Ava Panza Comes ‘Alive’ with Dreamy, Soulful Debut Single

By Lori Stratton

December 18, 2020

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Ava Panza beautifully celebrates a renewed sense of purpose.

The Boston pop-rock singer-songwriter and ElephantTalk lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist shares her rejuvenated emotional spirit and magical romantic awakening on “Alive,” a dreamy, jazzy jaunt into newfound love.

“This is actually about the person I’m currently in a relationship with. Before I started dating him, I wasn’t doing too hot mentally. But once I started dating him, I finally felt normal and like myself again, so that’s why I chose the title ‘Alive’ for the song,” said Panza about her enchanting debut solo single.

Panza eloquently reveals her inner growth as atmospheric, vibrant electric guitar (think Mac DeMarco), calm bass, delicate drums, and crashing cymbals sweep her into a spellbinding state of euphoria. She soulfully sings, “When I close my eyes/I see your face/It makes me feel so loved/I can’t be without you/There’s no one around who makes me feel so alive.”

While openly sharing her inspiration for “Alive,” Panza admits her partner’s starring role in her latest track isn’t a big surprise. “I hope he knows it’s about him; he knows I wrote it once we started dating,” she said with a laugh.

For “Alive,” Panza collaborated with her Berklee College of Music classmates Jake Baynes (guitar), John Zajac (bass and ElephantTalk bandmate), Ransom McCafferty (drums), and Franco Ferruzo (mixing and mastering) on the track, which was written and recorded in September.

“It was leaning toward a dreamy direction, but once Jake recorded his guitar part I was like, ‘Oh, so this is the vibe.’ It was a different tone than what I was originally thinking, but I actually liked it a lot better. The backup vocals also contributed to it being dreamy,” said Panza, who’s a sophomore at Berklee.

The mesmerizing track serves as Panza’s first release since ElephantTalk’s majestic debut album, Ivory, in 2019. It showcases a whimsical, soulful extension of her proggy alt rock roots with Jonathan Salvo (drums), Peter Valera (lead guitar), and Zajac.

“I have wanted to release my own material for years, and I like the hard rock stuff in my band, but I don’t want to sing that as my solo project,” said Panza, who’s inspired by Paramore, Aretha Franklin, Daniel Caesar, Fleetwood Mac and Hiatus Kaiyote.

Panza started honing her fervent sound while growing up in Marlboro, N.J., and listening to hair metal and Motown. At age seven, she sang Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” through a School of Rock Motown show and immediately captivated audiences with her rich, stirring vocals.

Throughout her childhood, Panza learned piano and guitar and studied at a central New Jersey School of Rock where she later met Salvo, Valera, and Zajac.

“School of Rock throws every genre at you once you’re put into the highest level group, and it makes you think which one you’d want to do more of in the future. I leaned more towards what I’m writing now, and I liked singing Paramore and Fleetwood Mac the most,” Panza said. In high school, Panza, Salvo, Valera and Zajac wanted to start a Paramore cover band, but quickly discovered a powerful prog-influenced sound flowing from their early performances with inspiration from Radiohead, The Mars Volta, and Björk.

By 2018, the quartet formed ElephantTalk, named after a 1981 King Crimson song, and released Ivory a year later. As a follow-up to their first album, the band is roaring into 2021 with a new single.

“We’ve been recording the single and will release it as soon as I record my vocals. It will have a heavier sound similar to Periphery because it’s in a drop tuning,” Panza said.

Elephant Talk at The Stone Pony (2019)

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Photos: John Matlosz

Outside of ElephantTalk, Panza also plans to release her second solo single, “Dreamer,” this winter. The track will feature a slower tempo than “Alive” and seek creative inspiration from Paramore’s extensive catalog.

“It has a dreamy, soulful feel, and it’s more of a lovey type of song,” Panza said. “There are a few songs from Paramore’s self-titled album, ‘Grow Up’ and ‘Hate to See Your Heart Break,’ that aren’t overly pop and are similar to what I’m writing right now.”

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Lori Stratton is a music journalist based in Whitmore Lake, Michigan, and has become a regular at live shows in Ann Arbor and metro Detroit. In 2015, she launched her own music blog, The Stratton Setlist, to take an in-depth look at Michigan, regional and national artists and profile their creative evolution in the emerging music scene. She also freelances for several other Ann Arbor-based music, arts and culture publications.


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