Local Noise: Lorenza Ponce

Lorenza Ponce has hung with the Rolling Stones, toured with Bon Jovi, and mingled with presidents. But through it all, her true love is making her own music. “I will always make records,” she states. “It is my passion and I can’t imagine not doing it. Even if I stopped touring and worked at Macy’s, I would still make records.”

Her new CD, Soul Shifter, has just been released on Melodia Records, and was produced by Matt Wells. She has three previous critically acclaimed releases to her credit. However, the new album differs in two significant ways. “First, Soul Shifter is a rock/Americana record,” she explains. “All my previous records were in the new age/Instrumental genre. Second, I had more of an input in the production of my other records. This record, Matt had all the control. That was really tough for me, being a control freak. Matt is something of a legend in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the music business. Not only is he a guitarist and studio owner, but he is also an expert in the field of tube amplifiers and vintage gear.”

Matt also helped get the musicians together for the sessions. “Matt knew who he wanted to use, so he made the suggestions and I made the calls,” Lorenza continues. “The other core musicians are Rich Pagano and Shawn Pelton on drums, John Conte on bass, and Brian Mitchell on piano, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, and organ. All the guys are really well-known musicians. Shawn Pelton is the SNL house drummer, but has also played on thousands of records and has toured with everybody. Rich Pagano is in the Fab Faux. John Conte works with Southside Johnny, and Brian Mitchell regularly performs with Levon Helm.”

So far, a couple of the songs have gotten a great initial response. “Everyone seems to love the first two tracks,” Lorenza relates. “Those are ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and ‘Casual Girl.’ I can’t wait for people to hear ‘Frostbite,’ ‘I Won’t Lose Faith,’ ‘Soul Shifter,’ and ‘Testify.’ If truth be told, I love every song on my record!”

Musically, you’ll find it an eclectic, intriguing mix of rock and violin. “It’s traditional roots rock with sexy vocals and blues violin,” says Lorenza. “I also play guitar and piano in the live show. Almost everyone in the band sings, so there are lush background vocals, and there are strings, which adds a grand element to certain tracks. It’s really in the tradition of the great performers from the ‘60s and ‘70s. If you can’t play, you’re not in my band.”

The songs came to Lorenza in a variety of ways. “Many ways, and any way,” she laughs. “Sometimes I come up with a lyric and write the main chorus or theme of the song first, and then come up with the music. Other times I find a musical theme while noodling on a guitar or piano, and that will often dictate the lyrical content. I have also dreamt several songs.”

And the title track? “The song is about Frank Sinatra,” she says. “A ‘Soul Shifter’ is someone who will turn your blue mood into joy and laughter, without you even thinking about it. They are so cool, or funny, or genuine, that you can’t help being drawn into their world. Frank Sinatra was one of these people. Obviously I never met him, but his music, charm, and talent were so significant that to hear him sing, read his interviews, or watch old footage of him performing, is uplifting. He is a ‘Soul Shifter’.”

Lorenza has done quite a bit in her career thus far, and can’t even begin to pick out one or two highlights. “Oh brother, where to begin,” she laughs. “Performing at historical locations like Himeji Castle, The Coliseum, and The Pantheon. Opening for the Rolling Stones, and having tea with Mick Jagger. Hanging with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and trying to figure out what the heck they were saying! Performing and hanging with legends like Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton and Neil Young, and having high tea with the monks at a monastery in Kyoto. Meeting Muhammad Ali, and playing the Commander In Chief Ball for President Obama’s Inauguration. Being stuck with Sheryl Crow in a blizzard on a tour bus in the Alps in Switzerland, and having to be rescued by one of those crazy snow cat vehicles. Of course, being asked to be the solo violinist on the Bon Jovi Lost Highway tour, the biggest tour of 2008, and a female no less. That was a really big deal, to be let into the boys club for a tour. I met Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, at a show, and she told me how ‘brilliant’ she thought it was that Bon Jovi had decided to have a woman on stage!”

Is there anyone she hasn’t worked with yet that she’d like to? “I’ve always thought Paul McCartney should take a string quartet on tour, but he doesn’t,” she says. “He has the amazing keyboardist, Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens play all the parts. Wix is a friend of mine though, so I forgive him for hogging that gig!”