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Lindsay Pagano Biography

Last updated: 05/24/2002 03:26:33 AM

"Our whole neighborhood would sit on my breezeway, and we would play guitar while looking up at the stars."
-Lindsay Pagano

Catch even a glimpse of Lindsay Pagano’s childhood, and it’s no wonder her dynamic vocal range, drenched in soul and pop, began to emerge almost as soon as she could speak. "My earliest memory is sitting at the top of the stairs, listening to my mom and dad rehearse with their band," says Lindsay. Not only was she raised in Philadelphia--the city that spawned Philly soul and such modern-day chart-toppers as Pink, Will Smith, Eve and Boys II Men--but she is also the daughter of a singer and a musician.

"They really got me into a lot of music--Aerosmith, Styx, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner and later on, the Jackson 5, Shania Twain and Aretha Franklin." Indeed, the music was as much a part of Lindsay’s upbringing as anything. "Our whole neighborhood would sit on my breezeway, and we would play guitar while looking up at the stars. All of these people who I called my aunts and uncles would come over, the guitars would come out and I would just sit there and take it all in," she says.

It wasn’t just these domestic jam sessions that sparked Lindsay’s early fascination with music. While most kids her age were watching Sesame Street, it was the sights and sounds of MTV that captured Lindsay’s imagination. So drawn was she to the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, she insisted that her parents--and everyone in her preschool--call her Axl Rose. Although the request didn’t go over too well with her teachers, Lindsay’s family indulged her--much to her delight. "When I was about four, I would run around the house playing air guitar and singing ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ at the top of my lungs, and my mom thought it was great!" laughs Lindsay.

In addition to her love for rock, Lindsay developed a passion for powerful female voices like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. "The one that really stands out for me is Aretha," she stresses. "The way she sings, it’s like telling a story--she really pulls you in, and there’s no mistaking who she is." Eventually, Lindsay wasn’t just listening to these women, but emulating them--a budding interest that her father was more than happy to encourage. "My dad would pick up a guitar and say, ‘Feel like singing?’--and we would sit for hours, playing together," recounts Lindsay.

Lindsay’s parents knew their daughter had a talent, but they discovered its magnitude when they heard her, at just eight years old, singing along to a karaoke machine they’d bought her for Christmas. "I was really into Mariah Carey’s range, and I was singing the song ‘Someday’ up in my room," Lindsay recounts. "My dad came rushing in and said, ‘Linds--sing that again!’ I didn’t know why at the time, but I later found out that he couldn’t tell whether it was the record or me. That’s when we all realized that I could actually sing."

Within a few years, Lindsay’s parents encouraged her to get on stage at the local karaoke club (after they cleared the issue of her age with the owner, of course). Her mom would sing the backing vocals to Lindsay’s lead, but soon Mom stepped back, letting her daughter shine. One night, "I was getting ready for bed when my dad called from the club. He sounded like he had just seen a ghost, and said, ‘Linds--they have "Respect"--you have to come down and sing it!’ I had school the next day, but he said ‘I’ll let you stay up fifteen minutes later if you come down and do this.’" So down Lindsay went, where at least 100 people were mesmerized as this pre-adolescent girl in her sweatshirt and pajama pants belted out Aretha like the queen of soul herself. Little did Lindsay know that a videotape of her singing that song would lead to her destiny as recording artist.

The turning point came one night when legendary country songwriter Pat Bunch was among the guests in the Pagano house who witnessed Lindsay singing. Completely floored, Bunch insisted that she was going to take a videotape of Lindsay’s performances and find someone special in the music industry to give it to. Within a few months, Bunch found that person: Hit recording artist/producer/manager Jude Cole. Although impressed with the first few songs, it was Lindsay’s rendition of "Respect" that really captivated Cole. "She just nailed it," he raves. "I was blown away! I studied that tape about 500 times, and after that assimilated, I began writing songs that I thought were right for her--inspired by what I had seen." It wasn’t long before Lindsay found herself in the studio with Cole, recording a demo of those songs.

Then, Lindsay returned home, and in an effort to further hone her craft, applied to the Creative & Performing Arts School of Philadelphia. The school loved her audition, but ultimately denied her admission because she couldn’t read music, the very reason she wanted to attend the school in the first place. Ironically, within weeks of the disappointment, Lindsay got a phone call that would change her life forever. "I was at the mall when my best friend’s mom got a call on her cell phone from my mom, saying to get home immediately. I thought I was in trouble," Lindsay reflects. "Then, I got out of the car in front of my house, and my dad ran out and said, ‘Lindsay, you’re now a Warner Bros. recording artist!’ There were tears and was so dramatic. I thought, Oh my God! I’m going to make an album."

In March of 2000, Lindsay returned to Los Angeles to begin the recording of her solo debut with Cole. For Cole, whose most recent in a long string of successes is his role as manager of chart-topping alt-rockers Lifehouse, working with Lindsay was pure magic. "From our second day in the studio, it became apparent to me that she can get a strong song and take it five steps farther," he enthuses. "She’s got a voice that makes a song sound like a hit."

It’s what Cole refers to as Lindsay’s "God-given tone" that inspired him to write the songs on her Warner Bros. debut. "Lindsay’s voice is just so refreshing, and these songs really match my affection for her voice. I feel like she has one foot in the new, but she’s also got the voice of an old soul."

Perhaps as magical as what Cole hears in Lindsay is the manner in which the two collaborated so seamlessly. No matter the theme or the style, Lindsay worked diligently from day one to make each track her own--to infuse every note with her own sound and understanding. Case in point: The song "Amazing High,"--one of Lindsay’s favorites on the album. "That song recalls Roberta Flack--it has that sort of ‘70s soul about it," observes Cole. "But Lindsay immediately responded and hooked in with the lyric and made it her own." Lindsay explains, "It just feels like everything that’s happened to me has been just that--an ‘Amazing High.’"

Also reflecting the person Cole sees in Lindsay is "Romeo"--a track loaded with sass and attitude. Cole says, "‘Romeo’ was just part of her personality to me. She seemed like the type of person that could very easily put a boy in his place. There’s something in Lindsay’s voice that works with that--she’s a very wise person."

That intelligent spirit was obvious to Cole from the start. "My first attempt at writing a song for Lindsay was with ‘Everything U R.’ Underlying the lyric, ‘Love can be complicated, Too often mistranslated’--is a sophisticated thought that Lindsay, who is such a smart singer, can handle perfectly."

Perhaps because of that wisdom, Lindsay hasn’t concerned herself much with how she--at just fourteen years old--might be perceived alongside the current wave of teen artists riding the charts. Although a big fan of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and NSYNC ("I made an NSYNC collage, which is hanging on my wall in my room!" she smiles), she sees herself as entirely separate from the pack. "I’ve got my own style-- I'd say it's very soulful with lots of pop flavor.

One thing it's definitely not is bubblegum," she elaborates. "I’m young, but I would prefer that people focus on my talent--not my age." Well, with a voice like this, it’s going to be tough for people to focus on anything but her talent.