Article Contributed by Myth Maker PR | Published on Saturday, May 6, 2023

After a four-year hiatus following the death of her best friend & bandmate Jenny Pagliaro (who passed away from breast cancer in 2019 at age 35), Angela Petrilli returns to music with her new debut solo EP, The Voices, out today. The Voices and its songs have already garnered praise from Rolling Stone, The Grateful Web, Glide Magazine, blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa, It's Psychedelic Baby, Roughstock, Americana UK and many more. Petrilli was also featured in an hourlong interview with the Talking Blues podcast, and has an upcoming print feature in Guitar Player magazine.

Back in 2019, Petrilli was one half of Los Angeles Americana duo Roses & Cigarettes, along with songwriting partner Pagliaro. They’d already generated considerable buzz on the L.A. scene, opening for the likes of Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Luther Dickinson, The Record Company, Marc Broussard and Amanda Shires, and their impressive third album Echoes & Silence—recorded in the midst of Pagliaro’s treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer—seemed poised for a breakthrough. There was a tour in the works, and on March 25th of that year Rolling Stone named Roses & Cigarettes’ new single “Fast As I Can” one of its 10 Best Country Songs of the Week, writer Robert Crawford praising it as “an ode to living, laced with jangling guitars and bright harmonies.” But in a heartbreaking and tragic turn of events, Pagliaro—who had been fighting off cancer for years—passed away the very next day.
For Petrilli, losing her closest friend and collaborator, and the band they’d both worked so hard to build—right at the doorstep of success—was the most difficult experience of her life. “I didn’t pick up the guitar for at least a month or two after Jenny died,” she says. “I just couldn't do it. It was really hard to listen to or play music. I needed time. I needed to get some perspective, to say goodbye to that part of my life that was gone, and also to figure out what my life was going to look like—and sound like—going forward.”
So for the better part of a year, the grieving Petrilli left behind L.A. and set out across the world. She traveled to Nashville, New York, Paris and Italy, eventually making it as far as Australia. Along the way, she spent a lot of time on the ocean, where she was able to find some peace and clarity. As she began to heal, she could feel her muse calling once again. “I really started to miss playing music,” Petrilli says.
Finally back in L.A. after a long sabbatical, she reached out to some musician friends and booked a bar gig under the name The Petrilli Players. The idea was to shake off the cobwebs, play some covers and have a good time. “We did the show, and it was so much fun,” Petrilli says. “It became clear to me how much I still needed to do this.”
With a reinvigorated sense of purpose, and a band of simpatico players—Brett Grossman on bass, Stephen Haaker on drums, Matt Lomeo on harmonica & backing vocals, Bobby Victor on keys, and Vic Vanacore III on percussion—Petrilli was inspired to start writing again. After several months playing shows around Los Angeles (including opening spots for Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters, The Immediate Family, and a performance at Joe Bonamassa’s 3rd Annual Stream-a-thon concert), the new songs felt studio-ready, and Petrilli booked a session at Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Sound.
“There’s so much history at Sunset,” Petrilli says. “It was important to me to be in the same room where The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Van Halen and Ray LaMontagne all made records. Walking in, you feel that mojo—that foundation that's been set by the musicians who came before you. While we were there making The Voices, we felt like we were another brick in that foundation.”
Working at peak efficiency with well-rehearsed material, Petrilli & the Players tracked live at Sunset Sound, cutting five songs in one day. Bassist Grossman and drummer Haaker co-produced the EP with Petrilli, with Geoff Neal (The Black Keys, Heart, Metallica) engineering. “I knew going in that it would be a good mix of people,” Petrilli says. “Some of them I’ve known 10 or more years, and everybody has a very similar mindset. They're all fantastic musicians, team players, and the communication between us was flawless. I feel like we really captured the band’s onstage energy.”
