Born in Torino, Italy, Erene Mastrangeli considers her music an entity, meaning her music comes to her, flows through her, and is a way to express her intense emotions. An internationally acclaimed queer singer/songwriter, she uses life events and experiences to inform her songwriting. Her debut album and title track Love, Shine was written after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016. The album was released in November 2023. I had the pleasure of talking with Mastrangeli about her music, voice coaching, and teaching Italian.
Tell us a little about yourself.
ERENE MASTRANGELI: Well, I am Italian-born and raised. I started singing very early and my dad started the whole thing. He’s an amateur musician and he wanted my sister and me to have music in our lives, so he signed us up for a choir. I think I was seven or eight. A couple of years later I started classical guitar lessons, so that was like the start; it was like music was always there. I wanted to be an archaelogist and all these other things. And then I think when I was 20, I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna be a singer,” so I woke up to it. I never really felt like I was a singer, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m a singer, it’s so strange.
Are you classically trained?
EM: Yeah, I started with classical music, but it wasn’t like real training, we were singing classical pieces, and we were participating in operas in my hometown. Whenever they needed a children’s choir they would call us. We had this experience of singing in these operas, it was just so much fun. I was really trained as a jazz/blues musician, and that’s when I started my formal training. But for the last 25 years, I’ve been trained in a method in Germany, actually that I’m certified in (the Lichtenberger Method). I actually teach, myself that is, for any kind of voice in any genre, but most of my teachers are classical singers. My training is more in jazz and blues, but my technique is coming more from the classical world.
How would you identify?
EM: I am a lesbian singer and songwriter and I am from Torino, Italy, in the northwest near Milan.
Can you tell our readers about your music?
EM: So, I have released a new album in 2023, called Love, Shine. I have three other releases: two EP’s and a live album. Like an entire, full-length [album] and it’s a project I deeply care about. I recorded the album in Rome — that was not my initial intention, I was looking for a producer here in New York. But I happened to spend extra time in Italy for various reasons; a while back someone introduced me to a producer they loved, and we hit it off. It spontaneously became a collaboration for this album. It was the best experience in the recording studio that I have ever had. It was completely meant to be.
Can you elaborate on your songs on Love, Shine?
EM: The songs I recorded are very specific, they are just not like some songs. They have some deep messages, things that I care about, and my producer “got me” from a musical standpoint and lyrics and messages. He understood what I was trying to do, and that was key because it couldn’t be undermined and not taken seriously. But he did and we had this beautiful [relationship], like I had met a sibling almost. And we just had fun! It was from the heart, like a total artistic project. We just put into it what we felt was right for the song or the message. We just love it and we keep loving it, and that to me is a sign of success — that I am still in love with this record. The project is a bit of a mystical story and tragic.
The title track was written in response to the shooting at Pulse in 2016. Because it hit the LGBTQIA community I was just…It was as if I just woke up from a dream to the reality of this gun violence and mass shootings in the States. I have lived here for many, many years but for some reason, that day, it hit me, “Oh, this is a reality I need to look at because it hit close to home.” That is when we wake up, right?
So the title track “Love, Shine” is about the shooting at Pulse nightclub?
EM: Yes, it’s about Pulse and I get emotional because I am a pacifist, you know; [laughs] I think it’s something that has worked for my whole life. But that day, I was like “Oh my god,” and it just hit me really deeply and that’s when I picked up my guitar, but I didn’t know what to do. So, this music came from this riff on the guitar, and then from there the song. And that is how I use songwriting to process feelings and to transcend them and sort of cope. I treat my songs like entities, I mean to me, they come, I don’t make them, they want to tell me something, so I listen to my songs. “Love, Shine” started something for me. I always wanted to write about what’s happening in the world but I couldn’t. “Love, Shine” was when I discovered I could and I needed to.
How does what is happening in the world and the shooting at Pulse nightclub affect how you go about your daily life?
EM: That is a good question. Whether it’s still affecting [me] and other people is very impactful. I feel very fortunate that I have music as an outlet where feelings get so intense. I can go to the piano; I can go to the guitar. And the gift is that through music these feelings are transformed and transcended, because out of tragedy it can come out like something so beautiful like a song.
I wrote a song about abortion a year before the Supreme Court ruling when it happened in Texas. I started writing this song and pain, pain, but at the end, it was this peace. The feelings are transformed when I’m writing and then I can go back and perform it. It’s an outlet also, to let it out. It’s actually the first song where I curse [laughs]. We are constantly bombarded with these events and sometimes I think, “Holy shit, am I safe?”
Day to day, it kicks up PTSD, all our personal stuff. For me, it’s important to take a break not to make it my only reality because it’s not the only thing that is happening. It’s serious, I need to get involved and do something, but it cannot take over my entire life, because that’s not the only thing that’s happening. There’s a lot of good; a lot of people are doing really great stuff. It is good to find a balance — what I know is true of life is that fundamentally in life, everything is love.
Have you collaborated with other artists?
EM: I write most of my songs myself but I love collaborations. On the new record, there is a song I wrote with Brad Roberts, the lead singer from The Crash Test Dummies. I wrote “Let’s Take It Slow” with him. Collaborating with him was like a powerhouse, I was definitely a big fan.
What was it like collaborating with someone you were a fan of?
EM: We met randomly, but you don’t feel like you’re in the presence of a celebrity. He was just the sweetest man, so humble and like a regular person. He was taking voice lessons with me. He made me feel like an equal; it was really sweet. He’s the most talented writer I have ever seen, I’ve ever met. He would, say, pick one word and he would have two verses, a chorus, and it was gorgeous, literally very talented, a poet really. That was an enriching experience.
You mentioned that you teach voice lessons; can you talk about the method?
EM: I go to Germany every year. It was actually an ex-girlfriend who got me to this method. She was going to workshops and I was having issues and she was like, “Why don’t you try this because it’s also like a healing method?” And I started and I stuck with it for many years. It changed my entire approach not only to singing but my entire life. I have to say it’s a method of less control and more energy flow whether in life or in songs. The method I teach is called Lichtenberger.
Where can fans find your music? Do you have any upcoming shows?
EM: I am actually working on more performing, definitely. I am working on a European tour that’s going to hit Italy, Germany, probably Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, we will see, most likely Fall 2024. I am also in the early stages of a TV or film project. For my album, Love, Shine.
For more information about her vocal coaching visit vocalserenity.com/