Jimmy Rae Learns More about New York’s Own Karen Bella

Get ready to dive in and discover a true artist and singer/songwriter who tackles many moods & emotions on the new self-titled EP ‘Karen Bella’. Karen Bella digs deep to provide all the highs & lows in life on her latest project. Bella’s musical style is referred to as “Gumbo”, which can be summed up as a wide range of influences from Karen’s childhood to present. With an official video on the way for the featured single, “Jack Honey”, Karen Bella’s future looks super bright with or without shades. Karen has caught the music bug but she also proves to have a funny bone or two as she stated that “ Laughing is so important, and as they say, it’s also the best medicine!” Karen Bella also feels that music is medicine for the soul and that “Music is a way of life; a coping mechanism and perhaps the best natural “drug” without any side effects other than positive benefits.” I have to say AMEN to that!

J Rae: I noticed that your new EP, ‘Karen Bella’, is tearing up the charts hitting #30 on the Folk Alliance International Folk DJ Radio Charts for the month of March and hitting #36 for the month of April.  How have fans/listeners been responding to your new record?

Karen Bella:  Thanks for noticing that, J.  Being on the FAI charts in the top 40 for two months straight has been so exciting!  First, DJs have been wonderfully supportive and I tried my best to keep track of thanking them for airplay.  Second, fans and listeners have been responding really well by leaving comments on my social media, coming to shows and supporting the record.  

J Rae: I read that you’re based in New York and I’m a former New Yorker myself.  What are some of your favorite pastimes when roaming around the Big Apple?

Karen Bella:   Happy to hear you have roots in New York!  The Big Apple has always been one of my favorite places to venture around in.  I live 45 minutes outside of NYC.  Brooklyn has incredible spots, too.  This EP was actually recorded in Williamsburg, NY.  Some of my favorite pastimes in NYC though are walks in Central Park, eating out at amazing places like Chola and Mamoun’s Falafel, checking out the music there (in the village of course) and simply just appreciating the art and structure of her buildings.  When my brother is in town, we always travel to the city together. Since the pandemic, I haven’t gone there much but I am in the planning stages of maybe doing some performances out there. Hopefully soon. 

J Rae:  How would you describe your musical style and how do you see yourself evolving as an artist of today & tomorrow?

Karen Bella:  The best way to describe my music is “Gumbo.” It’s a mix of different influences I have had from my childhood to the present. If asked what my genre is, I would say alt/rock/pop/folk.  If you listen to this EP from start to finish, you will hear all that and the subtle R&B elements, too. Each song has the similar ingredients but each ingredient is distributed differently in each song. For example, “FLY” has a lot of alt rock with a classic blues rock feel. I threw in an operatic technique for a small part then added funk-style drumming and a tinge of R&B. “NEEDLE IN THE HAY” has a strong pop-folk influence with a light, alternative, acoustic rock sound, combined with slight jazz and blues undertones.    

With regard to evolving as an artist, I know that my songs have matured since I was 12 years old and even much more than 10 years ago.  It took me time to find my sound. Yet, I am working on keeping more modern stylistic melodies while keeping that element of ‘Musical Integrity.’ It’s also important to challenge yourself as a musician by using other ways of playing your instrument. Playing with a looper at live performances opened up a whole new world for me.  It’s on the spot production.  My guitar isn’t just used to create different notes. In fact, I also use the wood and bridge to create percussive sounds along with my music. I see myself experimenting with different pedals, sounds and, perhaps, incorporating voice and other instruments with live performance looping.  All in good time. 

J Rae: What can listeners expect to hear when they hit PLAY on ‘Karen Bella’?  

Karen Bella:  The listeners should expect to go on a mini-journey with me. These songs are the thoughts in my head, Chapters of my diary and stories of my life.  I discuss everything from the dark times when I used drugs for the wrong reasons to the carefree world of road trips to learning to live with the pain of life while searching for happiness only to find love in a glorious uplifting flight. I also discuss drinking and having fun with love that eventually turns into complete earth-shattering heart break that grows the spirit to be bolder. It’s a pretty deep record! Whew!  

J Rae: Your debut album was called ‘Ordinary Girl’ and was released in 2013.  Can you tell us how you went from an ‘Ordinary Girl’ to the more refined ‘Karen Bella’ that we hear today?  

Karen Bella:  I began writing songs for Ordinary Girl in 2009 without an intention to record or release.  I was going through a very serious state of depression and loss of direction as a person and musician.  The only thing that got me through this time was writing everything I felt. Months and months went by and I had a collection of about 40 or more songs. Some were unfinished and some were better than others. However, one day, I decided to reach out and see if I could record them because I felt ready to do something with all the time spent creating these tunes. Thankfully, a friend helped me get connected with a guy who owned an analog studio. We recorded these songs in one or two takes every time. First, instruments then vocals. I also decided to use free computer software to self-produce some tunes as a learning experience. 