Petrilli knocked out all of her guitar parts at Sunset Sound, using her 2013 Gibson Custom Shop R9 1959 reissue Les Paul, a 2012 Custom Shop 1958 reissue Les Paul Junior (a gift from a generous fan), a 1998 American Deluxe Strat with Fishman Fluence pickups, and a Fender Brown Derby resonator. For amps, she went through a Mesa Boogie Fillmore 25 for dirty tones, a Fender Vibroverb with a JBL E130 speaker for clean, and a Supro for the more washy tremolo textures.
The following day, sessions resumed at The Vanguard in North Hollywood, with Vanacore adding additional percussion. A few weeks later, Lomeo, Jessica Mahon & Phoebe Crenshaw laid down backing vocals. The finishing touches—including Petrilli’s lead vocals and some inspired sax lines from veteran musician Paulie Cerra (Joe Bonamassa, Keb Mo)—were recorded at Grossman’s studio, Cosmic Voyager.
The Voices represents significant musical growth for Petrilli—at once, it’s her debut as a solo artist, band leader and lead vocalist. The EP begins with an ominous intensity as if to herald her arrival, droning organ seeping out like blood over the languid yet insistent drum beat of “Red River.” The song’s haunting slide riff finds Petrilli channeling Robert Johnson via Jimmy Page, tracing a ghostly line from the Mississippi Delta to late-’60s London to Sunset Sound, while her vocals rise up from the ocean depths like a siren possessed.
The EP’s title track is another gorgeously meandering launch pad for the band’s live sets, the album version ebbing and flowing like an open-ended “Dark Star”-esque Grateful Dead jam, but delivered with a gritty soulfulness worthy of The Black Crowes. As its name implies, “The Voices” is a musical and philosophical conversation, illustrated by the animated call-and-response between Petrilli’s ripping guitar leads and Lomeo’s wailing blues harp.
“With this EP, I really wanted to write from perspectives that weren't necessarily my own,” Petrilli says. “Things I've observed with friends or watched on the news. ‘The Voices’ comes from having that conflicting internal conversation with the optimistic side of the ego versus the side that's always worried the world is ending, that everything is bad. We all have that conversation with the little demon and angel on each shoulder.”
The horn-anchored “High Roller” and instrumental showpiece “Slapjack” are hard-grooving modern updates on Meters-style New Orleans funk filtered through Petrilli’s native SoCal breeziness. Throughout both, she delivers the kind of slippery double-stop guitar hooks that would make Stax legend Steve Cropper proud.
Bringing The Voices home is “Ghost Inside a Frame,” a sighing, heartfelt, and emotionally potent nod to Petrilli’s beloved Roses & Cigarettes bandmate. “Right after Jenny died,” she says, “I had a conversation with my Mom, who also lost a close friend at a young age. She said the weirdest part is when you look back at pictures—you change, but they look the same. I thought, ‘What a beautiful and interesting perspective for a song.’ I wrote the idea in my notebook, and tried coming back to it many times, but nothing clicked. I’d write something and think it was too cheesy, or I wouldn’t connect with it. I refused to force it, though. I don’t like to force things.”
One afternoon in May last year, Petrilli was in Austin, Texas. She wasn't up to very much—just sitting around watching one of those bad dating shows on Netflix—when she noticed her arm start to twitch. She hadn’t been planning on writing anything, but she opened herself to the moment, got out her notebook, and the words began to pour out. “It was like something went through me and then it left—I can't explain it,” Petrilli says. “That song was given to me. Truly given to me. It’s incredibly honest and vulnerable, and even though it came from a very personal experience, I think it taps into something universal.”
Reflecting on the events of her life over the past few years, and the ways she’s evolved as an artist, singer and songwriter while making The Voices, Petrilli says that, above all, her journey has been about finding and maintaining an authentic voice.
“I just really wanted to be myself on this EP,” she says. “I was really meticulous about saying exactly what I meant,’ whether in a lyric or the way I sang or played something—even the voicing of a chord. I was able to explore a new side of myself that I hadn’t been in touch with before. With grief, I feel like you never move on, you just move forward from it. These songs celebrate the joy and fragility of life. To share space with like-minded musicians, and create something that’s unapologetically me, has been a deeply profound experience as I embark upon this next phase.”