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INTERVIEW WITH LARISSA NESS
By Betty Davenport
A classically trained pianist, flutist and vocalist, Larissa has been performing a wide variety of genres since the age of 3 years old. She began recording professionally and writing at the age of 16. Since then she’s released a volume of albums and singles across the genres of jazz, latin, hip-hop, pop and electronic in her quest to take over the world. “Je T’aime,” the first single from her debut album Texture Vision, appeared on MTV, VH-1, SPK, NICK, FXNC, SciFi, and ENT as part of the B&H Music Stores commercials, featured in the New York independent film Dykeotomies, and was aired on Austin’s biggest rock station 101-X. Larissa also penned the theme song for the upcoming indie flick Lost In Sunshine. The multifaceted diva didn’t stop there, as she released I’ve Found You, a jazzy Latin flavored EP that featured world renown Latin groups, Cienfuegos and the Grammy Award winning, Grupo Fantasma as well as Hello, a pop record featuring rapper Ray C, which received radio play in the US, England, France, and Germany. She’s performed at the Playboy Mansion and has shared the stage with celebrities like Maroon 5, Tommy Lee, Ke$ha, LMFAO, Bon Jovi, Bret Michaels, Vince Neil, Jon Secada, Dennis Quaid, Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s and Teddy Mulet of the Miami Sound Machine. To top it off she’s also the singer in the Wii game All Star Cheer Squad 2.
Larissa’s newest album, Break The Mold, is a memorable dose of caffeine and sugar your brain has been begging for! Break The Mold features a remix from Grammy-nominated J Scott G, formerly of Deepsky, who is known for remixing music industry monsters like Madonna and Frank Sinatra. Also be sure to watch Larissa’s music video for her first single from Break The Mold “Let It Go“, produced by Papertank Productions, who recently produced Blue October’s music video for “The Chills“.
Betty: Tell us a little about your background and early experiences with music.
Larissa: Well I started playing piano when I was about three years old. My mother was a piano teacher so she was working with me at a really young age. I’ve pretty much been around music my whole life.
Betty: Where did you study and who were some of your instructors?
Larissa: Well, I was first taught classical piano by my mother. Then I got into about fourth grade I started playing the flute. I became actively involved in musical theater so that’s where I got experience in singing. I had a private teacher that really inspired me to play the flute. I did that on and off competitively throughout high school level. I was involved in the marching band, took theater classes and got into local community musical stuff. For a while I went to the University of Miami and then I went to Texas State University where I was a voice major and played piano. I played piano and first started pursuing and making original music then. I was close to Austin, Texas, which is known as “The Live Music Capital of the World”. I started playing at piano bars and places like that. I got booked at the Four Seasons Hotel Lounge where I was playing some of my jazzier original music on the grand piano. It was a really cool experience because I got to meet a lot of celebrities.
Betty: Who has influenced you the most in your career?
Larissa: Definitely Gwen Stefani was a big favorite of mine. Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and I also listen to Faith Hill and Martina McBride. I actually love all genres. One album I did was similar to Nelly Furtado and my most recent album has a lot of electronic dance pop style in it. I love writing Pop, because it comes naturally to me. So I just went the electronic route as I evolved. It works out quite well being able to play the keyboard and mix other sounds in.
Betty: Do you write and produce all of your songs?
Larissa: Yes I write all my own stuff, whether it’s co-writing or writing solo. That’s part of the fun. The last album I made was produced with Ryan Parker. He and I worked together on the production part of it and I wrote all of the lyrics. We were like a two man team.
Betty: Which album or song is your favorite?
Larissa: My favorite song off of the new album is “Clarity”. Ironically, in past albums, my favorite songs have not always been what everybody else’s favorite is. I am getting really good feedback on “Clarity” so that’s kinda cool!
Betty: Your albums span many genres of music, which style do you enjoy the most and which one challenges you the most?
Larissa: I enjoy playing all genres. I am definitely going more in the direction of my new album. I really don’t want to do something that is super challenging for me because it is less natural. That would make me feel like I shouldn’t be doing that. The best songs just flow naturally out of me. Some of them I can write in like five seconds. They just flow out of me and I’m like “wow”. That is the cool thing about being an artist.
Betty: Tell us about the song you did for the Wii video game, All Star Cheer Squad 2 and how this come about.
Larissa: This guy contacted me on FaceBook. He said hey I’m making this soundtrack and would love for you to come in and sing a song. It turned out perfectly because it had this real poppy sound. It was real cool!
Betty: What inspired the song and video “Let It Go”?
Larissa: Well the song is about what we all go through. Whether it’s in a relationship with someone or whether it’s just defining your life. Maybe you lost your job or something hard happens to you and you are so upset by it. So you tell yourself “ok” I have to let this go. I like to think of myself as a “glass half full” kind of person and I wanted my last album to express this in my writing because it is who I am. I’m a very positive person and always try to look for the bright side of things. Even though the song is about heartbreak, the mentality is whatever happens I am stronger and can get through this. The video is set in a modern day Joan of Arc meets Romeo and Juliet theme. We came up with this pretty cool costume for the video and I loved it so much I even use it in my shows!
Betty: You have shared the stage with many great artists, who did you enjoy working with the most?
Larissa: Well, I really loved Maroon 5. That was so awesome and Adam is so funny to meet. On stage he has this persona as a really super attractive person and offstage he is still attractive of course (laughs), but just like any other normal guy – down to earth and funny.
Betty: What future projects are you currently working on?
Larissa: I have two new videos in the works. We shot some of the video in New York City and Times Square. It was lots of fun with millions of people all around and cool lights flashing everywhere.
Betty: Will you be touring this year for the “Break the Mold” album.
Larissa: We are thinking of doing it in the fall. Right now we are focusing on getting the videos out.