I’m delighted to announce that my fourth album will be released on the Big Modern Music label on Friday, April 5th, 2019. The album, “Pick Up My Pieces: Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson” is co-produced by pianist and frequent collaborator Art Hirahara and bassist Pat O’Leary, with musical arrangements by O’Leary.
The genesis for the album began years ago, when I went to see Nelson live on a whim when I was in high school. I went in not really expecting anything- I never considered myself a country music fan- but Willie was already an icon at that time, and so I went to see a bonafide American music superstar just for the sake of having seen that person live. The turning point in the evening came when Nelson’s band left the stage and he sang a solo version of “Always On My Mind”. His performance was so genuine and so heartfelt. He was completely without affect and performed in a way that made me feel like he was singing directly to me. I fell in love with him right then and there.
In 2017 I decided I wanted to do a project dedicated to Willie’s music. He’s well known and well loved as a performer, but I think he’s a bit under-appreciated as a songwriter. I started working with Pat O’Leary on the material, culling Willie’s vast catalog for the songs that touched me personally. We premiered the material at Birdland and despite some initial incredulity (YOU’RE doing a concert of WILLIE NELSON???), the show got a fabulous response. And please don’t think I’m bragging- I truly believe that it’s not me people were reacting to. People just need a chance to really hear Willie’s music and then they get what makes me love him. His writing is simple and yet it packs a huge emotional punch. That’s not an easy thing to do.
The album features many musicians with whom I frequently collaborate and some new folks too! Our co-producer Art Hirahara plays piano on one track and organ on several others. Joshua Richman has the piano chair, Pat O’Leary is on bass and Eric Halvorson plays drums. We have an all-star horn section featuring Scott Robinson on tenor, Evan Arntzen on alto, Jay Brandford on bari, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet and John Allred on trombone. The album also features a string quartet on two tracks, headed up by Rubin Kodheli on cello, Isabel Hagen, first violin, Elena Moon-Park, second violin and Carol Gimbel on viola.
I am so proud of the album and so excited to share it with the world. It’s a love letter to Willie, but it’s more than that. I find the music very cathartic to sing and I hope that people will feel that way when they hear it. I also think there’s something very interesting about a woman interpreting Willie’s music- it brings out many new and wonderful aspects of his writing.
I’ll be celebrating the release of the album on Sunday, April 7th at Birdland in NYC. I’ll have the full 9-piece band with me from the album! You can reserve tickets HERE and I really hope you’ll join us.