Josie is an 'Unkunvenshunal
By Naughty Mickie
She answered the phone with a smile in her voice and I immediately sensed her vibrant personality. It seems strange that Josie Aiello, who now goes simply by "Josie," has spent much of her time in the background. The singer/songwriter has paid her dues singing commercials, backups and song demos, as well as penning original songs for films such as "That Thing You Do," "Dinosaur" and "South Park." Josie has recently released "Unkunvenshunal Girl" and is touring across the nation.
At age six, Josie was "working salads" at her parents' Italian restaurant in Chicago. Josie's older sister worked as a waitress and sang with the piano player for fun. As she watched her sister, Josie thought, "I can do that,'' so she told her father that she wanted to quit making salads and sing.
Josie laughs as she tells me how she got him to agree, "He said I could sing, but I still had to throw out the garbage."
Josie started performing each weekend and worked her way up to a $20 paycheck for every three shows. By the time she turned 14, Josie spread out her talent, performing at school, local festivals and other events. Then a jingle producer and writer came to the restaurant and happened to catch her act, taking Josie "from salads to stage."
This didn't keep Josie from continuing her education, but it did change her future. Josie graduated with honors from the Academy of Performing Arts High School and later attended DePaul University. But the music muse kept calling; Josie was finding herself more and more in demand for sessions work and had it was time to pick the direction she would follow. Josie left school and decided to pursue a career in music. She soon discovered that she wanted more than Chi-town had to offer.
"I thought, 'I can't get what I want sitting in Chicago,''' explains Josie.
So she did what many dream of and many more fear, Josie moved to Los Angeles, where she had no friends and no job waiting for her. Studio to studio she went, plying her demo. In her journeys, Josie met Phillip Ingram. This fortunate meeting led to more sessions work, which paved the way for soundtracks and demos. Warner Brothers Records received one of her demos and forwarded it to Quincy Jones at Quest Records. Jones became intrigued by her voice and asked to meet her.
The big day arrived and Josie was nervous. She stood outside Jones' house and telephoned her mother stating her trepidations. Josie's mom provided her just the right dash of encouragement and Josie finally knocked on the door.
Once inside, Jones asked Josie about the demo. She had come empty-handed, but decided she would treat him to her music a capella -- she left with a record deal.
Obviously Josie has something special, but she remains humble, stating that the key to her success is to write every day, even if it's only a title or an idea.
To create the songs that would lead to "Unkunvenshunal Girl," Josie worked with producer/songwriter Ashley Ingram. On their first meeting, she arrived with a huge notebook full of her work-- from bits and ideas to complete songs. But Ingram grounded her by asking Josie how she felt, today, not in the past, but now. He encouraged her to sort out her present ideals and emotions and to be true to herself. By the end of the forum, they had written the song, "Free," which has gained the attention of the Human Rights Committee .
"They're calling 'Free' their new national anthem," says Josie.
She has also been requested to open for Elton John at one of the committee's events in Chicago in July.
Each cut on the release has been produced with the same approach.
"We wrote it as we felt it,'' recalls Josie.
And her feelings have found their way into many people's hearts. Josie has received a strong response to her music from women, as well as families. In fact, during many of her recent shows at Borders Books and Music, families have told her that they have to buy two CDs-- one for the parents and one for their children.
Josie beams, "My CD speaks to male, female, young and old.''
As far as the music scene, Josie feels that it seems to be changing to more lyric-oriented music, and not a moment too late.
"Lyrics have always been food. and we've been starving,'' she states.
She also loves to surf-- not the waves, but the 'Net.
"I think it's fantastic, I'm on (the Web) 24 hours a day. It's an amazing tool at our fingertips," Josie admits with a giggle. "And e-mailing also saves on postage.''
Her influences come from a variety of genres, favoring artists such as Bob Marley, Barbra Streisand, Heart, James Brown, Alanis Morrisette, Beck and Macy Gray. But to warm up her voice, Josie is partial to Jill Scott, who she finds very melodic and gives her chords a nice stretch.
She spends her downtime with her two dogs and two cats. Josie laughs and I prod her for the tale. She explains how she gets strange looks from people when she walks the strands at Zuma Beach, with her leashed pets in tow! Josie enjoys working out and running, but her favorite things are Sicilian food and reggae. On any given night, you may find her hanging out in a reggae club or a Jamaican restaurant.
Aside from fun, Josie is constantly writing new material, most of it is for her next album, but she also writes for other artists, including four new ones. She keeps herself busy with other projects, as well as working on film soundtracks. Josie is out on the road too, opening up for 98 Degrees and Hootie and the Blowfish and has been slated for a McDonald's promotional tour in the mid-west. In between all this, Josie has planned a trip to Nashville for even more songwriting sessions.
With boundless energy, Josie goes on telling me that her "live show is edgier, way edgier'' than her album. After being changed to suit a stage rather than a studio, her tunes have more of a raw, rock sound.
As she pauses for a breath, I ask her when will you find time to sleep?
Josie chuckles, "Maybe in September.''
In the immediate future, Josie wants "to really make the record happen" and is planning to make a video. As for long-term goals, she is hoping to get into film, while creating her own record label and heading up an artist management company.
Josie speaks enthusiastically about finding new talent, "When you find something great, you can't hold it down, it will surface. Art is about. bring it to the table, people.''
She has grace and charm and is full of spirit and her life has been slightly "unkunvenshunal," so it won't be surprising if the rest of Josie's dreams come true.
For more information on Josie visit www.josieaiello.com
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