"Giovanna can cast her own spell on songs, and that’s the first thing worth noticing about this entire album of smoldering covers she brings her own brand of beauty to. These aren’t just run of the mill versions, they’re handled with care, never slipping for one second from beginning to end. In-fact, you won’t want it to end, it’s a marvelous album."
-Mindy McCall, No Depression, The Journal of Roots Music
Every once in a while at Zeda Royal, we stumble upon an album that is so pleasantly surprising that we have a mini happiness freak out that would probably scare the best of people. Most recently, Giovanna McDanels "Lumiere Lullabies" is that album.
When she was a little girl, Giovanna created a mixed tape to help her fall asleep at night that contained her favorite lullabies from films and other classics. She always wanted to cover the songs and she finally did with her two friends Mark Kassenbrock and Giovanni Mera. She wanted to give this same opportunity for children to enjoy this collection of songs she loved so much growing up.
Now, while we are aware it is intended for children, you must know that you're going to love this album, too, adult human reading this. Giovannas voice is so soothing, relaxing and beautiful you may begin using this album to lull you to sleep at night or just take a much needed break in your day. The songs covered deliver the peaceful nostalgia from childhood that we so often miss in our busy lives. We give this album 5 stars and two thumbs up and we think you will too, so be sure to preview or purchase below after learning a bit more about the incredible Giovanna McDanel!
Tell us a bit about your musical background.
I starting learning piano when I was about 5 or 6 years-old. A few years later, it seemed like everyone in my elementary school was joining band and I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I learned to play the flute. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the instrument. I always sang around the house, but once I became a more serious flutist, it trained me to have stronger breath support and I started singing more. I started seriously singing in high school and joined a jazz combo band. I went on from there singing in bands in California and Texas, including my own projects.
What is your dream (for the album, your musical career, life)?
My dream for the album is that it becomes a brand and we can do more albums in this niche. It has been such a fun and challenging project. For my personal music career, I would like to license some of my original music to film, commercials, or TV shows. For my life, I just want to make a living doing what I love - which is doing music!
What drew you to record this specific set of songs?
These were the songs that helped me fall asleep on my mixed tape and songs I cherished over the years. "Feed the Birds" always helped me to fall asleep. Also, Mark had a few suggestions that he wanted to record for a long time. I recorded Edelweiss for my grandpa who passed away in 2016. My grandpa was a huge advocate for music, so I wanted to honor him. I love jazz music too, so it was cool to do a classical guitar version of "Nature Boy" - as an interesting twist. So, there was a lot of personal reasons why we chose the songs we did.
Who do you collaborate with on this album, and what instruments do they play?
Mark Kassenbrock and Giovanni Mera were both my classical guitar players on the album.
What is your creative process?
For this album, the creativity was more in what songs were chosen, the arrangements, and the interpretation of the songs. I have to hand that to my wonderful guitar players who did most of the heavy-lifting with that process. We added flute on "Once Upon a December," which was different from the original. We also transposed "Beautify Things" into "Nature Boy's" key. I came up with the idea where "Beautiful Things" interrupts part of "Nature Boy", and Giovanni transposed it and created the arrangement to make that happen. We did similar things like that throughout the album.
What led you to want to record the lullaby album?
It was a combination of things. I made a mixed tape when I was a kid of songs to help me fall asleep. I had it in the back of my mind starting about 8 years ago that I would want to someday record some of those songs. Another inspiration was a few of my best friends had children, and it inspired me to record this to celebrate the children in my life. I also wanted to make something for my future children as well.
What other projects do you have going on?
That's a good question. Lots! :) I am working on my original music catalog and doing a few cover band opportunities. I want to start working again with my original music band and continue to promote this Lumiere Lullabies album.
Who did your awesome cover art?
My sister, Audrey Reed, did it! She is a graphic designer and has her own band called Mleo in L.A. She's had to design her own album art and has been hired to do so for other bands in the L.A. area. I had a vision for the colors and the atmosphere of the artwork, but she did the whole design and I could not be happier! She really captured the whimsical aspects that I wanted to encapsulate.
What’s next for Giovanna?
I am hoping to create a brand out of Lumiere Lullabies and continue to record more volumes of other songs I collected over the years, including writing some original lullabies. Believe it or not, we did not use all the material from my mixed tape I did as a little girl! Also, I have some original lullabies I've already written. You all are just going to have to wait for a Volume II. :)
Giovanni Mera grew up in Queens New York, where he picked up the guitar at age 8. He knew at that moment, that this was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He received his undergraduate degree in Guitar Performance from Crane School of Music, graduating with honors.
Giovanni studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for 9 months with a professor at the royal conservatory. He completed his master’s degree in 2011 in Classical Guitar at UT Austin under Adam Holzman. Giovanni is currently auditioning for doctorate programs.
Throughout his life, he has competed in prestigious guitar competitions and played at guitar festivals across the US. He is also credited for a performance used in the movie “The Tree of Life” (2011) with Brad Pitt. He cares about his students and loves teaching. Some of his students have advanced to master classes and honor recitals.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1970's, Mark Kassenbrock was
exposed to all kinds of music from a very young age. After being taken to hear Christopher
Parkening in concert, he turned to classical guitar, eventually studying with George
Sakellariou, student of the great Andres Segovia. Mark has played in solo and ensemble
settings throughout Northern California, and has accompanied members of the Chicago
Lyric Opera, Napa Valley Symphony, Sacramento Master Singers, Sacramento
Philharmonic Orchestra, and many others.