Joanna Pearl Talks Recording On New Chicago Track ‘The Mermaid’, Singing With Andy Fraser, & More

California soul songstress Joanna Pearl has had some unique experiences as a solo artist.

For starters, Pearl has been nominated for the 24th Annual LA Music Awards in three categories: Hot AC Artist of the Year, Hot AC Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year. She ended up taking home the honor of Hot AC Album of the Year. She was also nominated for Best Pop Artist at the Temecula Valley Music Awards. 

The vibrant singer-songwriter most recently recorded a vocal track on Chicago’s song, “The Mermaid (Sereia Do Mar)” which is featured on their latest (and 38th!) album, Born For This Moment. She also had the honor of singing and performing with Andy Fraser (Free) shortly before his passing in 2015.

In addition to her work as a solo artist (her most recent single being the soaring anthem, “I Am Woman”), she joined the band SoulCal during the pandemic, a 10-piece soul and funk band, which she fronts with her powerhouse vocals.

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Pearl’s vocal ability and songwriting make her a force to be reckoned with. Her songwriting stands out for being truthful and her vocal range is top notch. Her passion for music and singing runs deep, and the sky seems to be the limit.

We had the opportunity to talk to Pearl about recording on the Chicago track, performing with Andy Fraser, upcoming projects, and more.

So can you talk about who or what got you into a life of singing and songwriting? 

It was always a passion of mine to write poems and stuff like that, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I met a producer named Thomas Barsoe, and he had this idea to record some covers, some vocals, and harmonies. Finally, one day he said ‘Let’s write some songs.’ Since then, it has been a crazy amount of songwriting. In a nutshell, that’s kind of how it started.

Tell us more about your recording with Chicago on their track “The Mermaid.” How did this all come together, and how did you get this hook up?

I have some really good friends in the industry including Jackie Bertone, who is a world-famous percussionist. He’s been on Brian Wilson and Santana records and so many others. And not only is he a friend, but also my mentor. He had a wild idea to help me with my career, by setting me up with Joe Thomas who produced the Chicago albums. He thought I had some talent, so when it came time to record, we recorded locally in Temecula, and everything was done via the internet. Joe even produced it over the phone, which was a whole new ballgame.

So you didn’t get to meet any of the band members then? Do you think you will?

I did not. But their last performance [of their tour] is here in Temecula, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to meet them then, and maybe be able to do the song with them as well.

I also see you worked with Andy Fraser of the British rock band Free. Tell me more about that and what that experience was like.

In 2014, I put out my EP and we were getting ready to go to NAMM when I met someone who was working with Andy Fraser. It was here in Temecula as we were preparing for the Temecula Music Awards when she first heard my music, and said she wanted to give it to Andy. When I finally got the opportunity to meet him, we clicked really quickly. Sadly, he passed away three months after I met him. In such a short period of time he was so inspirational to me.

So you sang with him during his final performance is that right? What was that like?

We were in the Anaheim Marriott in 2015 at the Grammy after-party when he suddenly turned around to me and asked, “Would you sing my song ‘Every Kind of People?’” I obviously said yes. I had the privilege to do some other songs with him and we were running short on time by the end of the performance, which I was bummed about because I was supposed to sing “Natural Woman.” As people were leaving, he grabs me and just says, “Let’s still sing the last song,” and he just starts on the bass, and slowly the other instruments kicked in. That was the last song he performed live. It was an unforgettable experience.

And what about your own musical prowess? What projects of your own have you been working on?

During Covid, I told myself I was going to join a band since playing with a band is something I have never really done before. We [SoulCal] have a mix of covers and originals that we play. We had some goals such as playing at Humphrey’s, which we will be doing very soon! 

What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

One of my objectives in this world is to sing songs that mean something to me or someone else. My job is to reach as many people as I can, and as cliche as this sounds, to hopefully impact at least one person is a success to me. I want my music to do to someone else what it did to me growing up.

What does a dream gig look like for you?

I would’ve loved to do something with Aretha and Whitney, but Celine or Mariah are some of the other big voices that would be a dream. Even in country, something with Martina McBride or Trisha Yearwood. Anyone that I grew up admiring would make the list.

What are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist? I imagine the Chicago recording and Andy Fraser performances would be up there.

Some of them are very small, but just believing in myself is important, especially in such a tough industry. Overnight successes are not overnight; they are about a decade of hard work. To keep going through those things is to grab onto things that inspire you. Obviously working with Andy was ridiculous, working on the Chicago album was a pretty big deal as well. At the end of the day, I’m just thankful for everything.

What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for the rest of the year? 

Definitely getting to sing with Chicago and hopefully taking a picture. Then putting out the next single, which is in the works right now.

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