Interview: Antonella Barba

bill bodkin interviews former American Idol contestant Antonella Barba about her days on the show and her new single …


Antonella Barba might not pump her own gas, but with her new single “Jersey Girl,” she’s ready to prove to the world that Jersey Girls aren’t just big-haired, bronzed-out chicks who haunt the bars of Seaside Heights. They’re strong, independent, self-aware women who love the shore lifestyle (which may include just a little fist-pumping).

The Point Pleasant native and Top 24 finalist of season six of American Idol is kicking it into high gear this summer after a three-year hiatus, releasing her new single (available on iTunes), filming a music video at Bar A in Lake Como, N.J., embarking on a tour of New York and New Jersey (including June 18 at The Watermark in Asbury Park) and shopping for a record deal.

The road to this new, exciting point in her career has taken many turns — some break-neck fast, others as slow as the Garden State Parkway South on a Friday in the summer.

Sitting in a stadium in New York with 17,000 people was a daunting sight for Barba. “Before you get to the main judges, you get 10 seconds to sing and then you’re either cut or moved on to the next round.”

Antonella was far luckier than thousands of other hopefuls and it was her rendition of “Free” by Denise Williams (her personal favorite performance) that helped her make it onto Hollywood week. Her run on Idol, highlighted by her still-talked-about cover of Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” lasted until the final cut during the Top 24 segment of the series. She was the very last person cut.

While obviously upset about being cut, Barba describes the experience as “exciting, suspenseful and exhausting.” Her national exposure caused her home phone, cell phone, Facebook and MySpace to explode with all sorts of business opportunities, including a reality show on VH1. However, she decided that finishing her architecture degree at Catholic University was the most important thing.

After graduation, Barba led a double life. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, she worked at an architecture firm in New York City, while on nights and weekends she dedicated her life to music.

Her manager, Dan Cotoia, comments about the early days: “I always knew there was potential, even when I watched her on Idol. She’s very commercial and had a huge following coming off that show. There was, of course, things that she needed to work on as she was still young, but the stepping stone was there.”

For Barba, the span between her Idol journey and the release of her new material was frustrating. In fact, she hated it — she felt terrible that she could not deliver new material to her fan base that had been clamoring for her new music.

However, the years of work paid off, Cotoia says.

Antonella Barba during her American Idol days.

“She has grown tremendously as an artist. Not only have her vocals improved, but she has been working her butt off staying in shape, rehearsing, learning how to dance, promoting herself, and making a brand out of herself. It’s not just about singing. There’s so much work that goes into being an artist. One thing I always preach to my clients is that things aren’t just handed to you. She has to work for them. And she has done that.”

During those years, she went on to work with local singer/songwriter Mike Dalton, a former Daytime Emmy nominee. During a chance meeting at the Point Pleasant, N.J., bar The Idle Hour, Dalton and Barba joined forces to work on the song “When It Comes Down To Loving You.” The veteran musician was highly impressed with Barba as both a singer and songwriter.

“She’s very open minded as a writer,” Dalton says, “yet has a great grasp on exactly what she wants out of a song, and what she wants it to say. I’m the same way, so the writing process between us is really very comfortable. We both take each line, word, section, phrase very seriously, and we’re both patient when it comes to getting parts of the song to be just what we want them to be, without compromising, just ’cause we wanna complete it.”

The result of all her work, has resulted in the new single “Jersey Girl,” a danceable pop anthem that she co-wrote with Joss Stone collaborator Dan McKenzie. The song is all about life as a girl at the Jersey Shore, living life, not pumping gas, hitting the clubs — no doubt something you could hear at any club this summer.

“‘Jersey Girl’ is going to be a hit and will garner a ton of press I think,” Cotoia says. “It’s being smart and taking advantage of what’s hot at the right time. And it makes sense. This girl was born and raised in New Jersey and at the shore. She still lives there. What better person to come out with a song like this than Antonella?”

To help promote the song, Barba will be filming a video for the song at Bar Anticipation in Lake Como, N.J., a venue mentioned by name in the song.

“I am extremely excited and honored to have a part in Antonella’s “Jersey Girl video,” Bar A promoter Thomas Jannarone says. “It comes as no surprise to me that this talented and classy artist has released such a great song.”

After the video shoot and subsequent tour dates, Barba hopes that a record deal will be in the works. Releasing “Jersey Girl” independently is just the first step.

But what are we to expect from the former Idol? Many have deemed her as “that Jersey Girl from American Idol” writing her off as just a flash in the pan, only taking her talents at what they briefly saw on television. However, many people disagree with this sentiment.

“I’m not sure if people really get how talented she is because it got overshadowed by the whole AI thing. She’s a fantastic vocalist, and a really great writer, and a real sweetheart of a person. I think the material will simply confirm all of what I learned about her within five minutes of our first writing session,” Dalton says.

Cotoia is very confident in what the future holds for Barba.

“I think people are going to be extremely surprised with what’s to come. We have some other amazing tracks waiting in the wings of this that will blow everyone away. She’s the type of talent that can crossover and succeed in many different areas.”

Jannarone echoes these sentiments and has a bold prediction: “‘Jersey Girl’ has backed up Antonella’s stunning looks and Idol fame with proof that she is a talented artist and songwriter. Look out world: Antonella Barba’s back and better than ever. She better save me a seat at the Grammy’s.”

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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