A New Voice Belting It Out
by Brad Balfour
For Ingersol, music and the arts have always played a big part in her life. Born on July 22, 1990, this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native grew up traveling between the US and the UK. Her mother had emigrated from London, England after her parents had met at Oxford University. The 25-year-old singer/songwriter spent her childhood in both countries, which loans a uniqueness to her experience that translates strongly into her music.
At the age of four, Ingersol’s singing debut came about in church choir. By five years old, she was handling pieces like “Gloria” by Vivaldi and “Bist Du Bie Mir” by Bach. The singer credits choir director Barbara Bruns with promoting her passion for music and performance.
She began playing guitar after a cousin gave her an acoustic that she determinedly plucked at even though it was too big for her to hold correctly. Once her parents bought her a suitably sized electric at 13, Ingersol attended Harcum College’s Summer Music Program, where she learned more formally how to play.
The program focused on rock music with counselors/teachers who were music students from Berklee College of Music, NYU, and UARTS, among others. Ingersol went into the program knowing only how to play Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” By summer’s end, she crunched out power chords and established a confidence in her musical abilities.
While there, Ingersol began songwriting and recorded two original songs for her final project; now one of them, “Apocalypse,” is on her self–titled debut album. “Comfort Comfort” – yes, that’s it twice – made the cut as well. Her experience opened her up to knowing more about her own musical direction.
This led to three months in Europe, visiting Florence, Italy; Paris, France; London, and Liverpool, England; and Glasgow, Scotland, during a summer abroad program. She performed for roommates and “jammed” with local musicians – when not in classes.
Then, while earning her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from Susquehanna University (’13), Ingersol also gained experience regularly playing at local venues and charity concerts.
In her crafting her debut album, she worked extensively with Grammy–nominated producer Alex Salzman, who helped her weave her many musical influences into an intimate, honest, and often profound, songwriting style. Ingersol also completed a video of the first single “Comfort Comfort,” directed by former ER star Erik Palladino.
In addition to her love of music, Ingersol is passionate about painting, sketching, and photography, as well as travel, cooking, family, and animals – especially her family’s pets, which currently numbers five cats. Ingersol’s paintings have been featured as cover art for her alumnus magazine, as well as in several shows.
Ingersol carries her Taylor acoustic guitar (fondly named Babylon) with her everywhere she goes. Her debut video can be found on her website: www.Ingersolmusic.com
Some of your songs have a dark side. Do you have a dark side?
I think that it’s something in everybody. Having a dark side just isn’t pronounced when you meet somebody. That’s why I decided to do music the way I do it. I wanted to keep it honest and have it be accessible to people. I’m a happy person on the outside and the inside as well, but everybody goes through rough and tumble times. It’s important to be able to articulate that.
Which of these songs were inspired by your kitty?
He’s my mascot. I just have to make sure I sing to him instead.
Does he get the dark songs or the more up tempo songs?
He gets the bright and happy songs because he is just a little ball of love.
Which song is the best for your kitty and why?
I think for Pepe it would be “Apocalypse,” because “Apocalypse” has that quirky, upbeat, a little bit dark, but uplifting grasp to it. Pepe my cat, embodies that. It’s about loving something until death or the apocalypse comes.
So at least you want him to survive to, if not through, the apocalypse. Everyone associates songs with relationships, what song would you associate with a relationship and what were the circumstances?
“Love the Way” is pretty close to embodying all those things because it’s a lovey song. Feeling love no matter where you are in life or location you are. Having that long-distance relationship and how difficult that can be. I could play that song for somebody I was in love with. It hits close to home with a lot of people that I’ve talked to about it.
Are all your songs rooted in relationships?
“Chasing Shadows” is the most tumultuous relationship description, because as an art major and a fool in the middle of nowhere I was surrounded by not the best sort of people sometimes. I knew drug addicts and people like I had never been. I was dating a guy that was into drugs and I didn’t know about that. He ended up choosing drugs over me. That’s how I found out A) he was an addict and B) we were over. It was supposed to be a slam poem about our relationship. I wrote it with my roommates. Then I was saying it out loud to them and they said, “you should write a song.” So I turned it into a song. He said it helped. It really hit close to home for him during all of that.
What can you tell about the tales behind other songs? Are all the songs specific to relationships?
They’re all specific to relationships in some way, shape, or form. “Sailor” is about my great grandparents. My great grandfather was a flight deck commander for the USS Shangri-La during World War II. He passed away in 1999 and my great grandmother passed away in 2006. I had most of my life to get to know them very well. When they died, I was going through all this stuff. I found the letters my great grandmother wrote to my great grandfather while he was away in the Pacific. I obviously elaborated a tiny bit for the song, but I decided I wanted to write a song about their love. No matter how far away they were or how hard things they were going through were, they always had each other to come back to.
