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Take Five with Josie Falbo

Take Five with Josie Falbo
AAJ Staff By

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Meet Josie Falbo:

Josie is and has been one of Chicago's busiest and most frequently heard studio singers for over 30 years.

Heard on over 1,000 commercials in various languages through the decades, many you know like McDonald's, United, Nationwide, Midway Airlines, Great America, Green Giant, Oscar Meyer, Budweiser, Old Style, Sara Lee, Coke and countless others. Josie was also the voice behind the 'Cruisin' USA' arcade game.

Josie's diverse vocal abilities have been utilized by numerous artists ranging from Celine Dion, Richard Marx, , Michael Bolton, Ben Vereen, Vic Damone, Nancy Wilson, Dennis De Young of Styx, Loleatta Holloway, James Durst, Yolanda Adams, Della Reese and Mavis Staples to name a few. Josie's work with Chicago's critically and internationally acclaimed "Lakeside Singers" has been seen and heard by thousands on TV as well as in person at their spring and Christmas shows. Her solos at the shows have brought down the house, brought tears to people's eyes and commanded multiple standing ovations.

Josie is still one of Chicago's busiest singers. Whether it's working with orchestras and bands at clubs, corporate events or concerts, cantoring at Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine in Chicago, back-up singing for various shows in Chicago, recording sessions for artists or performing jingles/commercials and more, Josie's voice still reigns supreme.Biography goes here.

Instrument:

I am a singer.

Teachers and/or influences?

There is a laundry list of singers and musicians who have influenced me in many ways. When my contemporaries were swooning over Elvis or another teen idol, I was drawn to Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Anita O'Day, Etta James, Horace Silver, and so on and so forth.The more contemporary singers on my list include Al Jarreau, Tierney Sutton, Dianne Reeves. My actual formal vocal training is sketchy at best. I will always be grateful to Sister Constance who gave me free voice lessons throughout high school because she knew my parents could not afford them. I did manage to consistently study with Ron Combs for a couple of years and because of the tools he gave me, I was able to expand my range downward (most singers want to increase high range) I already had the highs, wanted to lower my range. Go figure.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

Ha! I am therefore I sing... pretty much describes my lifelong natural inclination to sing. My mom told me that onday, as she was listening to the radio, she heard this little voice singing exactly what was playing on the radio. It was me singing. I was 19 months old. Recognizing my talent, she and my whole family encouraged me to sing at every family event. My mom was a natural singer with a high, lovely voice and my sister, who actually sang professionally for a while, was a great influence on me too. My cousins, godmother were also singers who performed but non professionally. So I was surrounded by music at a very early age.

Your sound and approach to music.

I like to just let the music flow from within. I want it to be real and honest. At this point, I'm fairly in control of my instrument, (always trying to improve though) and right now it's healthy and in good shape so I just let what I'm feeling and what I'm hearing come right out. I try my best to give true reading of the lyrics which are most important.

Your teaching approach

Although I've been asked many times to take on students, I never have simply because firstly, I never got a degree and always felt I wasn't qualified. Secondly, my own experience with vocal training was so meager, I just didn't feel I could adequately instruct anyone else.

Your dream band

I never really had a dream band per se. If I had to people a dream band with favorite musicians, it'd be a monumentally huge group! I do love big bands and I was finally able to realize my dream of singing with one on my CD You Must Believe In Spring. I was and am in awe of the guys and gals who played on it; a star-studded group of excellent musicians. They are awesome.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

Well, some of the funniest I hesitate to relate as they might be a bit... inappropriate. On one gig, the choral group I perform with (Lakeside Singers) was lining up to go onstage. I was to sing 2 solos back to back.

As I stepped down to join them I somehow twisted my knee and just about fainted from the pain. After assuring everyone I was ok, I hobbled onto the stage and proceeded to do my solos standing on one leg, like a flamingo! Because I had on a gospel robe, no one could see my feet and trying not to fall on my face as I sang. I hit some high notes that day I can tell you. As it turned out, I'd torn my meniscus to shreds and required surgery. Not a fun gig!

Favorite venue

There have been several venues that I've enjoyed singing in but the one that still gives me a thrill was when I sang at the Lyric Opera House years ago. I'd won an All-Catholic High School vocal competition in my junior year and part of the prize was singing my winning solo in this grand opera house. Looking back I can see the the place filled with students, teachers, parents etc. It was a bit daunting. I wondered how my voice was going to reach everyone in this huge space. When I began to sing, I could feel how effortless it was to sing and could hear so wonderfully well. Amazing acoustics. A very fond memory.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Since You Must Believe in Spring was the fulfillment of my with to record with a glorious big band with glorious arrangements by Carey Deadman, that is my favorite.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Honestly, I've never given any thought to this as singing is what I love to do and I'm almost compelled to do it so contributing anything does not enter my mind. It gives me joy so I guess it's coming from a selfish place. However, seeing and hearing the delight of audiences does add to the worthwhile factor. I love making people happy and that interaction inspires me to give even more.

Did you know...

I hardly ever watch TV. I haven't the foggiest idea of what are hit shows or not. I love to read and that is what I do mostly. I also love to garden. I have a deck full of flowers in pots which takes me a good 20 minutes to water and tend to. I love to play with my grandkids. Their boundless energy invigorates me and keeps me on my toes.

The first jazz album I bought was:

I can't really remember what was first. It was either MJT+3 with Walter Perkins or Billy Holiday, I think. Too long ago to be sure.

Music you are listening to now:

I confess I don't really listen to a lot of music. I'd like to but I seem to get caught up in other things. Now and then I'll listen to music in my car which is a favorite album. I just discovered a fantastic guitarist whom I'm sure a lot of you know but I'd never heard of him before. A friend posted a clip of Lenny Breau and I was floored. I'll be getting his music.

Desert Island picks:

  • Complete Decca Singles by Ella Fitzgerald
  • Mel Torme and the Marty Paich Dek-tette
  • Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis and Gil Evans
  • Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione
  • Lambert, Hendricks and Ross with Ike Isaacs Trio

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

In spite of having a relatively small group of avid listeners and supporter, at least in comparison to other genres, and because of the continued and growing interest of young players, the art of jazz itself has grown even if the market hasn't.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Of course having more listeners, a bigger audience is important if we want it to survive. Happily because of the continued and dedication of young players, there is hope. I confess that I do not have a solution on how to convince more people to love and support jazz. The eternal conundrum.

What is in the near future?

Near future? Doing what I've done in the past. Just taking it one day at a time and just trying to hone my skills and improving.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

What every singer fears I guess. Voice breaking, missing notes, forgetting lyrics and an unenthusiastic audience.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I absolutely would love the "Love Theme" from Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone. That melody just kills me which at my funeral would be redundant I guess! I also would have Mozart's Dies Irae from his Requiem and the gorgeous violin piece from Massenet's Thais. Of course, Bach-Gounod's Ave Maria.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

Oddly enough I never sing or whistle in the shower. Always in a hurry. Thinking about what to wear etc. Singing never enters my mind.

By Day:

I don't have a day job. I've been a professional singer always.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

If I weren't a singer I'd be... I have no clue. On second thought, maybe a painter-still lifes, landscapes portraits—that kind of painter. I remember loving art class and I actually won a prize for drawing one of my classmates. When I remember that drawing, he looked like an alien with a hat! I guess they must've thought I was a budding Picasso. I did love to paint however.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

George Orwell. Both 1984 and Animal Farm affected me greatly and it seems his books were prophetic in so many ways.

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