Thursday, April 25, 2013 | 11:43 a.m.
Vanessa Andrea has been writing and performing songs since she was 12. Her first was an expression of acceptance for her father, then serving time in the California prison system.
“Songs have been my key to surviving,” says Andrea, who at 23 sings with the voice of someone much older. She said she has worked since she was 14 to support her family. “It’s gotten me through life, saved my life, really. Dad in prison, mom addicted to drugs. Writing songs helped me get away and communicate what I felt.”
The second of nine children, she also has the pipes to convey the emotion behind the words.
Andrea was downtown Wednesday, having arrived early for a gig at Brass Lounge. So she sat with her guitar in front of the Emergency Arts building at Sixth and Fremont streets. It didn’t take much to get her to fill the street with an impassioned song about love.
Andrea is originally from Porterville, Calif. – nicknamed Band Town USA – a city of 54,000 about an hour north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. She moved here a few years ago and married. Now in the middle of a divorce, she’s the mother of two toddlers.
“One of the biggest things that brought me here was my love of street performing,” she said. “I love seeing people’s reaction to my music. The best feeling is when people who have never heard my songs are listening, and the music is coming out of me is stopping people.”
She has a single on iTunes called “Don’t Let Me Go,” and a video for the same song on YouTube.
Aside from playing solo, she recently joined a rock/electronica band called First Class Trash. The band recently entered a Battle of the Bands contest at the Hard Rock, Andrea said, and wowed the judges. First Class Trash would have won the contest, Andrea said, but she had only been with the band for three days – judges warned them before playing they would be disqualified because she wasn’t a band member when they entered the contest.
The band is playing in another “battle” at the Cheyenne Saloon, 3103 N. Rancho Drive, May 22. The contest begins at 7 p.m.
Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.