You might have a whole future album in those letters.
I love them. They make me tear up every time I read them.
My single, “Comfort Comfort,” has a cool story. The whole conflict behind “Comfort” was in my younger relationships, when you feel comfortable with somebody but you don’t really think you’re in love. It’s that awkward in-between phase when you want to spend all your time with them but you can’t understand why. You’re comfortable being around them. That song is about that feeling. I couldn’t figure out a word for it, so I had to write a song about it instead.
How did you meet producer Alex Salzman? Was the musical attraction immediate?
We met through my manager Liz when we were looking into recording. I drove up to his studio and played a few songs in his beautiful studio. We got to talking and it was like a lightbulb turned on. His vast knowledge of everything in the industry and our similarities in music appreciation really helped us hit it off. I started recording with him a few months later. He put so much into this album. Alex deserves a lot of recognition for this, because he worked day in and day out. We’d wake up and get to the studio at 10 and be there all night. He worked his butt off. I couldn’t have done it without him. He deserves a lot of kudos for everything he has done. Alex really is incredible. He is talented on so many levels. I have never met someone that talented, ever.
How did he finesse the songs?
Finesse is the key word, because I come up with these crazy ideas like, “How about a glockenspiel?” Or, “Let’s add a dulcimer.” Alex would be like, “Okay, let’s pick one of those.” If you listen to the songs carefully you can hear a bunch of instruments coming in and out. That’s where Alex really shone through, getting the arrangement together so it made sense. He’s just a genius when it comes to that.
What’s been the most rewarding so far in making record or the first video?
Honestly, it’s really hard to pick just one [thing]. This whole experience has been a whirlwind. Recording the album was a dream come true. Everything about it [was incredible]: from being in a studio every day recording and tweaking things, to meeting the incredible musicians on the album and getting their insight on my work. The video helped me really put into perspective how big we were going. The video director Erik Palladino really blew me away with his vision and gave me a chance to get on stage and do what I love to do.
You also paint. You have the option between painting or singing, but for you was it ever really a choice?
Art and music go hand in hand. It’s really difficult to say I’d be doing one or the other. It’s as the wind blows and how I’m feeling. There’s a quote from Leopold Stokowski that I always get wrong, but I’ll see if I can remember it. “A painter paints on canvas, while a musician paints on silence.” It’s that same concept. I always have a craving to fill empty space, whether it’s with beautiful loud obnoxious noises or actual physical paint. It’s just that I want to alter the emptiness.
What was the first song you heard? Do you remember it? Is your music rooted in it?
I have the lyrics to Sting’s “Fields of Gold” tattooed on my foot. The first time I heard “Fields of Gold” was on a cassette tape in my living room. I fell in love from there. I just needed it. There’s something behind the story of words and Sting is incredible. Sting always hits me right in the feels. I also really identified with Freddie Mercury growing up, and still do to this day. I know pretty much every Queen lyric. We never watched TV growing up, so I would listen to his voice and imagine him marching around the stage with his microphone. I didn’t even know what he looked like at the time. It was just from how my parents described him. I also listened to Smash by the Offspring a lot as a kid. They have remained a staple throughout my life. They are so energetic and sharp. Their lyrics did wonders for my four year old self.
How old were you?
Around three years old. I had been listening to so many types of music my whole life that it’s hard to name one, but I think that was the first conscious moment where I remember listening to a song and saying, “Oh gosh, I love this.”
What was the very first concert you attended?
The first concert I went to was a Pink concert back when she was doing Missundaztood. My parents originally said I wasn’t allowed to go because she was risqué and I was like 12 years old. But it was for a friend’s birthday party, so they agreed to let me go. She was so incredible and cool on stage. I was blown away seeing her perform. I wanted to do that.
Was this before Pink did the circus and acrobatic stuff?
This was before that. This was when she had pink hair and it was shorn on one side.
So how do you feel about the statement that women can’t rock?
I strongly disagree with that statement, that women can’t rock. There is a certain type of person that has to be a rocker. It might just fall into being more men than women because of the barrier of women not being able to do things. Through the years, women have been able to step forward and really hold their own on the stage when it comes to rock. I know women are generally more emotional than men, so there’s a deeper seed of the lyric of the rock music. If anything women are better at rocking.
There are certain female singer/song writers you didn’t reference in your bio like Tori Amos or Kate Bush. What do you think of them?
I definitely know both of them very well. What I struggle with is that I listen to so many different types of music and I get inspiration from all of them. I struggle to pinpoint who my favorite artists are or who my influences are because everybody is an influence. If I listen to a song once it’s in my music repertoire. There are so many amazing women in music history and rock history that I just draw a blank.
How much did you improvise for this record or is it more structured?
