One of the most sought after and prolific studio and concert musicians in Los Angeles, Gina Kronstadt has performed in string sections on countless film soundtracks, top TV talent competitions (American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, X-Factor) and recordings by numerous jazz and pop greats, from Chris Botti and Michael Buble to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Rod Stewart. While the multi-talented performer is grateful to have shared the stage with hundreds of legends and top “hired gun” talent, musically and artistically, she’s always longed to express a deeper, singular side of herself.
More than simply her highly anticipated debut as a versatile singer/songwriter, Come Over—as its title suggests—is a warm, straight from the heart invitation to experience Kronstadt’s thoughtful yet often whimsical take on the world as she draws from a wellspring of influences, including jazz, pop and soul. As the project’s producer and arranger, she opted to put her trademark virtuoso violin on the shelf to focus on her unique emotional vocal style. Drawing on some of her closest friends in the L.A. jazz community, she gathered a unique “family” of greats to flesh out her eclectic vision, including John Beasley (Rhodes), Reggie Hamilton (bass), Gary Novak (drums), Luis Conte (percussion), Bob Sheppard (sax and woodwinds), and John Daversa and Walt Fowler (trumpet). Four tracks feature legendary upright bassist Christian McBride.
One of the great laments that successful side musicians have is that the projects they are hired to play keep them too busy to respond to their own muses and pursue solo careers. Even as her career evolved and diversified, Kronstadt would find time to write songs at the piano, until there was an uncharacteristic dry spell. Once this dry spell ended, she felt inspired to pour out her longing emotions into the song that became “Tell Me (or Not).” This opened the creative floodgates, resulting, she says, “in a massive amount of music that started coming out of me.
“At first I had no intention of doing anything with these songs, I knew I just needed to write,” says Kronstadt of the soul searchingly honest, organic origins of the project. “When I had five tunes completed, I invited a few friends over to hear the songs, just me singing at the piano. John (Beasley_, (Gary) Novak and Elizabeth (Finch) offered wonderful feedback that inspired me to think about doing something real with them. Because I wanted Gary to be the drummer on the project, I waited six weeks until he was done with a tour before I started recording. During that time, I wrote three more songs – and realized we now had enough material to record the real deal!”
“Every time I sat down to write,” she adds, “I was coming from a very truthful and vulnerable place. The title track is about missing a specific person and the feelings that come from that. ‘That Night’ is about my confusion with the status of a relationship because so much had happened, about not knowing what comes next. On the other hand, ‘Twitter Stole My Boyfriend’ is a true life tale that pokes fun of one of the problems people have dating in modern times. Six of the songs are relationship oriented, so I thought it would be a great idea to seek other kinds of inspiration as well. I wrote ‘Magic’ about the way I feel when I hear the playing of Bob Sheppard, one of my favorite musicians who I am so grateful to have on this album. ‘Just Ask’ is a politically and spiritually motivated song about the need to stay positive for what is good and right in the world.”
Musically, Come Over rolls like a true culmination of Kronstadt’s many years of experience in the music business—with jazz “overtones or undertones” throughout a set driven by true pop/soul sensibilities. For those few people who are not yet familiar with the virtuosity and versatility of sax and woodwind master, Bob Sheppard, the playful, crisply swinging opening track “Magic” is a great way to both hear him at his best and experience his impact on Kronstadt through her lyrical tribute. The balmy, Latin and pop-flavored “Tell Me (Or Not)” is a sincere reflection of being ambivalent about pursuing a specific relationship, while the plaintive “Come Over” reminds us what it’s like to feel the vast emptiness of a moment when you’re missing someone so deeply that lives far away (underscored by Daversa’s melancholy trumpet solo).
Anyone who’s ever dated someone plugged into social media will connect instantly with Kronstadt’s quirky, pointed true life tale “Twitter Stole My Boyfriend,” which features a funky vibe and a unique talk-sing approach. The singer follows that with a moody, reflective “love gone wrong” tune trying to come to terms with the emotions of “That Night”; the track begins with an extended orchestral intro featuring McBride setting the mood on upright bass. She finds her footing and a little acerbic wit in saying goodbye to another flame on the string-enhanced, easy grooving old school soul jazz piece “Turn Around,” then waxes hopeful on the sensual, mid-tempo ballad “One More Time,” a song about giving a love that’s gone through its rough patches another try – and hoping the other person feels the same. Come Over wraps with Kronstadt’s rousing power anthem “Just Ask,” an appreciation of the Occupy movement that calls for people to shed light in the world in the face of the darker forces of society.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina and raised in Salt Lake City, as a young child, Kronstadt took naps insisting she have the classical music station on. She grew up creating three part harmonies with her sisters and began playing her primary instrument, violin, when her parents bought one for her at age ten. A music major at the University of Utah and Westminster College, she studied theory with Dr. William Fowler, jazz composition with Ladd McIntosh and played electric violin at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center in Washington DC and other renowned venues; she was also concert master for Oliver Nelson. She also played violin and mandolin in a band that played originals and covers. During her time at Westminster, visiting faculty members included Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Clark Terry and Jean-Luc Ponty. Kronstadt still remembers Zappa’s key piece of advice: “There’s no such thing as a wrong note!”
Inspired by renowned composer/arranger Pat Williams—another visiting faculty member—Kronstadt moved to Los Angeles and, shortly after starting a band to play her music, began working regularly in orchestras on motion picture scores (starting with a first call from Lalo Schifrin). While she continued to write songs and record demos, she disbanded her group to pursue session work full time. Her vast film credits include “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Disturbia,” “UP,” “The Incredibles,” “Star Trek,” “Despicable Me” and “Ratatouille.” Notable TV credits include “Sex and the City,” “Lost” and “Mad Men.”
While Kronstadt exercised her vocal chops on several prominent commercial jingles, recordings with drum legend Harvey Mason and a summer tour with Philip Bailey, up till now she has been largely a behind the scenes phenomenon, playing violin in orchestras on recordings by Aerosmith, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Feinstein, Kenny G, George Harrison, Outkast, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand, Taylor Swift, Nancy Wilson, Usher, Elton John, Steve Tyrell and many others. She has performed live with everyone from James Brown and Deep Purple to Celine Dion, David Sanborn, Aretha Franklin and Carrie Underwood. She has also worked regularly on the top talent competitions of the 2000s. Her TV orchestral work included various award shows (Oscars, Grammys, American Music Awards, Soul Train Awards), the “Tonight Show” with various guest artists (including John Mayer, Garth Brooks and Placido Domingo), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Ceremonies.
“The most gratifying thing about doing the project is the positive, welcoming reception I am receiving for the songs on Come Over,” says Kronstadt. “The songs were written as my own personal therapy, and some friends came along and gave me the confidence to take control and plow ahead. I don't think these songs really sound like anyone else out there, so I'm hoping they will be received as something fresh and new...yet with a touch of old school!”