Brianna Musco: Using classical guitar to create pop/rock melodies

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Photo by Justin Dushawn

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 10 – Winter 2019 – Acoustic Artists

I recently had a chance to chat with New Jersey-based singer-songwriter, Brianna Musco, a raven-haired rocker who has just released a new single, “Ringling” from her debut EP called The Demo. The title is a bit of a misnomer, however, as The Demo is extraordinarily polished, showcases Musco’s impressive guitar chops (she’s a lifelong classical guitarist), and features heartfelt, diary-like lyrics that hark back to some of the early-2000s era singer-songwriters like Michelle Branch or Vanessa Carlton. Read on to learn more about this multifaceted artist, who, in addition to her own original music, puts a unique spin on popular hits from Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and more.

You released your debut EP earlier this year. How long have you been writing and performing music? It seems you’re quite seasoned despite this being your very first solo release.
I have been playing guitar my whole life and graduated with a degree in classical guitar performance. I began writing these songs last summer and wanted to produce them in a way that sounded both fun and professional.

You’re also a retired Division I soccer player for Delaware State University. That’s very impressive. What position did you play? Did your decision to pursue music prompt you to leave the sport?
Yes. I played striker, usually on the left, because I am a lefty. I studied music while attending Del State and, unfortunately, was injured in our last game. We still won the game, which is all that matters. I actually used to bring a travel guitar with me on the bus so I could practice during the road trips.

You also studied classical guitar while there and at Monmouth University. How does your classical training come into play when you’re writing for your solo project, which is more on the pop/rock side?
I find that the classical background helps me create melodies and bass lines. After creating certain parts or phrases, I usually add other instrumentation to give it the pop/rock feel. My favorite artists are Taylor Swift, Stevie Nicks, and Paramore, so you can definitely hear some of their influences in my music.

You’ve done quite a bit of touring. Do you self-book all of your own tours these days? When you play, is it a combo of originals and covers?
Touring is arguably one of the best parts of being a musician. We have a few different bookers that we have used, and I typically book the New Jersey shows. I like to make sure our hometown shows are easily accessible and on Friday/Saturday nights to maximize engagement and draw.

Which track is your favorite from The Demo to perform live?
Definitely “Heaven.” I wrote it for my Grandma, and every night when we get to it in the set, it makes me smile.

You’re a big fan of performing covers and have done some artful ones of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and more. In particular, I really liked your classical guitar playing in “Look What You Made Me Do.” It gave it a whole new flavor. Would you say performing covers like these is a good way of pulling in new fans?
I really enjoy creating covers to give my own interpretation of a song that spoke to me. I will be posting more covers this fall showcasing both my guitar playing and vocals.

When it comes to pedals and effects, are you a big fan of them, or are you a bit more minimalistic when it comes to achieving your desired tone?
My background in classical guitar has limited me when it comes to pedals, as well as my bank account! But I personally use a tube screamer or blues driver, a VOX wah, and a delay pedal. The PolyTune is my best friend on stage as well. I like certain pedals for certain flavors in each song. I don’t try to overdo it, but I am very interested in specific tones and timbres.

When is the next EP coming out?
Great question. We have a few singles coming out this fall/winter and a winter tour. Depending on how the writing process goes, I am hoping to have the follow-up project out in the spring of 2020.

 

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