Last year, pop star Gina Cutillo shocked everyone when her song “Keep On” turned out to be a surprise hit on the Billboard Charts, debuting at #34. Now, Cutillo hopes to recapture that same success with her latest single “Brand New Start,” which was released alongside a bombastic music video that is intrinsically booming with high energy. Cutillo has already been a success in her own right. In the last couple years alone, she has shared the stage with the likes of Paramore, Katy Perry, Neon Trees, and Prince. She has also collaborated with writers who wrote hit songs for famous names like Ke$ha, Megan Trainor, and Shinedown. If she continues to play her cards right, Gina Cutillo could very well be a force to be reckoned with in the pop industry. She discuss her recent success, as well as what awaits her in deeper horizons as her career progresses in a positive direction.
Last year, your track “Keep On” turned out to be a surprise hit, debuting on the Billboard Chart at #34. How did it feel to reach such high success so fast?
I was ecstatic but there were also a lot of conversations with my radio promoter for months. We were originally going to work my song “Fly (Feel Love Tonight)” which is also a hit, but Gary Lefkowith (radio promoter) knew I was in the studio the whole time we were speaking and said listen send me that track you just completed. He LOVED it. Now this is a guy who has worked radio for major artists and hit records. When you go to radio you have to know it’s a hit. So Gary said yes this is the song we will go to radio first with because it has fire and a good introduction to you as an artist. So you kind of know when you have someone like Gary working your single it’s going to do something because again they usually don’t take projects on unless they know, but also nothing is a guarantee. With that I’m also an indie artist, so we weren’t expecting “Keep On” to explode the way it did. He thought it would take a little longer but it caught people. It was a very exciting time to take meetings with the head of z100 here in NY and watch your song climb. It’s not easy breaking through as an indie. The majors spend big bucks. To be such a small fish in the big pond and get to #32 was one of my biggest accomplishments in the music business.
Your recent single “The Inside” was co-written with Pete Nappi, who worked closely with names like Megan Trainor, Shinedown, Ke$ha, etc. How did that collaboration come out and how did you convince him to write a song with you?
The best part of this all was I didn’t have to convince him to work with me. I had released “Fly (Feel Love Tonight)” that a manager heard in NYC. He loved the song and my prior release called “In Time”. He was friends with Pete and said, “I think you should work with him, I’m going to send him your songs.”
It was one of the easiest connections I made. I heard some of Pete’s tracks and was very impressed. Pete was born on Long Island so we shared that in common. Pete loved my songs and called me within a week. We we got on well and discussed how we would move forward, so I said I had a few tracks written if he would like to hear them. He said sure. One was called “The Inside” he said, “that’s the one I want to work on send me the vocals without the music.” So I did – he suggested I rework some of the words in the post chorus and elaborate in the second verse- which I did. The trekked to Los Angeles with my longtime guitarist Ron Labriola and we did the track within the day. It was amazing to watch Pete work. He literally built music around my vocal line and melody. I learned a lot from Pete. Watching him write music using Pro Tools, same program I used, depressed me at first. He was so damn talented. BUT it pushed me hard and I wrote “Keep On”. Oh and back to “The Inside” I re-tracked all my vocals back in New York with my longtime producer David Caggiano. It was a lot getting everything done in one day out in Los Angeles. I like to get into character when I record vocals and I knew the song was so special that I wanted to give it everything I knew I was capable of.
When and why did you decide to start a career as musician?
My mother was a singer, so I grew up with her singing all the time. She had bands when she was younger and did a demo for Capital Records. She also had five children, so a music career wasn’t happening. As far back as I can remember I loved singing, instruments and the idea of writing songs. My mother played all the greats for me and taught me harmonies and vocal lines to Mo-town, Doo-wop, Jazz and Blues songs. Fast forward to my second year in college and I decided this would be it, I’m doing music. I knew it’s what I wanted. I went to a garage sale, bought my first classical acoustic guitar for 50 bucks and taught myself how to play punk songs day in and day out. I also started writing music right away then got into a band. There was no looking back after that.
Most recently, you dropped a music video for “Brand New Start.” What inspired the concept for the music video? What exactly is the “spirit” or this video?
What inspired the concept was the idea behind the song. Bringing people together and the idea of starting over. So I had an idea of people coming into the street joining me as I was walking down the street and singing the chorus to “Brand New Start”. I let Max Skaff (Director) hear the song and told him the idea. He loved it. The message of the song dictated that a group of people would come together to proclaim a “Brand New Start”. Max had the idea to have everyone sing along and sing some solo spots which was ingenious. The spirit is positive, fun, longing for new, the beauty of life together and then the icing on the cake: a wedding. The ultimate “Brand New Start” was all there by chance. Neither Max nor I came up with this. The bridal party just happened to be on the same street while we were shooting my video on. Super cool, right?! A sign from above.
The last time you released a full length album was in 2010 for The Lover. Why has it been so long since you released an album?
I released two EPs after “The Lover”. “Love Faith Soul” has three tracks and “Monolovers” has two tracks. Then I started releasing singles in response to the climate of the music business and fans. While this may be changing a little now, society has become so singles based. I was writing an album which I started releasing little by little as singles. Which I’m glad I did cause each one led me to another big success. It’s also good for independent artists to have new music to share every three months since there usually isn’t a big-budget tour or radio campaign happening behind the album. Do young fans have the attention span anymore too? I don’t know. So, essentially, I released seven singles from the album I was writing and have two more ready to release. There’s your full album.
Is there a time table for when your next album may be released?
I could either package the singles released already with, say, 3/4 new tracks and call it an album or when someone gives me a lump sum of money to sit in the studio for three months and bang out my next batch of stories. Not sure. I will say this – I miss the album idea and concept. So maybe I will do that next. We’ll see.
It’s been brought to my attention that you “accidentally” performed for The Sopranos cast. How do you “accidentally” perform for an entire cast, and how did that turn into a regular gig in NYC?
Well I’m part Italian, so we do those things. I was networking in the city one day and met a guy named Joe Goodavage. He’s a director for some notable indie films. He really loved my album “From Here to Desire” and asked if I wanted to write the main track for his new indie film which had Vinny Vella in it and other actors from “The Sopranos”, “Goodfellas”, etc. I said, “sure send me the script so I can be inspired.” I wrote “The Unsettled Road” and made a great friend in Joe. We would meet in the city here and there to discuss business, so it was nothing big when he said, “come down to this Italian restaurant, I want you to perform the track you wrote for my movie and one of your tracks from the album.” I had no idea who would be in the audience. They all loved it so much that I went back weekly for a while and had good times with my Italian friends while eating very delicious Italian food.
Is there anything you’d like to say, mention, or promote before we end this interview (a tour, upcoming album, new single, etc.)?
Watch and share my new video for “Brand New Start” and download the song from iTunes. We are also playing November 4 in Connecticut at the Elm City Festival, Main Stage Terminal 110, with more tour dates soon.