COSMICK VIEW: Hello Nina! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it is greatly appreciated.
CV: Tribute acts have become the rage of the day. However, having seen Femmes of Rock, it is far more than just a tribute act in my opinion. It’s more of an event…a musical trip through time. How do you see yourself as compared to a tribute band? What sets you apart? Is there something more to the experience?
Nina DiGregorio: We are performing cover tunes, but in a completely unique way. Our arrangements are not “exact album replicas,” but our take on our favorite classic rock songs, performed with different instrumentation, production value, and new arrangements in a way these songs have not been heard yet.
CV: Any thoughts on Bella Strings doing their own version of a tribute act, performing a single artist or band’s music such as Michael Jackson, Prince, the Beatles or Queen?
ND: We have actually thought about doing artist-themed CDs! For our live shows, utilizing all of our favorite artists appeals to a larger audience.
CV: Many original bands haven’t or simply don’t ever come close to the type or level of success Femmes of Rock has encountered in recent years. Besides the obvious difference in the choice of set list, what do you feel is the cornerstone for its success that original bands maybe missing?
ND: We have found a way to market in an appealing way. There are a million “bands” out there, but there are very few, if any other female-fronted string bands touring with a production show like ours. It sets us apart from the crowd.
CV: How do you choose the songs you cover?
ND: Selfishly. I choose my favorite artists and favorite songs. But of course, I choose things that translate well to violins. Songs with great guitar solos and interesting melodies.
CV: Your dedication to your craft and your innovative business musical model is an inspiration. Do you see yourself as a role model for young musicians and songwriters? If so, is it a role you embrace?
ND: I sure hope so. Many of us are teachers or have taught in the past. We also do clinics at our live shows for local schools on occasion and also in conjunction with Yamaha Strings. Our most rewarding experiences come with students who tell us that they wanted to quit violin until they heard our show, and now they are motivated to practice again.
CV: With the massive success of Bella Strings and the Femmes of Rock show, from your perspective, how do you see the role of women changing in the music industry?
ND: Traditionally, guitar is the instrument most associated with rock music… also men. We would like to think we are forging a new path for women and also the violin for being seen as “rock and roll.”
CV: Though women have had a well documented struggle to gain their voice in Rock music, their contributions have been without a doubt important. Artists such as Stevie Nick’s, Cher, Ann Wilson and Debra Harry have shown that successful and powerful women are both talented and beautiful, not to mention very influential. Despite the hardships they face, even today, do you feel being a woman in the Rock world has some level of edge to it compared to their male counterparts?
ND: I’ve always had the attitude of, if I can’t do it at least as good if not better than a male counterpart, why do it at all? So I’ve worked extra hard to be as smart, as well-practiced, as charming on stage, as business-minded as any male in the industry. I don’t see it as a setback at all. I have navigated all aspects of the industry with strength and confidence, and I don’t subscribe to the victim mentality. Any challenges I’ve faced have inspired me to come back that much stronger and better.
CV: How would you define an artist’s career: based on where they’ve been or where they are going?
ND: I would base an artist’s career on how many lives they have touched with their gift and how deeply. It’s much more important than money or fame.
CV: How then, would you define your own career to date?
ND: I think I still have a long way to go. : )
CV: Does an artist need to be innovative and groundbreaking to be successful in your opinion?
ND: No, an artist needs to be all-in…whatever you do, do it with as much hard work, honesty, and heart as you possibly can. Success will follow.
CV: Hypothetically speaking, if today, you found yourself in need of a new member for Bella Strings, what would you be looking for in a candidate? What characteristics would land that individual the job?
ND: We have string players audition through our website quite often from all over the country. We require that you are trained in both classical music and are able to improvise. We also require that you have a great attitude and are willing to treat our performances as a role as an actor. There are certain costumes and personas we must fulfill depending on the venue and client.
CV: In some cases, more isn’t always better. With all the access and immediacy the internet and social media provide today, do you feel the artist is more at a disadvantage than ever before?
ND: There are positive and negative aspects to it. On the positive side, the playing field is more level. You don’t need a record deal to be heard. On the negative side, the playing field is more level. People who have no experience and haven’t paid their dues can sometimes be catapulted to fame by a random video.
CV: Any chances on a future teaming up with a guitar hero like Satriani or Vai for a dueling strings tour?
ND: We would love that, both are heroes of ours!
CV: What’s the one character trait you pride yourself on having?
ND: Responsibility. I feel responsible for providing steady work to many musicians, and also I feel a responsibility to our audience to change their lives for the better, even if just for 90 minutes at a time.
CV: If you had the pick one song from the Femmes of Rock setlist as your favorite to perform which would it be and why?
ND: I love performing our WHO medley. I never get sick of Baba O’Riley. It is the greatest rock song ever in history. J
CV: What three things are you looking to accomplish this year either personally or professionally?
ND: Happiness, love, and positive effect on others for both.
CV: What’s next for you?
ND: I plan on expanding Bella Strings into other cities. We currently have groups in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I also plan on taking Femmes of Rock to the next level with more shows, more awareness, and more music.
CV: Thank you again Nina for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success with Bella Strings and all your future projects.
ND: Thank you!