Thursday, April 14

Center Stage - Nola Wren

Nola Wren is the stage name of Brooklyn based singer-songwriter and producer Kara Renee Francavillo, and our latest Center Stage artist. 

Born to a musical family outside of Chicago, Nola began writing songs at a very young age, eventually picking up the guitar and learning her way around a MIDI keyboard. Her innate sense of style and distinctive blend of sparkly electro pop, driving guitars, and sharp-witted lyrics has garnered praise from numerous publications, including LADYGUNN and The Deli Magazine. She is currently working on her first EP.

Her song Venom was one the Top 10 songs of the Radio Airplay 2016 Spring Song Contest, and for good reason. The catchy melody accompanied by sultry vocals & lyrics create the perfect soundscape for this synth-pop ballad. 

Get to know Nola Wren and what's she's got planned for the future. We are excited to hear much more from the talented artist! 

Describe your sound in one ramble-on sentence
spunky indie electro pop punk sparkle grunge bittersweet salty alt-y nocturnal synth rock like a dreamy neon-tinged melancholic walk of shame at sunrise slash a glimmer of hope at sunset.

What's your earliest music-related memory growing up?
It's actually my first memory – of my grandmother singing a lullaby and rocking me to sleep at night when I was a baby.

What was the first tune(s) you learned?
I started playing guitar around age 13-14, and the first song I learned was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I used to practice it while wearing a t-shirt that had a picture of Kurt Cobain in a green dress smoking a cigarette on the front.

Do you write/compose your own songs? Briefly describe your songwriting process
Yes, I do. My process itself a bit scattered and hard to pin down, but my general approach is to write as much as I can – thoughts, feely feels, poems, phrases, bits and pieces – wherever, whenever possible. (i.e. often in transit.) Like most songwriters I know, I constantly use the voice memos and notepad apps on my iPhone. I also keep a physical journal. Sometimes I'll start with a melody or vocal hook idea, grab my guitar and start writing, or vice versa. Other times I'll start by laying down a beat or some chords in Ableton or Logic, then a few hours (or days, or months) later, it eventually becomes a song.

If you were to cover another artist's album, which would you pick and why?
I've toyed with the idea of doing a Bruce Springsteen cover album. It would include a mixture of songs from Born to Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Nebraska, and Born in the U.S.A. 70's/80's era Springsteen makes me so nostalgic, even though technically I wasn't a part of that generation. I was born in the Midwest, but I spent my formative teenage years (in the 2000s) growing up in New Jersey – falling in and out of love, driving around aimlessly at night with my friends, broke, conflicted, beary-eyed yet intensely optimistic about the future. Now if that doesn't just scream The Boss, I don't know what does.

What was the highlight of 2015, either for you personally or for the band? What was the low point?
Releasing my single “Venom” was a major highlight. Having my song “College” remixed by Lucian was awesome, too. (over 900K hits on YouTube! Unfortunately, I went through a long creative dry spell in 2015. I think it's relatively natural to experience waves of writer's block or artistic burnout, but last year the drought hit me particularly hard.

What is 2016 looking like for you? Upcoming projects? Can you give us a little hint, on what we can expect for this year?
I've been in writing/collaboration/production mode for the past several months, taking everything one day at a time. I'm letting it all soak in. New music is on the horizon, I just don't have any definitive release date quite yet. But I'm excited, because I really do feel like things are slowly coming together.

Any embarrassing on stage moments you'd like to share? C’mon, don’t be shy.
Years ago, I wore a pair of skin-tight sequin hot pants to a gig. I literally cringe at the thought of them now. I had a backing band at the time, and everyone was wearing flannels and jeans. Meanwhile, there I was dressed like Beyoncé at the Grammy's in a casual bar in the Lower East Side, fighting the urge to pick a wedgie on stage.

What do you enjoy doing outside of music? Does your hobby rejuvenate their creativity?
Painting, drawing, exercising, cooking, reading, visiting museums, watching movies, sewing, and perhaps most of all spending time outdoors. I enjoy taking long walks, exploring this incredible city and getting lost for hours. I like to shut off my laptop and let my phone die periodically. It helps clear my often over-stimulated ADD/ADHD brain. I also run an Etsy shop called Skella, where I sell a mix of vintage and one-of-a-kind upcycled garments. I'm really interested in getting involved in gardening and environmental protection/restoration, so I recently signed up for a bunch of volunteer work through various NYC parks.

What do you like the most about Radio Airplay?
Opportunities like these, of course! Radio Airplay is a good resource for independent artists looking to expand their audience and connect with new fans.