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Artist of the Week: Jessica Gallo

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at gmwynkoop@sbgtv.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long has the band been around/writing together/performing?
I’ve been playing the harp for 27 years. I had my first paid gig when I was 15 years old and I’ve been performing for mostly private events ever since. Five years ago I became a Certified Music Practitioner and I now work at Virginia Mason Hospital providing therapeutic music at the bedside for Critical Care and oncology patients as well as providing music through the hospital. I’ve been writing and recording my own original compositions for the past 7 years.

Tell us about the artistic process and the different stages that work into it.
I’m always getting ideas for new pieces whether it’s from a transcendent experience in nature, or a meaningful conversation with a friend, or a piece I hear on the classical radio station. I have a spiral bound book of manuscript paper that I’m continuously scribbling ideas and musical phrases into. I also have dozens of voice memo clips on my phone. Over time and with a lot of trial and error, these idea fragments begin to take shape and become a finished piece.

Where does your inspiration come from? What other musical artists do you take inspo from?
Nature inspires me as deeply as music. I love to garden specifically creating contrast between the inorganic edges of urban environments with the organic beauty of plants. Travel is another inspiration for me. Oftentimes during my travels there are memorable moments that stick with me that I will use as inspiration for an original composition. Mary Oliver’s poetry, in particular, speaks to me because of the way she talks about the natural world with such care and awe.

Musically I’m a sponge for a diverse range of artists and composers from Bach, Debussy, Ravel to more modern artists like Nils Frahm, The Beatles and Radiohead. Although my music doesn’t sound anything like the Beatles, for example, I pay attention to the melodic and harmonic structure of their music and draw inspiration. While my music doesn’t have lyrics I’m very drawn to lyrical lines and I want my melodies to tell you something.

What kind of genre is your music? What kinds of things do you write about?
My music is always about something - not just notes that sound pretty together. I always have an experience or picture in my head of something I want to convey. I try to capture the emotion of that place or experience through music. My first album I’d call classical crossover. It’s meditative and suppose to encourage relaxation. The album was inspired by my therapeutic work and the brave and beautiful people I’ve met in the healthcare setting.

Nature and travel are also big inspirations for my music. I’ve been working on a piece about our recent trip to the south coast of Iceland. I wanted to capture the mystery and magic of the landscape - the waterfalls, rainbows, rock formations. Having a picture in my head helps me know where to go with the music. While I was working on this piece my 13-year-old daughter Grace said, “Remember to put the Icelandic ponies in the music!” So, of course, I did.

Do you have one song that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
I wrote a piece called "Snow" a few years back and it’s quite a meaningful piece for me. I was at the hospital on the eve of Christmas Eve. As requested I was playing "O Holy Night" and the man I was playing for began to sing with tears streaming down his cheeks. Just then I looked out the window to see snow softly falling outside. This piece is a musical vignette of that beautiful experience.

What experiences in your life have shaped your music/art?
My grandpa Ken was a very special person to me and he used to drive me to my harp lessons when I was young. Claire de Lune by Debussy was his favorite piece and he told me, “Learn it and I’ll pay you fifty bucks!” You better believe I learned it and Debussy is a composer I regularly return to for inspiration.

When I was a freshman in college my grandfather suffered a stroke and was in the hospital on Christmas Day. I brought my harp into his hospital room and the music made him so happy. Before I knew it other patients down the hall were asking if I could play for them as well! It was that experience, at age 19, that eventually drew me to become a Certified Music Practitioner.

I had never written my own music before working as a therapeutic musician. It never occurred to me that I could do it. But as an extension of care for the patients I played for, as well as self-care, I began to express myself through writing my own music. And now I can’t stop!

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find? What about upcoming shows?
Instagram! I’m always posting clips of new music on my profile and stories gallomusic_co It’s also a good place to hear where I’m performing next. You can find my debut album Away on Spotify and iTunes. I’ll be playing at an event called Still Life on December 18th, a community, music and mediation experience. Come connect with others, get quiet and meditate to harp music. Tickets available here.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I’m currently writing and recording for my next album. Most of the pieces I’ve composed so far for the new album are inspired by world travels—from Chile to Switzerland and many places in between. I try to expose myself to many different styles of music so that my music is constantly evolving. This next album features pieces inspired by Brazillian jazz, Finnish epic poetry and folk music, a rainy morning in Kauaijust to name a few.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Light roast, pour-over black.

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