Riveting Riffs Logo One  Giulia Millanta - Woman On The Moon

Giulia Millanta Interview 2022 Photo One

Giulia Millanta who makes her home in Austin, Texas and is originally from Italy is a perpetual songwriting machine. Shortly after releasing her album Tomorrow Is A Bird two years ago, she began writing more songs, the best of which now appear on her album Woman On The Moon, to be released on April 8 (2022).

She explains, “It is part of my natural cycle. I release a record and then I take a little bit of time to promote and play shows and regroup. I then start writing again. I never write for a record, I just write.

Once I have thirty or forty songs, I start looking at them and choose what to record. I had a few songs that I wrote early in 2021 or maybe the end of 2020. I write often, but not every day, there are people who are way better than me at that. I write fairly consistently, probably every week. If you think about the fact there are fifty-two weeks in a year and I write every week, by the end of the year I have forty to fifty songs. Probably half of them nobody should ever hear and half of them are decent.

Giulia Millanta Interview 2022 Photo TwoThis one was different than my previous records, because I didn’t record it all at once and normally, I do. I (usually) sit down with all of my songs and decide which ones I want to record. I then go ahead and book my session and record everything in three days. This time I did it differently. In June of last year, I approached Gabe and I said, hey I have a few songs. Can we record them, because I think I want to release some singles? I wasn’t planning on a record. (She starts to laugh) We started recording and then one thing led to another. I ended up with twelve songs in the summer. Then in the fall I got back from Italy and I was making plans to release a record, but I wasn’t sure about some of the songs and I went back to Gabe and I said I have two other songs I want to record to replace the other two that I wasn’t sure about.

It wasn’t like a process that I was going to the studio to make a record. It was (more like) let’s record a few songs. Oh, let’s record a few more. Oh, all of these songs belong together and I have a record. It kind of happened is what I am saying.”

The album opens with the very pretty “Mad Man On the Moon,” which put the spotlight clearly on Giulia Millanta’s beautiful and ethereal vocals. The song is 3:33 in length and we cannot improve upon Giulia Millanta’s own words to describe her song, “Floating in a liquid sky, bathing in moonlight, wrapped in a tapestry woven from a dreamy guitar and a lonely piano, while the kick drum beats like a distant heart.”

“(The song) “Mad Man On the Moon,” was written one night in the middle of the pandemic and I had no idea what I was writing about when I wrote it. I sat at the piano and I wrote that song in twenty or thirty minutes. It is magical when that happens and I shouldn’t even take credit for it. It is a musical, magical thing. It is like dictation and someone is dictating to me. I don’t want to sound too crazy or do woo woo, but I am not coming up with anything, I am just writing down something that is in the air. It is really magical and being in the flow.

When I look at those lyrics, it makes perfect sense to me that song was written during the pandemic. There is a sense of hope. Every day I am praying (during the pandemic) and I get up in the morning and the intention, willingness and desire to make it a special day and then as the day progresses, feeling the weight and the burden of what is happening around me. It is also about struggling a little bit to keep sane. Honestly, that is how I experienced the pandemic. It was a magical moment for me in a way, because it was a very creative time in my life. There were also mixed feelings, I was going to do my best to have a good day and to make it a special day, but also, I felt anxiety from everything surrounding me,” Giulia Millanta recalls.   

As for the music, “It is a pretty dreamy song. It is a slow tempo, ethereal song. I am the one playing the electric guitar and it has a lot of effects, so the song is wet, as we say. It is not a dry sound. There is a little bit of a dialogue between the guitar and the lonely piano that comes in at one point takes the solo.  Gabe (Rhodes) played the piano. That is how I hear that song,” she says.

We wondered what it is about collaborating with Gabriel (Gabe) Rhodes that works so well.

“Gabe has a special gift for facilitating artists, because he has a way of removing himself from the picture and allowing what needs to surface. Technically these songs were not written together. These are songs that there were parts I was not really sure about, so I brought them to Gabe and we worked on those parts together. They are co-written, because there are contributions, but all the songs were already formed in terms of melody, chord progression and lyrics. He helped me to rearrange and change some things on those songs.

When we produced the record together it was really magical, because it was just the two of us. When he would play an instrument, I would engineer and record and vice versa. It was a joint production and effort. It was really a fun process,” she says.

The fifth song “Looking for Bliss,” is drawn from real life, from Giulia Millanta’s life and written during the heart of the pandemic.

She explains, “I walk every day and I also swim, but not every day. During the pandemic I couldn’t swim, so I was walking an hour and one-half every day if not more. That song started during one of my walks and that is exactly how the song starts (She quotes the lyric).

There was this sense of dear Giulia you are going to have to be okay. You are okay and you are going to have to keep yourself company and love yourself. I have always loved myself. We have talked about the pandemic over and over and there is no need to keep talking about it, except I cannot talk about this record without talking about that period of my life, because that is when the songs were born.

