Notes on Monica da Silva

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A recent Thursday evening in late September found the author, among many others, in the bar area leading into Matthew’s in San Marco. Its large plate-glass windows, the long, speckled white bar, illuminated glass shelves holding some 94 different brands of top-shelf spirits–and the best “bar-food” you’ll have this year–all gave it an airy, upscale vibe that elicits the feel of South Beach. The “suspension of disbelief” factor is high.

On that night, the aesthetic was reinforced by the music emanating from the bar’s far south side. There, strumming guitar on a stool, sat Chad Alger, with singer Monica da Silva hovering just in front. She lived here and played there every Thursday before moving to Miami a while back. Between sets, she networks as adeptly as she sings–a useful skill.

Da Silva, 27, began playing piano and flute very young, and was singing about as long as she knows. Her mom’s musical family hails from Brazil, home of BOPE, the Bossa Nova and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu; her aunt is the concert pianist Helene Elias. Her influences are much greater than Getz/Gilberto, though: the Beatles, Smiths, Pet Shop Boys, Cranberries.

Da Silva’s second album, Brasilissima, further fuses the sound of her elders with the pointed lyricism of her generation. It’s also her first recording with Alger; they met while both were living in Chicago. Together they moved to Ormond Beach before returning to the place where they were born, Jacksonville. They’ve already recorded a half-dozen songs toward the next album, but with so much on their schedule, finishing may take a while.

While in Chicago she started her own publishing company, Socialite Fiasco Music, and has licensed her music to a diverse array of TV entities including “American Idol”, “Miami Ink” and Major League Baseball. “You’re putting a value on what you do, explaining why you deserve it”, says da Silva (who’s fluent in English and Portuguese and conversant in Italian, Spanish and French), and it requires a mindset very different from what she brings to onto the stage or into the studio. It takes a lot of assertiveness just to find the deals, much less actually making them.

Also among the M Lounge set that night was French-American film-maker Andre Leboug, who’d sought them out via a mutual friend, WJCT’s David Luckin. They made plans to shoot a video for “Push Me Away”, a track off Brasilissima. Another track, “Ai Entao” , will carry da Silva’s voice to a global audience when it’s featured on Brazilian Beat, the next installment of international sounds issued by the Putumayo label.

While working the Red Gorilla Festival in Texas, she sent some tracks to influential Austin DJ Michael Crockett, who introduced her to a fellow Brazilian musician who suggested she and Putomayo would be a good fit. Apparently they agreed, which is good news for her. Some releases sell upwards of three million copies, and they’ve just now entered the digital realm. Brazilian Beat will be released in January 2012; her third album is planned for later that year.

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About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

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