The Italian Project
The Italian Project is the product of a beautiful dream come true; one that embodies love, hope, and the overriding positive message that we can truly achieve anything we set our minds to. In 2009, Lisa Marie Simmons and I, who both attended high school at the same time in Boulder, CO, reconnected by Facebook for the first time in more than 25 years.
This synchronistic virtual meeting resulted in a four-year international music adventure that included performances in Italy and Colorado, and culminated with co-writing (along with Bob Story) the 11 songs on this CD.
We wrote the songs largely via Skype over a two-year period, and recorded tracks both in Italy and Colorado. While the writing and recording process has been lengthy and challenging at times, the journey has been priceless. The Italian Project is a big departure for Lisa Bell and her band, with heavy roots rock, country, bluegrass, pop and blues influences. Throughout the writing process, we used a theme of positive messages and beautiful stories of change, manifestation and empowerment. Some of the songs are uplifting. Others share important stories such as the challenges of homelessness, racism and our societal fears. All are designed to make the listener take heart and take action. The music is fun, fresh, upbeat and thought provoking.
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We were having a conversation with a band mate Larry Thompson during a rehearsal one day about how you have to be impeccable with your word, and that the world needs more positive thoughts in action. He said a phrase to me that became the basis for this song: “What you bring to the table is what you eat!” Lisa Simmons immediately said “That’s a song, we can use it!” Larry said “yeah but if you write a hit song you owe me money!” We interpreted that phrase to mean that you have to bring your best to every aspect of your life, and “Bring the Love” to each and every conversation.
I read a statistic that said in the past year, 70% of all marriages came about as a result of people meeting online. I was blown away by that statistic and came to the writing group with the concept of a song that describes what it would be like to meet the “cyber romance figure” in person for the first time. Will the excitement of the online romance continue in person and will true love ensue?
Over lunch one day last spring in Boulder, Lisa Simmons asked Marco for a phrase we could use in Italian for a song. He told us a story about ancient Greco-Italian relations. From Wikipedia: “Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1861, immediately upon Italy’s unification. More than two millennia of shared heritage and Greco-Italian relations have led to the Italian language statement “Una Faccia Una Razza” (One Face, One Race). We took the phrase and ran with it, creating a song about how we must all respect the vast cultural and physical differences within the world, treating everyone as an equal, as “we are all the same beneath.”
Written from the perspective of a person who is in the dark recesses of an illusory world that they have created and in which they feel trapped. What would it be like to take that first step into reality, using faith and love as the modes to transport them into a Brighter Day?
This song was written with the specific goal in mind to create a music video that showcases my dog Kona’s unique talent of taking his brother Joey for a walk on the leash. Both dogs were adopted from the Humane Society of Boulder County. In writing the song we had a lot of fun with the lyrics to make them applicable to both a woman pursuing a man, or two dogs in hot pursuit. A portion of the download proceeds and ad revenue from the music video go to various local and national non-profits whose mission is to help adopt out wonderful dogs like Joey and Kona.
For many years my family had the “habit” of taking in someone down on their luck to live with us for months at a time while they got back on their feet. Inevitably the day would come when they would out-welcome their stay, and at that point it was always me who had to bring on the tough love that it required to get them on their way. Be it a family member or a wayward soul, most of us can relate to that feeling when “Love Hurts.”
Lisa Simmons came to us with a story about a woman who was mugged in a subway station during the morning rush hour in Milan. The perpetrator snatched her purse, and shoved her to the ground in the process. She hit her head on the hard cement, and laid there bleeding to death while the hurried commuters actually walked over her body for a good 10 minutes. By the time someone came to help, it was too late. The scene had been caught on surveillance cameras and was replayed on the news over, and over again. Quilt takes a look at how society has become so numb to reality that often times we can’t even see a fellow human in need.
The song was written from the perspective of a newly homeless person who finds himself on the street and full of despair. As many in our nation face financial uncertainty, the number of homeless continues to rise. Many are one step away from losing everything, yet until they face that reality, the judgment of others less fortunate continues. “We face our deepest fears within, from the outside looking in.”
