Live music is coming back to Alex’s Place at the YMCA, and one of the performers is a singer-songwriter who is a freelance writer for The MV Times, Sean Della Croce. She will open for Dwight and Nicole, a duo who have played the Island before, on Monday, July 1, with doors opening at 7 pm. Before Della Croce hits the stage at Alex’s Place, Jelly Roll Horns, with stellar Island vocalist Sabrina Luening, will play this Saturday, June 30, at 8 pm. The relaxed atmosphere at Alex’s Place, with tables and sofas and low lighting, makes for a comfortable listening experience.
The 26-year-old Della Croce released her first album in April, “Illuminations,” and she’s here spending some down time before she hits the road again.
Born and raised in Nashville, for Della Croce music and writing go hand in hand. Her grandfather, who first came to the Vineyard in the 1980s, was an editor for Billboard magazine; her mother, father, uncle, and grandmother were all publicists in the music business. Her stepfather was Pete Huttlinger, a well-known guitarist whom Della Croce said was a great influence.
“Everyone in my family is in the music industry, so being an artist was a natural evolution,” Della Croce says. “I grew up watching my parents’ clients playing from the side of the stage. In our little corner of Nashville, there are lots of kids that grew up doing that, and a lot of them are performers now.”
Her new album isn’t a country album, instead it includes poetic lyrics that ride on the waves of Della Croce’s smooth guitar playing and almost tender-sounding voice.
Williamson Source, a Nashville-area publication, wrote about the new album, “Della Croce has forged a style all her own with her latest project. ‘Illuminations’ is a blend of folk wisdom with Americana heart and a truly alternative soul. The record is rooted first and foremost in Della Croce’s poetic lyrics — the 10-track album is comprised entirely of original songs. Her light-touch fingerstyle guitar playing shows flashes of influence from her late stepfather, the well-known guitarist Pete Huttlinger.”
The album took a little over a year to produce, with the original songs tunes written both long and ago and more recently. Della Croce explained that the project was done in California and Nashville, with lots of travel back and forth. “I would come back to Nashville and put different instruments on the tracks, there were months of back and forth. I was very involved in the mixing process, and then I went back to California when I was done. Hearing your own voice for eight hours a day, that’ll drive you crazy,” she laughed.
Della Croce said she’s happy to be back on the Vineyard, where she’s spent summers all her life.
“I just love Martha’s Vineyard, it’s a wonderful place, and it’s an interesting and complicated place,” she mused. “It has a distinct experience in winter, which is definitely different than summer. It’s not always the same place, and that makes for an interesting group of people who live here.”
Playing a show on the Island, and especially at Alex’s Place where she spent time as a kid, is something she’s really looking forward to. “I haven’t played for a Vineyard audience in a long time,” she said.
Della Croce said she’ll head back to Nashville later this month, continue promoting the new album, and hopefully start writing some more songs. She said there’s no clear path forward to being an Indie artist. The most important thing she’s learned so far from being immersed in music culture is “what not to do.”
“I went to school in Liverpool, where Paul McCartney has a music school, Liverpool School for Performing Arts, then to Nashville, where I went to Belmont University and studied philosophy and music business,” she said. “I learned more about what not to do. A lot of the teachers were old rockers, and they had stories to tell.”
Sean Della Croce will open for Dwight and Nicole, a duo who have played the Island before, on Monday, July 1, with doors opening at 7 pm. Tickets are $25 and available at dwightandnicole.com and at the door. Tickets for Jelly Roll Horns with Sabrina Luening are $10, and available at the door.