Carla Bianco has spent the last few years almost achieving success. There are a host of bright points on her resume … a stint in RENT, vocals on a song for a major Disney movie, and an ASCAP award-by-proxy for a club cover of one of her songs that became a hit. Now, rather than waiting for success to come to her, she’s reaching out for it herself with her new album All This Time. She brings a lot to the table and perhaps it’s not surprising that personal growth and moving onwards are key themes in her music.
“Two months after transferring to NYU, I remembered someone telling me that Jellybean Benitez was always looking for new talent. He was a the producer that discovered Madonna. It was Spring break and I had no money to go anywhere. So I decided to find out where Jellybean’s office was and I waited outside for 3 days. I sat on a pipe on Broadway and 57th street.
I made friends with the Security Guard in the lobby. Claude was his name. He told me Jellybean usually came in around 11 and always wore a black suit and white tennis shoes. The third day came and this guy was bee-bopping down the street and smiles at me. I look at his shoes. White tennis shoes and then I see the black suit. I run in after him into the marble lobby and yell ‘Jellybean’. And it echoes and echoes... He turns around and I say, “Hi, my name is Carla Bianco. I’ve been waiting for you for 3 days. Can I have 10 minutes of your time so I can show you what I can do?” And he stares at me, and finally makes a gesture to come with him.
We go up in the elevator to his office and I sit at the piano and play a song I wrote. I give him my demo. And a week later he calls me to his office and offers me a publishing deal, a management deal, a production deal and for one of my songs to be on his next record. That’s how I broke into the music business. I guess growing up in Monaca, PA proved to be the motivation I needed to go after my dreams.”
Bianco performs very straightforward piano-led singer-songwriter material, although she’s often backed up by adult-contemporary or rock elements. Her experience shines through, with a wide range of delivery. Carla Bianco is the star of this show, and that’s the point.
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Words Are In The Way is one of the standouts of the album, a forward-reaching bit of mostly acoustic pop, lamenting the difficulty in communicating when meaning seems so uncertain. It starts out with a cute echoplex introduction before Bianco’s lilting voice comes in. There’s a great bit of patter part way through that works perfectly with the theme, making for a sweet surprise in the middle.
“At school, I looked for every avenue I could to sing like the occasional talent show or school musical. I remember specifically my health teacher in high school. I was talking to some friends telling them about wanting to move to NY and making it in music. And he overheard and said, “That would never happen, it’s a one in a million shot.” And I said, "Why can’t I be that one in a million?” I’d never been to New York before growing up. I honestly thought Broadway was a street paved in gold".
Bianco’s music reflects some of that naiveté and may at times border on being overly sweet, but she delves into the darker spaces as well. Can’t Call You Anymore is a soulful piece presenting a woman who’s been dumped and is facing the certainty of change with fear. Spare Window takes this one step further, starting out with sparse echo drenched production that feels almost like haunted house piano music, before slowly building to a bright finale as she appears to realize her dark omens may not be dark after all.
Bianco’s sound is polished, straightforward, and practically perfect for the adult-contemporary market. She also has some potential for pop crossover with her more upbeat pieces, especially Words Are In The Way. However, her traditionalism may also hold her back: Carla Bianco’s performance and appeal are subtle, and that type of goodness is often hard to get recognized.
She has a powerful voice and good songwriting skills, complete with evocative lyrics. Carla’s got it all, but might need a bit more razzle-dazzle to get herself noticed.
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