As an actress onstage and on television, Toms River, NJ-born performer Anjelia Pelay has stolen the heart of wrestler Randy Orton, charmed Gene Simmons, and channeled both Britney Spears and the Beatles with equal aplomb. But for Anjelia (anj-uh-LEE-uh!), all that acting was just a warm-up for her real passion which is music.
Like a real performer at heart, she brings an exciting, theatrical flair to the often-staid world of singer-songwriter fare. Pelay’s soulful, hook-laden contemporary country-pop has won industry kudos from the likes of producer Rodney Jerkins and former Styx bassist/vocalist Glen Burtnik, with whom she regularly performed in his celebrated Beatlemania shows. Besides guest starring in Burtnik’s productions, she’s sung backup for Patty Smyth and opened for John Carter-Cash, Rachel Platten, Jeffrey Gaines, and Nicole Atkins. The Aquarian dubbed her “worth watching” after one of her early performances in Manhattan, and the Trentonian recently called her a “multi-talented” “statuesque beauty” who is “the total package.”
Then came the big move to Los Angeles from the East Coast in 2012. Pelay met her producer after performing at one of her shows at Skinny’s Lounge in North Hollywood. Then, shortly after, she started writing sessions and crowdfunding with a small tour on the East Coast before recording the new album.
Pelay also has a residency with her band at Howl at The Moon in Universal Studios Hollywood that has been on-going since early 2014. HATM asked her to return and continue her residency in 2015.
The first single off the new EP was released on the anniversary date of her late father’s passing: Feb. 1. He was her muse. The EP features an autobiographical song called “Heart Of Gold” about her father who passed away from cancer not long ago. Pelay says, “He was my best friend and my greatest influence, both as a person and musician. The best thing for me was putting my memories of him to music. That song is definitely my favorite on the new album for many reasons but mainly because it is so close to my heart.”
The EP, The Heart Decides, was recorded at WAX Ltd studios in Los Angeles, with producer Brian Blake and features six original songs. Ahead of its release, which is expected sometime this summer, Pelay sent me a couple of songs to listen to and assist in promoting her headlining appearance at the Ocean Gate Singer Songwriter show at Café Artiste on March 20, along with other up and coming writers and musicians such as Tommy Strazza and Paul Galiszewski.
“Heart of Gold” is a beautifully written piece of country-tinged music that should add to Pelay’s already blossoming career. Pelay has a highly original singing style and reminds me of Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Pianos usher in slide guitars as Pelay starts her story about her father and the role he played in her life. Verses move smoothly into agreeable bridges before getting to the addictive chorus. Pelay rides the emotional rollercoaster of benefitting from a parent that supplied all the love they could summon before they finally left this world. Guitars dart in and out of the grand chorus with perfect runs and leads before disappearing back under ethereal pianos.
The video portrays Pelay as a little girl before switching to her as a grown woman in various poses and positions as a singer and pianist in the video. It’s also interspersed with her and her dad interacting on the couch with guitars. She is played by a little girl called Lil Lil, who does a great job in the video as well. The video, as well as the new record, was produced by Brian Blake. Blake has licensed hundreds of songs for major TV/film placements, written the catchiest of jingles for commercials and programs like The Ellen Show, composed music for TV series such as Deadbeat on Hulu, and produced many talented artists on their way up. Pelay has done well with “Heart of Gold” and tells a beautiful, if a little bit sad, story of her solid relationship with her dad. The video was directed by Pete Carter.
Pelay has always been a talented singer-songwriter, but she gets better with each new release she comes up with, and she’s fantastic to see live. She also sent me another song from the upcoming album called “Superman.” Pelay excels in her country roots position and “Superman” is no exception to that statement. Once again, Pelay comes up with a terrific composition that makes a statement to the listener. Melancholy love is a strong theme for Pelay, and she does a bang-up job in relaying her feelings here as well. Acoustic guitars, pianos, bass, and drums kick things off as Pelay sings about the prince and best friend as she winds into her lyrical theme. Guitars lick into high gear in the chorus as Pelay takes the listener along on her raucous ride. Verses are perfect as they wind into bridges and back to that addictive chorus repeatedly. The middle-eight modulation is uplifting and takes the song to a different plateau before coming down and hitting that chorus for one last go through.
The record should be out sometime soon, and we will review more as it becomes available from Pelay. In the meantime, see her at Café Artiste on March 20 along with other up and coming writers and musicians such as Tommy Strazza and Paul Galiszewski. Café Artiste is associated with The Jersey Shore Arts Center (JSAC) which provides two performance theaters, as well as studios for resident artists, musicians, and actors to practice, develop, and teach their craft.
Built in 1897, the building was the original Neptune High School until it closed a decade later. In 1997, The Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society, along with Herb Herbst, took ownership of the building and painstakingly restored this historic site with a grand vision — to support local artists and educators with a space to work and teach. Most of the old classrooms are now studio spaces and offices for arts-based businesses and organizations.
JSAC hosts a dance school, theater group, music repair and lessons, photographers, painters and much more. Outside organizations and groups are welcome to rent spaces within the JSAC with monies going to support and maintain historic preservation efforts and arts events. For more information, visit jerseyshoreartscenter.org, and for more on Anjelia Pelay go to anjeliapelay.com.