012 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Jr double cutaway ’58 Reissue. I go with either the Strat, R9, or my Tele when I’m playing as a hired gun or with other projects. For acoustics, I use my Martin OM28v for sessions and my Martin 00017e for most live acoustic shows.

As far as amps are concerned, I use a Fender Princeton Reverb ’65 Reissue (with a Jupiter Alnico speaker), a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, and a Fender Vibroverb 64 Reissue with a JBL speaker. For pedals, my live rig right now is a TC Electronic Polytune, a 1976 Sepluveda Crybaby Wah, AnalogMan Prince of Tone Overdrive, MXR Phase 95, and an MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay.

What goes into those choices?

I like to have choices in tone when I play. I love the warmth and punch of tube amps and the unique voices of a Les Paul and a Strat. Both guitars are equally amazing to my ear, and I enjoy having the option of going between those two voices when I play. Regarding pedals, simplicity is best for me. I like classic sounds and tones that my heroes used. I like reliable pedals; easy to use, sound great, and don’t need a ton of dialing in. I just want to plug in and get playing!

What tends to catch your eye in terms of new vs gear?

A few years ago, I had the honor of doing some demos with SC-13E for Martin Guitar. It’s a really fun acoustic guitar to play on stage. I have been enjoying the Fishman Fluence Single Width pickups in my Strat. Those pickups nail the delicate and gritty sides of a Strat that I love. Plus, the pickups are so quiet!

Are you looking for anything new?

As far as buying new gear for myself, I love the guitars I have. They’ve been a joy to get to know and grow older with. An ES 335 or 339 and a vintage Fender Twin Reverb would be cool to add to my collection, though!

What are your favorite spots to shop for gear?

I love my family over at Norm’s Rare Guitars in Los Angeles! It’s been such a blast doing videos there over the past eight years. Granted, most of the guitars there are out of my price range, but one of my favorite parts about going to Norm’s is talking to the man himself and learning about the history of these incredible instruments. Norm is a living legend, and I am so thankful to have him in my life.

What advice would you give for gearheads?

My advice to gear heads is this: if an instrument or piece of gear sounds good to you, and if it brings you joy and inspires you to play… then it’s a great piece of gear.

Tube amp vs solid state? Where are your allegiances?

Tubes!

What are your short and long-term goals?

My goal is simple. I aspire every day to be better than I was yesterday: a better musician, songwriter, and human. I am a perpetual student of life. I am thankful for a wonderful and supportive community of family, friends, and colleagues who inspire me to grow and thrive. I am grateful to create music with a piece of wood and strings and have a few good stories to tell from the driver’s seat.

Angela Petrilli: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

One Response

  1. Avatar Nicco Cobb February 4, 2024

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