Q&A with New York Blues Hall Of Famer soul-blues diva Regina Bonelli - her new album is a blues-meets-R&B tsunami

"Blues, and all music, has always had a major impact on racial, political and socio-cultural situations. Artists are responsible for getting there messages out to the world, to have people feel their pain and joy. We have a responsibility to send out the word."

Regina Bonelli: Love Letter to Blues

Regina Bonelli Brooklyn born, New York Blues Hall Of Famer Regina Bonelli is stepping forward to claim her rightful place amongst today's contemporary soul-blues divas on her new album "Love Letter" (2018), released on True Groove Records. Love Letter is a blues-meets-R&B tsunami from the first single “Don't You Put Your Hands On Me,” and the melancholy Al-Green-meets-Etta-James groove of "A Little Rain Must Fall," through the updated and socially relevant stomp of her cover of The Rolling Stones classic "Paint It Black," as well as her signature cold-bloodedblues on the lushly orchestrated, stunning title track.

Regina began to write blues tunes inspired by her own life and the world around her. She is an electrifying performer, and is receiving standing ovations, backed by her A-list band The True Groove All-Stars. Regina has shared the stage with music icons such as Bobby Rush, Paul Simon, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, Blues Traveler, Popa Chubby, and Ronnie Earl, to name but a few. "This collection of songs represents empowerment and healing in a world so sorely in need of both,” Bonelli says. “These are trying times we live in today, and I hope that the messages in these songs reach into the souls of the listeners. I truly believe that this is what music can do, especially the blues."

Interview by Michael Limnios    Photos © by Patrick Hilaire / All rights reserved

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

I know that the Blues is a unique African-American art form, which was born from the African-American experience in the United States. Originating from slavery, I pay respect to the roots of this music. These situations still exist, unfortunately, and the Blues is an important purveyor of these injustices. I realize that I myself can be sensitive to it, but do not really know it as an inner experience.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

I always loved blues music and have experienced my own form of the blues in my life, as we all have. I write original music based on my experiences and is influenced by blues, funk, R&B, soul and rock. Everything in music is based on something that came before.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have been lucky to have played music and written with some of the best musicians out there. Some of my most important musical experiences have been with my label head, producer and writing partner, Tomas Doncker, of True Groove Records. I have written, recorded and performed with Michael Hill. The best advice I ever got was from my mother, Jane Bonelli, who always told me that "cream rises" and I should just keep doing what I do and be true to myself.

"I know that the Blues is a unique African-American art form, which was born from the African-American experience in the United States. Originating from slavery, I pay respect to the roots of this music. These situations still exist, unfortunately, and the Blues is an important purveyor of these injustices. I realize that I myself can be sensitive to it, but do not really know it as an inner experience."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

One of my very first professional gig was when I was 18. It was in a club called the Bitter End in NYC, which was very happening. I was singing solo with my guitar by the bar and the crown was noisy. I started and was not used to playing out and was getting a little frustrated. A woman came up to name and told me that she heard and saw everything and was listening, and I should just do my thing. I found out later it was the famous folk singer Odetta who encouraged me that night. That always stuck with me and still means a lot to me as a performer.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Don't really miss anything from the blues of the past. I believe music is always evolving. I miss the amount of people who come to see live music but I think it will cycle back around.

Do you consider the Blues a specific music genre and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

I think Blues is a genre with many facets. I also think it's definitely a state of mind, and a set of experiences.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

I always like to think of myself as a Musician first and foremost, and not a Female Musician. No one says, here's the "male blues guitarist" Gary Clark Jr.! I think there are many talented musicians in blues who happen to be women.

"Don't really miss anything from the blues of the past. I believe music is always evolving. I miss the amount of people who come to see live music but I think it will cycle back around."

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Blues, and all music, has always had a major impact on racial, political and socio-cultural situations. Artists are responsible for getting there messages out to the world, to have people feel their pain and joy. We have a responsibility to send out the word.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I'd like to go back to before my mother passed away, sit in her kitchen and tell her about all the awesome things that have been happening recently with me, my music and her grandchildren.

Regina Bonelli - Home

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