Jazz interview with jazz singer Marieann Meringolo. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Marieann Meringolo: – I grew up out in Suffolk County on Long Island. I just remember loving to sing from an early age. Singing made me happy and came naturally to me. It was something I picked up on my own and has always been a part of me. My 3rd grade teacher wrote in my report card “Marieann has a beautiful voice we should encourage this.”
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?
MM: – I personally have never studied. I learned from listening to singers who inspired me like Nancy Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Dianne Reeves and Barbra Streisand. I loved the beautiful sound that came out of them and I wanted to do that too! My focus is on the lyric and singing in a way that best serves the meaning of the song. I like jazz vocals because you can really get the feeling out through what the song calls for.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
MM: – I believe a singers voice just evolves over time naturally. I love that my lower notes became richer and deeper without losing anything from my top register. When one is committed to their voice and just keeps singing there’s just a natural progression that happens. To develop my sound I notice that when I work on a new song it’s never where I want it immediately. I need to learn all the lyrics not just read them so I’m really taking in the meaning of the song and then it organically flows out of my body.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
MM: – I did learn simple vocal exercises from singing in my H.S. choir and those have stayed with me over the years. I also currently sing with an inspirational singing group called Spiritus (which means breath of God in Latin) at Unity Church of NY and we rehearse once a week. We do some tight harmonies and interesting rhythms at times, so that keeps me on my toes.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
MM: – There isn’t one that I prefer, I’m just drawn to a song because of the emotional connection and love seeing where that takes me. But if I had to pick one I do love a bossa feel.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: , how it was formed and what you are working on today.
MM: – I love that I captured the recording live and that that energy transferred onto the album. And, I just adore these songs because they tell a story and take the listener on a journey. My Bergman show had been in the back of my mind for a while. In 2012, I had put together a Michel Legrand show which included many of the Bergman pieces. It wasn’t until after I sang in the 2015 Cabaret Convention, where the Artist Director, KT Sullivan asked me to sing “The Way We Were,” that I decided to create an entire show featuring Bergman lyrics.
As far as my next project, I’m in the process of working on a full show featuring the music of one of my favorite songwriters, Marsha Malamet.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
MM: – Well, I believe you have to truly understand the lyrics of a song and then trust where your soul takes you. An audience relates to openness, honesty and a heartfelt interpretation.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
MM: – I have a few favorite memories I can share. The first memory is when I released my “Image…If We Only Have Love” CD at Joe’s Pub, August 17, 2003. Three days prior there was a Blackout in all of NYC. In fact right at my last song during rehearsal we lost all power! We didn’t know if we were going to have a concert until the day before. Well, we did have our CD release concert and It was an amazing night and the energy of the audience was just fabulous!
My second favorite memory is getting my first New York Times Review from one of my live performances! Opening up the paper to find a huge photo of me in performance and reading a really wonderful review from critic Stephen Holden was truly magical…I was floating. And, lastly, this wasn’t in a studio but the live recording of my Bergman album that happened at The Iridium was truly a highlight. I had just this one shot to get it right and we did it! Truly a memorable night!
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
MM: – By just keeping this music alive the best we can. Keep recording it and performing it live. The ones who are drawn to it will find it. This music is here to stay…it’s timeless!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
MM: – The spirit and meaning of life to me is doing what brings you joy and fulfillment, living your souls purpose as you are lifting the spirits of others. And, having been given the gift of my voice is something I am so grateful for and feel very blessed to have. So, I’m on the same page with John Coltrane and can say that singing is my spirit.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
MM: – That the standards and music I love singing was being broadcast on top radio stations in every state…just the way pop stations are out there. That would be so cool! And that concerts of this same music weren’t so rare.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
MM: – I’m old school, but also eclectic in taste and it depends on my mood. You could find me listening to anything from meditative music like Deva Premal to Pink Martini, Diana Krall, Barbra Streisand, Nancy Wilson, and I never get tired of listening to Amy Winehouse. I’m also in the process of finding songs for my next project…to be announced at a later date.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
MM: – Not sure how this is going to go over…but I would love to travel back in time to the moment I decided to come here and be born. What was the agreement I made for my souls journey here on planet earth? That would just be mind blowing!
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
MM: – Well, Simon, You came up with some great questions…I can’t think of a new one … I’m questioned out! LOL!
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.
MM: – Thank you for this great interview!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan