Dee Farace

Her Soulful Sounds and Colorful Style Make An Impact

Fans of any local scene struggle with the same dilemma. One one hand, they want their favorite band to be successful and tour everywhere so that the whole world will appreciate their music. On the other hand, they secretly worry that once that band does break out, that special magic experienced by a select few every Friday or Saturday night will disappear.

Followers and supporters of singer/songwriter Dee Farace and her bandmates have gotten used to seeing the group performing around numerous New Jersey and New York venues, participating in various showcases and events. Building an audience and generating a buzz is always the first step in becoming an established act among the local music establishment. It's also a sure-fire way to transcend it.

Born in Philadelphia, the Dee Farace Band's frontwoman and namesake is graced with that powerful one-two punch of a hot look and an even hotter sound that makes an immediate impact on her audience. Surrounded by talented musicians and supported with a top-notch producer and manager, she has brought her presence to the stage; combining a deep and artistic spirit with a flashy and fun vibe to create a singular style.

Farace spoke with Chorus and Verse about the evolution of her music and how the band's success so far is leading them forward, as they plan to start selling their first CD and expanding their touring area and broadening their audience. We'll start at the beginning, with a little girl who has made music her way of life.

Your bio mentions that you've had a passion for singing since age two. Can you expand on that a little bit and tell us what your earliest singing memories are? Did you sing in school, or participate in any formal music programs, such as chorus or theatre?

My earliest memories of singing are from the age of 2, at my grandpa Joe Farace's house. He used to play the organ and my family and I would dance and sing. That was my first memory of being acquainted with live music and I've loved it ever since. It's really funny how a song can have many different meanings. We loved this one song my grandfather would play, it seemed so innocent at the time, but come to learn it is about a prostitute who has the day off. (Laughs.)

I also remember standing on top of the coffee table with a hairbrush singing to anyone who would listen. I was always in chorus, plays and talent shows. At 9, I joined a 50s sock hop group called the "Pinelands Players" and we would do charity events such as telethons and nursing homes.

When was your first experience singing in front of an audience? Are you comfortable performing in front of people? Does it come naturally for you, or something that you've had to work at? Any little things that you like to do before getting on stage to prepare yourself?

The first time I sang in front of an audience was the first grade talent show. I dressed up like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". It was very natural, in fact the more people, the better. But, I always strive to reach that next level. There is always another star even beyond what you can see.

Normally, my ritual before a show is a shot of Tequila and a warm up with Nicole, the other vocalist in the band.

Have you had any formal musical training, or studied voice? How often do you practice and what do you do to keep your voice in shape and warm up before shows?

I have had vocal training through the music academy and Greg Drew of New York. Both techniques are very different and both very helpful. Still there are no better teachers than Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and a few of my personal buddies. I do daily exercises and warm ups and downs after shows. Most importantly is staying hydrated, getting a lot of sleep and using your voice regularly.

You were also enthralled by poetry at an early age, citing John Lennon as an influence. As someone who was born after Lennon's death, can you describe his lasting influence on music, both on your personally, and on the current music industry? Have you ever read "John Lennon in His Own Write"?

I have not yet read "John Lennon in His Own Write," but it is on my to-do list. He just hits home to a lot of people by making his lyrics so universal. Also, I just love his ideals and feel like we share the same views. I was born after his death and still, he is so timeless. He's still one of the biggest names in the industry and truly a legend.

Talk about your writing process. Do your songs start out as written pieces, or poetry, that get music added to them later on, or do you like to sit and compose a song with music and words at the same time? Do flashes of inspiration hit you that make you want to write, or do you set aside time specifically to write?

Writing for me never happens in an organized or certain way. Each song is written differently. It normally is a very inspirational, spiritual process. My producer, Alex Mitnick of Jaisol Productions, has opened me up to new avenues and expanded my techniques. Before I met Alex, my songs began in writing. Now, Alex and I can start a song with a title, a beat, a theme or verse.

Introduce us to the Dee Farace Band. Who are the current members of the band, how do you know each of them and what led to their joining the group?

I just want to start by saying that each member of the Dee Farace Band is not only uniquely talented, but they are amazing people to work with on a personal level.

