NEDELLE TORRISI: FEELS LIKE PARADISE
Connection is a word these days usually associated with wi-fi passwords, a lack of internet access, hot spots, things that “connect” humans while being essentially not-human. It is not conversation or cooperative experience. Love is essentially about connection, and it is impossible to connect with your E-match without proper internet access…just joking.
Nedelle Torrisi is a writer of love songs that are based in the idea of a relationship between people, how we interpret and misinterpret each other, people in love and falling out of love, losing love, it is about connection. She also goes the extra mile by answering questions, Dear Sugar style, on her website Advice From Paradise, where she fields questions about love and relationships, as well as music (hers and others’). An interesting choice when careerism and mystery as a form of protection — whether that be of image or the self — seem to be the play of the day. Torrisi does not shy away from vulnerability.
“I have always been a very open person that reveals too much too soon and loves too much and all that stuff, ” notes Torrisi “And I am not ashamed of that, and will continue to be that, but at the same time, I feel that is a good thing to fight for, because everyone’s trying to make a connection with other people; that’s what this world’s about, we’re just all alone, people wanna feel loved, we want to feel accepted, and then-to be childlike and open, and not be too defensive and all that, it it takes a conscious effort, but I think it pays you back in more ways than if you closed yourself up.”
So it is a choice made by Torrisi, a choice not to cover up in metaphor and snark, a choice to make an album like the one she’s released, also titled Advice From Paradise (Ethereal Sequence), that tackles love and pain in a way rarely heard, in the sense that it is emotive and big with rainbows and robins and thunderstorms and crushing lows, and there is no pretense, it is not a character or a facade of a style, it is true and committed.
“With creativity too, it’s just-David Foster Wallace said you have to really choose what think about, and nothing comes easy, but you have to fight to remain hopeful and positive and innocent, that’s going to engender better music too, because who wants to see some weird bitterness on a page? Sadness in a song is fine, but I think it helps your life and your music to be open and loving with the creative process, too, to feel like there’s always a new song. There’s lots of tricks, like psychic tricks, that you have to play on yourself not to get writer’s block, to feel like the next good song’s around the corner, and it’s all about keeping an open heart and open mind.”
Advice From Paradise follows the song tradition of Sade or Johnny Mathis, there are full ideas, full narratives, complete thoughts. It seems as if today, vocals are basically just chants or doggerels to assist the music, a lot of “heys” and “hos” and indiscernible words that are more rhythmic phrase than lyrics.
Nedelle Torrisi does not employ this method — her arrangements are to the songs. The singing is not done in a way that negates the lyrics, where a display of vibrato or a vocal run takes more precedence than the words sung. The songwriting follows suit. Songs in an un-song-y time, if you will.
“Well, I have always written songs, and I don’t think I could write songs that were meandering and trendy even if I tried; I do believe that it’s still a ‘song-y time’ in the sense that if people were exposed to traditional songwriting, I believe they would like it better than the songs they’re hearing and liking right now. It’s just a matter of what’s trendy and what people are doing, and it’s getting people off course, but I still think that in their hearts they would be more responsive to real songwriting if they have more of it presented to them, and I believe the song will become popular again, it’s just a matter of us not getting so far away from the craft of songwriting that it never comes full circle back here, because if people just forget how to — if they’re just concentrating on different things — we could maybe lose it forever, and that would be such a tragedy.”
A song like “The Perfect Timing” sounds like Stacy Lattisaw, or 80’s soul pre-Jam & Lewis, but like right before, so there are shades of that. “Don’t Play Dumb” sounds like that kind of reggae vibe of good UB40, “Psychic Returns” evokes something like Live To Tell or The Beautiful Ones, or even Love Deluxe era Sade. So yes, it does jam, but it also seems to stem from an honest place, the songs feel personal, they feel less like conversation, more than abstract poetry.
“I value when people can turn their experiences in to something beautiful and universal, but without getting too far away from the real emotion, the real sentiment. It could be said that women will be a little more earnest in their lyrics, or a little more heart on their sleeve, and that shouldn’t be looked down upon. It reminds of that book written by Anthony Braxton, Forces of Motion — well, actually not written by him, but about his tour through Europe with his band — and in it he says there’s this thing called “feminine vibration,” and that when women aren’t encouraged to write songs and write music, that throughout history we’ve been kind of missing half of what the universe has to say, because if women aren’t writing then that’s half of the creativity and half this vibration on Earth, and I think that’s a really beautiful way to put it, it’s like Joni Mitchell said what she said and it spoke to a lot of people and it was really earnest, but also very smart and well crafted and thank God for people like her that are giving us the other side of the coin.”
Nedelle Torrisi’s advice website can be found at advicefromparadise.com. Also Filter Magazine became Flood Magazine and Torrisi’s column can be accessed there as well.