“I’m gonna live all of my dreams, and feel the power in what they bring. I got permission, time to set them free. I gotta reach for the best of me.” This was written as an empowering anthem for people everywhere who need a reminder that we must overcome the doubts and fears along the way in order to become the best person we can be.
Throughout our lives the road is bumpy and full of twists and turns, sometimes making it seem that our amazing dreams might never come to fruition. This song embodies the sentiment of the entire Italian Project album, that we can truly achieve anything we put our minds to, as long as we believe wholly in ourselves, our dreams and the joy, love and passion required to live our lives to the fullest.
This final, fun song was written after the initial visit to Colorado by Lisa Simmons and the Hippie Tendencies band. It was truly a love fest from the first time we all took the stage together. Boomba Boomba was a phrase coined by the HT crew that came up again and again on that trip, and embodies the fun, frivolous, feeling of pure joy we share when performing together. Truly a perfect ending song that recaps the amazing journey of The Italian Project.
Bell harnesses the worlds of country, jazz, blues, and even adds a few Latin influences in order to create this world that she inhabits with her honeyed vocals. Bell opens the album in a warm, country fashion with “Bring the Love,” playful lyrics merging with the artist’s great vocal work, drawing to mind an artist and sound like Bonnie Raitt. It’s those more roots-flavored tracks that seem to find her at her best, as further evidenced by songs like “Come My Way,” colored by a more contemporary arrangement, and “Walk With Me” which reads like a Patty Griffin B-side.
Overall, the eleven tunes represent a mix of blues, jazz, alt-rock, roots, and classic pop with a mature element that signals an invaluable recording. Fans will find some endearing tunes that are not to be missed.
Bell has obviously created an album intended to spread kind words and encouragement to its listeners. And though those words envelop the songs, becoming all you can concentrate on at times, the instrumentation pulls the album through, making it a facet of her work worthy of paying close attention to. There is so much going on in here in way of genres and sounds, but it is blended so well that you will barely even notice the transitions. Bell has excelled at creating what she set out to produce – an honest album that will make you feel good about yourself, and one that might even lead you to look at life a little differently. She takes weighty subjects and tackles them with a graceful flair in both her lyrical and instrumental prowess. Bell has a slew of insightful, prudent ideas to share with anyone interested in listening.
The Italian Project is a perfect blend of musical genres ranging from roots to jazz. One moment you feel like you are in an Eagles song, then something happens and you feel like you’re in a studio in Nashville with some of the best pickers….but then your ears blink as you try to figure out how you ended up in a classy jazz club listening to blues-roots-rock…What a journey!
Lisa Bell is not one to be nailed down to one particular genre, but she does sound most at home in that particular mix of rock and country that Bonnie Raitt did so well. There are even vocal similarities between the two artists. Bell is her own creation, however, and flits from genre to genre as she sees fit. Her lyrics are positive and pragmatic, working to build rather than to teardown.
When listening to The Italian Project from Lisa Bell, the variety in the music for the 11 tracks that make up the release is the first thing you’ll notice. And with each track on the album, the talents of Lisa Bell, Lisa Marie Simmons and Bob Story become more and more evident. No matter what genre of music you like, you’ll find a lot to enjoy on the newest release from Boulder, Colorado’s Lisa Bell.
What a great album this is. Lisa Bell’s voice is strong and also very versatile. The music here really runs a pretty wide gamut. Yet, it never feels contrived. It’s always quality stuff. This is an excellent album that should appeal to a very wide range of listeners. Come for the voice, stay for the music.
Collaborating with her transatlantic friends in Italy, Lisa’s aiming worldwide with her messages of manifestation, empowerment, and stories of change. And with an open heart and lifted smile, I can honestly say this is deeply reflected in this album and all I hear is in each and every song is Lisa singing with her entire soul and all the beauty that lies within her.