My manager, Jeff Rataski of Maxx Entertainment, introduced me to Alex Mitnick, my producer, and we immediately clicked. Alex had been working closely with Sean Dixon (drums), Justin Wallace (bass) and Danny Johnson (tubla) [an Indian double-drum], and introduced them to our project. I was extremely flattered, when they wanted to participate, because they are all seasoned touring musicians. I found the lovely Nicole Andrews (back up vocals) at a karaoke show and we became good friends. She was far too talented to not be performing. So I coaxed her into playing with us. And that's how we became a family.

You've performed at both the Stone Pony and the Saint in Asbury Park. Any other venues that you've enjoyed playing at, and is there a spot that you've especially liked appearing in? Do you find the crowds to differ from one room to another, or react to you differently in various places?

It is truly an honor to play at the legendary Stone Pony and the Saint. I really enjoy playing everywhere. One of my favorite gigs was a Battle of the Bands, because I got a chance to play for a more diverse audience, young, old, punk, hardcore, easy listeners and everyone responded to my music. And I am happy to say we won! It's nice to know that music can unify so many different types of people. The crowd definitely impacts the tone for the night. You can play the same set, three nights in a row at three different venues and get a new experience out of each one, which is amazing. Otherwise, I'd only ever have to play out once to be satisfied.

Your show at the Pony was a part of one of the club's Cabaret Night. Was that a fun show to do? Want to take a few lines to give props to Terry Little and Jane Haas, who put the shows together?

The Stone Pony Cabaret Night is such a fun and enlightening idea. I really credit Terry and Jane for recognizing the fact that art exists in many different and beautiful forms. To have singer/songwriters, designers and artists all come together and display their talent to people who truly love creativity is so wonderful because there is just no other place to do that here (in NJ). It's not like the city, where art is accepted so freely. Here people like cover bands and the Gap. Terry is a beautiful songwriter and I hope her and Jane continue to inspire the artistic community. They deserve too many 'thank yous'.

Talk about your producer, Alex Mitnick. You credit Alex as helping to create your unique sound. How did you and he start working together, and what role has he played in the development of your style and sound?

Alex Mitnick has really been an inspiration to me in many ways. As I mentioned earlier, my manager, Jeff Rataski, hooked me up with Alex because of his confidence and passion. Alex is extremely easy to work with. He can transfer my ideas into music emotion. It's amazing how effortlessly we communicate. And it makes work a pleasurable experience.

How do you enjoy the recording experience? Are you comfortable and excited when you're in the studio and laying tracks down, or do you cringe when you listen to playbacks? Is it more difficult to achieve the emotional feel and energy of your live shows in the studio where you don't have an audience to react to and feed off?

I love the studio, there's a lot more control vocally because I don't have to compete with a P.A. system. But a live performance is so real, there's nothing better than feeding off the crowd. I'd just say they're different and cool in their own ways.

You've got a definite sense of style and presence on the stage, and usually have a colorful and engaging "look". How much do you think about the way you dress on stage, and do you consider the way you look, move on stage, and present yourself to an audience as important part of the show?

I believe my show does have a lot to do with not only the music, but my stage presence as well. It's a colorful band vibe, so I put a lot into my presentation and appearance. Personally, my favorite shows are visually stylistic, so I tend to go for that. I like to directly interact with the audience to make them as intimately involved with the song as I am.

There is definitely a lot of practice and thought behind everything. I sort of personalize each show to the crowd and vibe. I like to use props to bring a light-hearted authenticity to specific songs.

What's next? Where are you hoping to land future gigs, and what are your plans for recording and releasing new material? Where do you see your career at this point, and what are the goals that you're working towards?

I feel like this is just the beginning of my career and there is so much more for me to do. A lot is next, like finishing the demo, re-recording the current CD and selling it on my Web site

New material is a consistent process and we always strive for something better and different. I write for a variety of reasons. Some of my songs show empathy toward people who have experienced trials and tribulations in their life. I hope to give them some comfort and happiness in knowing positive views through my music.

As far as future gigs go, I want to play everywhere. I'd like to get started on a college circuit tour, to broaden our audience.

I'm definitely striving for a record deal and I am happy to say that we have some interest. I write all of my lyrics, so I'd also be happy with a publishing deal. For me, though, performing is where it's at.

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Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.