As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 21 – Fall 2022
At nine years old, many kids focus on nothing more than what’s for lunch or which friend you’ll play with after school, but not all-star guitarist Angela Petrilli. Petrilli grew up in a musical household, so normal standards weren’t her style. Instead of focusing on your typical nine-year-old activities, Petrilli knew her calling was the guitar. She was so in love with the music industry that she even moonlit behind the scenes at an LA record label, working with artists like the Beach Boys and the Bangles after earning her degree. From there, she had the knowledge to really pursue her musical dreams by creating Roses & Cigarettes and, more recently, Angela Petrilli & The Players, along with a successful solo career.
We crossed paths with Petrilli to get the details on her extremely promising music career and what got her there.
You were only nine years old when you decided to pursue music; what made you want to go down this path?
I was drawn to music and art since I could remember. In my earliest memories, I remember my mom playing guitar for me and my brother. I distinctly remember riding with my dad in his truck, listening to music with him. Music was always around. Being an artist and musician is as natural as breathing to me. In a lot of ways, I feel that I didn’t choose this for myself; it chose me. After I graduated from UCLA, I got a job right out of college doing exactly what I thought I’d want to do… but I wasn’t happy.
The creative life whispered to me every day at my desk, and one day I chose to listen to it. It’s been quite the journey walking the creative’s path, and I am thankful I listened to that inner voice.
You grew up in a musical and artistic household; can you tell us a little more about that?
My mom comes from a musical and artistic family, and my dad is a huge music appreciator. Music was always on in the house. As kids, we were encouraged to be creative and expressive from a very young age. I always remember drawing something, painting something, reading a book, or watching my mom play guitar. My parents always gave us the foundation to find what sparked our creativity.
Did you have any significant influences that helped shape your career?
I’m so incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive group of family, friends, and mentors. I am continuously inspired by the community of musicians I work with and am honored to call friends. It’s so important to find your tribe. The people who have influenced me the most have been my mentors: Jimmy Scott, Sean Mahon, and Michael Lyons, to name a few. These guys have consistently been there for me and have guided me through my journey with words of insight, encouragement, and grace. Through their mentorship, they have inspired me to always be an inquisitive and perpetual student of music.
What would you say your sound is?
I am inspired by so many things!!! It’s hard for me to pinpoint my “sound.” I believe sound is something that evolves. Right now, at this moment in 2022, I’d say my sound is a mix of blues and rock with a splash of Americana.
What is your songwriting process?
In most cases, the music comes first for me. Sometimes it starts with a riff; other times, it’s a chord progression that gets the creative juices flowing. I try to be present in the moment and not force anything. I do find that I write my best, either when it’s quiet, and I’m alone, or in the evening. My song “The Voices” was the first song I wrote where the lyrics came first. It was a fun experience finding the right chords, tempo, and vibe to match the words I wrote.
You received a Communication Studies degree at UCLA and interned at a record company; what made you realize you didn’t want to work behind the scenes?
It was a slow burn realizing that I wanted to take the musician’s journey in life! I went to UCLA thinking I’d get a job in PR and marketing and do music as a hobby. It wasn’t until I was at my desk at work one day where I realized that this life path was not for me. On paper, what I was doing made sense, but my soul knew better.
Reflecting back on your days with Roses & Cigarettes and your bandmate and dear friend, the late Jenny Pagliaro, how have you evolved, and how much of Roses & Cigarettes’ sound and messaging can be heard in your solo work?
I miss Jenny every single day. Not a day goes by where I do not think of my friend. I am so thankful our paths crossed in this life and that we had the opportunity to make music together. She has been the greatest teacher in my life. I am so proud of the music we wrote together, even though it is tremendously hard for me to listen to. I am so glad our music exists. Jenny lives on in our songs.
It took me quite a while to want to write again after Jenny died. I gave myself space to grieve and time to converse with my grief. In my grief journey, I can’t help but evolve. Death of a loved one changes your perception of everything. I am thankful to be alive and breathing every day. It is a gift to experience life, and I carry Jenny in my heart with the new music I write. What Jenny and I did together in R&C can never be duplicated. I honor her life and my life moving forward by creating music that is different.
During the pandemic, you founded a new project, Angela Petrilli & The Players; can you tell us a little more about this endeavor?
AP & The Players started off as a cover band project, then quickly led to becoming an original project with original songs. I wasn’t entirely sure I could write original songs again, but after our first show in February 2020, I felt a spark in my heart, and I knew I was ready to write again. Over the last two years, I have written songs that we have performed live around LA and Austin, TX. My bandmates, Brett Grossman (bass), Matt Lomeo (harmonica), Bobby Victor (keys), Stephen Haaker (drums), and Vic Vanacore (percussion), are such an inspiring team of musicians. They inspire me to be a better musician every day. This past August, we recorded our debut EP at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. We are looking forward to releasing it in 2023!
What makes you most proud in your solo career?
Taking risks and going outside my comfort zone. Challenging myself to write original music by myself was the first big step out of my comfort zone. I’ve always considered myself a guitarist, and now by exploring my songwriting side from a new perspective, I can call myself a songwriter.
Singing lead has always been a scary thing for me. I’ve always been comfortable singing harmonies, but I knew if I wanted to front a band, I had to take the leap and explore singing lead and playing guitar. It’s been a fun journey getting to know that part of my musical self. I’m still learning and will always be a student of the craft.
During the pandemic, Fishman Transducers reached out to me about doing a weekly Livestream. I’ve done YouTube videos for Norman’s Rare Guitars for years, but I had never done anything live in real-time before. I said yes to that opportunity because it scared me, but that voice inside, the one that whispers, said I would be okay. It has been a joy to see my Riff Rundown Livestream Lesson series on YouTube help people around the world learn to play guitar. I am thankful I have taken these leaps outside of my comfort zone because the ripple effects of those choices bring joy and enrichment to my life and the lives of others.
What is your go-to piece of equipment?
For acoustic shows, I can’t leave the house with my Aura Spectrum DI Acoustic Imager by Fishman Transducers. That piece of gear has made my acoustic gigs so much easier. For full band gigs, I’ve been in love with my Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop R9. It is a force of nature!
Do you have any guitars or additional equipment on your wish list?
Eventually, I’d love to own a vintage Fender tube amp or two and a hollow-body Gibson guitar.
Do you have any advice for girls trying to achieve what you have?
Find your tribe. I am so grateful to have a group of inspiring, talented, kind, and generous musicians I can call upon for advice, collaboration, and kinship. We all help each other and lift each other up. We celebrate each other’s successes, and we are there for each other in the trenches. These are the people you want to grow your career with.
What’s in store for the future?
I look forward to releasing the EP with my band and touring in 2023. I’ve got a handful of new songs for the next EP, so I’d love to explore how those songs will evolve. I enjoy playing live, and I can’t wait to play more shows in new cities this upcoming year. I’d love to do some musical collaborations with my friends (Gretchen Menn, Michael Lemmo, Nili Brosh, Daniele Gottardo, and Eric Fortaleza of The Pitch Meeting) sooner than later! Let’s make some music!!!