A lot of it is improvised because of my history of jam bands.
Did you go to Grateful Dead concerts?
No. (laughs) In college, I had a band and we used to play every single weekend. We’d do concerts, like battle of the bands type stuff to raise money for different organizations. We’d do other fundraisers for fraternities and sororities and for the school in general. We had a lot of fun. Having that as our background made doing improv an integral part of recording, which will also hopefully translate to page. It’s been a while, so I’m really excited for spring to come so I can get back up there.
With a name like Ingersol, there’s some European element in your background; isn’t that Scandinavian?
Nordic, somewhere in the North. It’s a family name. My parents met in England, so my mom is definitely from the other side of the pond. My dad’s family is Mayflower family. Pretty old school America. It’s a pretty interesting mix of cultures.
How does that affect your music? Is it rooted in your background?
I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, where instead of having an A, B, A, B arrangement you have a very complicated arrangement where it stems from emotions. You want to bring people up and take them back down and really throw them around. Alex Salzman, my producer, has a really strong background in classical music. With us sitting in the studio together we came up with these wild arrangements where at first we’d be like “this is too wild, too crazy.” Then we sit with it, add a Theremin to it, and decide it’s perfect. It was interesting to see everything blend together, our taste in music and stuff like that.
Do you dream of a day when you can bring in a full orchestra for a recording or tour?
I hope so. That would be so incredible. There were so many talented musicians that worked on the album. It would be great to get them back again or other talented musicians. The Ingersol Orchestra. Let’s get that started. It’d be awesome.
Does your music have a healing force or is it for your own therapy?
That’s a tough question, because I can only speak for myself. It’s helped me a lot to grow and change and learn about the world and myself. I know my little sister has always loved it and that it helped her grow a little bit, but I don’t know for sure about other people. I think that there’s a level of honesty and surprise in it that helps me at least.
How old is your sister?
She’s 18, she just started college.
She keeps you on the youthful tip, right? You’re already over the hill!
(laughs) She tries.
It’s not like she suggests that you put a rapper into the mix.
No, but she wouldn’t be opposed to it. She’s pretty well rooted in the things I like. ’70s rock. She listens to more Led Zeppelin than people my age.
Where do you live now?
I live outside Philadelphia right now. Born and raised.
Do you think your music has a suburban quality?
Right now we’re technically in the city but I don’t count it as Center City. Philadelphia is such a sprawling place. Kind of suburban, but a little bit Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is very under appreciated. It has a great Chinatown.
I agree, it’s just great.
Do you associate any of your songs with food?
I probably need to start doing that.
Do you have songs you recommend for when people are eating?
I like the old Kentucky-Fried-Chicken-and-a-Pizza-Hut song. My eating food music is definitely John Coltrane.
Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is one of the first records I ever owned.
It’s so good. I cry every time I listen to it.
It’s an important record. It does all the right things, it makes you aspire to higher planes.
It wraps all your emotions into one big ball and pushes it down onto a record plate. You just play it over and over and over and just get wrapped up in it.
Do you think you could live without music or art?
I don’t think I could ever live without music. Music is my art, art is just an outlet for it, if that makes any sense.
What made you so disciplined to play music?
It was really just my need to make noises. I had been singing for as long as I can remember. Everything I could say I would sing instead. I was never good at taking lessons of any type so I had to teach myself everything. It was just listening to records or movies and deciding I was going to play it, then just sitting down and figuring it out. It’s like solving a math equation or something like that. I have to do this. I’m really stubborn.
I could never stand my own singing enough to stick with music. You don’t have to think about that. Sound comes out of you and it sounds right.
I’m sure it’s the same as with you and writing. It’s like how you just write something down and it just clicks?
No, it’s complete and utter torture for me!
It’s just feeling, really. When I go to speak, sometimes I just feel like I need to sing instead. I was born with this thing inside of me that I just need to make noise and it turned out to be actual music, which is pretty cool.
When did somebody say you should be a musician?
When I was a little baby we did singing in school and it made me really happy. My parents have always been so supportive and say, “Oh you’re the best.” But when your parents say you’re the best sometimes it doesn’t actually mean that. They just love you. That’s what I was worried about. Over the years I figured out I might have something still.
Did you do solos when you did choir?
I did duets with my big sister. That was when everyone said, “Oh my gosh, they’re so great.” We did all the duets after that.
You have a big sister too?
I’m one of three girls. My big sister is 28 and the little one is 18.
Are they expecting you to put them to work?
I hope so. My little one wants to do a Christmas album with me. She’s so talented.
What would be your ultimate Christmas song?
I would love to do “Silent Night.” It’s nice and simple, but beautiful.
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 15, 2016.
Photo #1 © 2016 Courtesy of Ingersol.