It is a song about looking for good things where good things are. There can be a lot of toxicity in the world and in relationships. It also exists not necessarily with individuals, but what we see in the news or social media. Sometimes (that happens) with family members or friends or the person at the checkout line at the grocery store. I was feeling that and I really needed to protect myself. I needed to choose positive relationships and positive ways to relate to people and things around me. That is a choice I make every day. I cannot look for bliss in this because this situation or this person is toxic, so I will remove myself from this situation. I will move on to another situation where I can experience bliss and positivity instead of negativity.”

Considering the album in its entirety, she says, “This is totally a concept album. This record is about masculine and feminine. It is about conflict and redemption. It is about darkness and light and healing. There are parts of these songs (that deal with) negativity and co-dependency, narcissism or (other) issues. There are (also) equal parts of the songs that (deal with) healing, peace and harmony, the world is in your heart or the way that you are. I didn’t plan it to be a concept album, but it is one.”

Giulia Millanta has a flair for creating a sense of adventure with her song “You Don’t Wanna Know,” a song with a decided European Cabaret flavor. We feel it necessary to forewarn you that this song is addictive. The listener will like it more each time you listen to the song.

Giulia Millanta and Gabriel Rhodes took some more unique pathways to achieve some of the sounds found on these songs. For instance, they used a wet towel in a bathroom sink for percussion. Giulia Millanta Interview 2022 Photo Three

“We just put a towel with water in the bathroom sink and the drummer was sitting on the toilet and playing the towel as if it was percussion. We (recorded) it and put it on “The Ghost of Yourself.”

Then there was the use of puppet legs, “It sounds more like horse hooves (she imitates the sound and does a surprisingly great job of it). Gabe has a giant chest of percussion (sounds or instruments) that are from all over the world and also toys and things unrelated to music. Every now and then we would go to this box and pulled out stuff and played with it. The magic of this record is we didn’t plan much. We were just like kids, how about this sound? What does this one do? Maybe we can put this one on. We wanted that kind of sound on the song, so we started looking around the studio for something woody that would make that sound. We tried different things and tried banging on things, on boxes and guitars, until finally we found this puppet. Gabe started moving the legs of the puppet against a box,” she says.

It almost sounds too tame or mundane after the previous mentioned sounds and improvised instruments to talk about the guitar played with a bow.  

Giulia Millanta describes that sound, “It is not the sound of a string being picked or plucked and it is not a short sound, but a long one with the attack of the bow. You hear the moment the bow touches the string like on the violin. When you do that on an electric guitar you create a sound that has many layers.”

While reading the press release this one caught our attention, creating a sound with her naked thighs. Read on folks! There is nothing kinky going on with this improvised instrument.

“I was in my (home) studio at the time recording “Go South,” and I was just having fun. It was summer, in July and I was wearing shorts. After I recorded the song on my electric guitar and sang the background vocals, I thought I needed some kind of rhythm to it. As I was imagining the rhythm, I was doing this (slaps her thighs) on my legs and I thought I am going to try this. Instead of pointing the vocal mic to my mouth I pointed it downwards and pointed it at my legs. I started recording it and I put a little bit of an effect on it. It was really cool. When I got into the studio with Gabe, I said I want to keep this and he said, yes totally. Let’s do it.  There is nothing weird about it, I was just wearing shots, because it was summer. I put that into the press release, because with this record we were experimenting with sounds,” she explains.

Giulia Millanta talks about her song “The Ghost of Yourself,” “In my head that song is about the rise and the fall of a narcissist. This is a masculine song, but it is not about a specific man. This narcissist man keeps chasing his own ghost and living on the surface. Half of the songs (on the album) describe some kind of illness. “The Ghost of Yourself,” is about narcissism and “Go South,” is about co-dependency. “You Don’t Wanna Know,” is about denial.”

An interesting read will be Giulia Millanta’s little book, Between the Strings. You can hear Giulia talk about her book here.

“It is a fun little booklet that I put together accidentally. In the summer of 2019, I started driving around Austin with this little box of index cards and every time I had a thought or a little story to tell I would write it down. By the end of the summer, I had over three hundred index cards. I then gave it to a friend of mine and I said hey, what do you think? I said is this stupid. She said no I love it. Then I went from three hundred cards to one hundred and fifty. I noticed there were a few topics, some about food, some about travel, some about creativity, some about habits and good practices and I decided to put them together in a book, also because through the years and especially when I was touring there are some questions people have asked me over and over about my routine or what do I do when I am on the road. How do I keep myself healthy on the road? I put all of that in this little book and I called it Between the Strings, because it is all of the things that happen in between the strings, in between songs, in between shows and in between tours. It is the other side of being a musician, like what do you eat when you are on the road? Okay, let me think about it.

Please visit the website for Giulia Millanta to purchase Between the Strings and her new album Woman On The Moon. You can also watch Giulia talk about her book here. You can also listen to Gabriel Rhodes and Giulia Millanta and drummer John Chipman talk about the album here.      

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This interview by Joe Montague published April 1st, 2022 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of the producers of Giulia Millanta unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.