I released Ordinary Girl in her raw form more for myself than anything. It was a statement of “I can do this. I’m doing this. No matter what.” It was five years later, after trying to find the ideal way to record my next record, that I met multi-instrumentalist, Josh Dion, of Paris Monster, and asked him to produce these collection of songs. It came together rather organically and he truly helped bring these songs to a whole other level.  

J Rae: Your featured single, “Jack Honey”, has gotten quite the BUZZ and there is news that you are working on a music video for this song.  Can you tell the Skope readers a little more about this exciting project you’re about to embark on?

Karen Bella:  It’s thrilling to know that the making of this video is around the corner.  So much work has been put into the record in general and now, focusing on “JACK HONEY,” as my featured song, it’s a righteous move to create a video that can represent the cool Nashville-inspired rock tune for listeners to also have a cool video to watch.  “JACK HONEY” has received some commercial airplay, which is so grand! And I’m hoping to create more of a buzz so that people can really enjoy this tune all over. I’d love to get Jack Daniel’s attention with this song too!  The sky is the limit! 

I really love this song a lot because it’s so much fun and listeners seem to respond well to it.  It has a catchy hook and a sexy vibe.  It’s important to bring that element into the video while keeping it fun.   Pre-production is in the works now and I’m counting the days till shoot day! 

J Rae: The lyrics on ‘Karen Bella’ are said to be quite reflective as you tackle many different topics.  Would you mind telling the Skope Universe more about the song writing process and how these lyrics for ‘Karen Bella’ came about?

Karen Bella: That’s a great question. Everyone has a different approach to songwriting, especially lyrics.  For me, writing is a mixture of self-expression and being a conduit. The lyrics are telling a story of what needs to be explained, expressed and addressed.  Same thing with the melodies.  They help solidify the lyrical message by adding the extra element to help you feel the lyrics. Usually a melody is sent into my head and I build it from there.  Other times, I have to really dive into my soul to tackle a song.  Sometimes, the song writes itself.  It’s a really beautiful experience and an incredible therapeutic release.

J Rae: What are your plans to further promote the ‘Karen Bella’ EP?  Also, do you have any personal plans for the summer and not just music-wise?

Karen Bella: As of now, my main focus is to continue live performances and/or streams as well as film and release the music video for “JACK HONEY.” I’ve really been enjoying networking, doing radio and magazine interviews like these.  This allows us artists to really express who and what we are about so that the reader gets to know us better too. The next several months will be dedicated to all this and hopefully there will be some wonderful outcomes. 

J Rae: What kind of music are you personally into and any specific artists and/or musical genres that directly impact you and the music that you create?

Karen Bella:  There are so many artists that I listen to.  In all honesty, I really listen to everything from Country to heavy rock and everything in between. It depends what mood I am in. I really love listening to John Mayer a lot.  His music relaxes me while I listen to every element in the production.  I am also super moved by Elton John’s music.  However, even if there is a genre that I’m not crazy about, I still love listening to it because I want to learn from it and allow something different from the usual to inspire me. 

J Rae:  What other hobbies do you enjoy and we could all use a good laugh, so any funny stories you care to share with us?  :)  

Karen Bella: Laughing is so important, and as they say, it’s also the best medicine.  I really love to paint and anything with art.  I had a Halloween party once, which was super fun.  Accidentally, someone sat on my Celebrity Ovation guitar, which was my first guitar, bought for me as a gift from my father, who passed away in 2016. Anyway, the person who broke it genuinely felt horrible and bought me a new guitar.  In the meantime, I had a beautiful guitar that was broken in two and I was purely devastated.  A friend of mine recommended that I make a good thing out of a bad situation, so I decided to paint my Ovation to make it an art piece.  It is almost done. Since then, I have enjoyed painting some canvases for my own pleasure.  This isn’t really a funny story, but looking back at it now, I say to myself, “It ain’t a party till something breaks.”  

J Rae: Do you feel ‘Karen Bella’ is therapeutic and do you feel it can serve as a positive outlet for anyone out there who may be struggling or even for someone who is quite content with life?

Karen Bella:  Music is a medicine, just as laughter is medicine and medicine is medicine.  I know, from personal experience, that if I didn’t have music to get me through tough phases, I may have gone down a very bad path.  I know for a fact that writing, listening, creating, producing and performing is an incredibly positive outlet that simultaneously allows you to heal yourself and others.  People who are struggling are seeking help through music.  If you’re depressed, alone and feel like an outcast, we listen to music of those who feel the same way and usually create a positive message to accept yourself no matter what.  It allows us to know that we are not alone.  Especially when it is music from someone we look up to.  The same concept works for content people.  They listen to music that reflects their mood and it continues to elevate them.  I know that when I am happy, I listen to specific music that reflects that and brightens the high of happiness.  Music is a way of life; a coping mechanism and perhaps the best natural “drug” without any side effects other than positive benefits. 


By Jimmy Rae (https://skopemag.com/?s=Jimmy+Rae)