North Park singer/songwriter Carmen Caserta was 19 when she dragged her piano from L.A. to San Diego, originally to attend college. “I got my undergraduate degree in psychology and then started law school in 2008,” she says, “but I was playing and singing in secret at home, every day, for around seven years.”
With a notebook full of songs and encouragement from locals such as performer/producer Astra Kelly, Caserta recorded a four-song EP called Years in late 2010. “Musically, I’m the lovechild of Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Adele. The songs are pieces of my soul, feelings in my heart: vulnerable, gut-level, and sometimes uncomfortably exposed revelations.”
Caserta’s debut full-length The Hive, recorded at Capricorn Studios in S.D., was released in September. Now playing live shows around town, she says her concert persona is most influenced by the aforementioned Tori Amos.
“The first time I saw her was at the Greek Theatre in L.A. when I was 13, and I remember moments when her expression was so unbridled and intense that I actually felt uncomfortable, because she was triggering such painful places for me. She has the power to evoke an enormous range of emotion, from pain, anger, grief, and the horrifying feeling of being sexually violated, to courage, strength, and empowerment. She uses her entire being as the catalyst for this experience.”
Carmen Caserta performs Saturday, November 5, at Cosmos Coffee Café in La Mesa.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More. “Rich with swelling emotion and amazing musical dynamics that never fail to move my soul.”
2) Adele, 21. “Good songs, with great melodies and grooves.”
3) The Nocturnes, Aokigahara. “Her voice is hauntingly beautiful."
CD YOU WERE EMBARRASSED TO MENTION?
“Lady Gaga, ‘Poker Face’ — but it’s the acoustic version, so it’s okay. All personal feelings about Gaga aside, that chick plays a mean piano, and she can actually sing her ass off.”
WHAT’S YOUR ETHNIC HERITAGE?
“I’m a first-generation American on my father’s side. He’s a native Italian, and the only member of his family to ever leave Italy. Such courage!”
WHERE DO YOU HANG OUT?
“I live by Bird Park and Morley Field, which are quite lovely, and I’ve recently committed to getting out into nature once a week to give myself some relaxation and connect with the natural world.”
BIGGEST LIE YOU EVER TOLD?
“‘No, I’m not stoned.’ Or maybe that’s just the most frequent lie I’ve told.”
WHO MAKES OUT IN YOUR WILL?
“The coolest stuff I have would be my grandparents’ upright piano, a treasure chest full of my life’s writings, and my shoe collection. My hubby would get my piano, even though he doesn’t play, my 14-year-old sister Sabrina would get my shoes, and I’ve already posted a sticky-note instruction on my treasure chest [stating] that all the contents must be burned and never read. Those go to the fairies and ghosts.”
FIRST TIME DRUNK?
“When we were 12 or 13, my best friend and I stole a bottle of vodka from the drugstore. We used Hawaiian Punch as a chaser, until I realized what a waste of time and stomach space that was. I ended up drinking most of the bottle and blacking out. Flashes of memory still remain, such as running into the street crying hysterically and sitting on my neighbor’s lawn chanting ‘Stop the rain,’ even though it wasn’t raining. I woke up face down in the grass in a pool of my own vomit. Not a pretty story, I know.”
SONG THAT BEST DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?
“Fiona Apple, ‘Extraordinary Machine’: ‘Be kind to me/ Or treat me mean/ I’ll make the most of it/ I’m an extraordinary machine.’”
MOST MONEY EVER SPENT ON NOTHING?
“On my last trip to New York City, the ultimate danger zone for a compulsive shopper like me, I bought a Jimmy Choo bag. Now, hold on a second, it was 40 percent off retail. It had that irresistible, manipulative allure, but it was still sickeningly expensive. I felt so guilty and ashamed after I bought the damned thing that I couldn’t even use it for more than a week. I was a total fraud, walking around with that thing, pretending like it was a true reflection of who I am and what I can afford. I put it up for sale online, but no luck. It’s just sitting on the top shelf of my closet, an ever-present reminder that I cannot afford to do things that make me feel so bad about myself. Anyone want a brand-new iconic Jimmy Choo bag for half retail?”
BEST LOCAL EATERY?
“El Zarape on Park Boulevard, hands down.”
REGRETS: YOU’VE HAD A FEW?
“I screwed up on one of the songs on my album, but I didn’t realize it until after it was mastered, so the song doesn’t begin the way I intended it to. [Growls.] How will I ever get over that one?” ■