Vanessa Van Spall & Ian Hisert
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Vanessa Van Spall & Ian Hisert

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"Cotton-Poly Blend is a great in its telling of life stories..."

Vanessa Van Spall has been everywhere in life, and she makes it known on her debut album, Cotton-Poly Blend. Bouncing in between making music and living life over the years, she has inevitably meshed the two in order to bring you her own heartfelt message in an effort to tell you her story, in hopes that you've been through some things, too.

Based in San Francisco, CA, Van Spall is quick to establish a cold morning in the city by the Bay with the rousing "Hopeful," and with it comes her inspiration. There are elements of Pop, Rock, Blues, and even Gospel that come alive on this album, notably on "Palm Of Your Hand," and "Rapture." She gets a little Fiona Apple-ish during "Not Sorry" and especially "Save Me" because of a bit of dark, albeit menacing piano brigade that marches along. But instead of raspy vocals, she belts mostly in falsetto that calls to mind Lilith Fair-esque Paula Cole and Sarah McLachlan. Both have an earthiness, and all the while reel you in with amazing melodies and lyrics of stories untold, much like Van Spall does.

And though the songs are mostly singer/songwriter quips with its wax poetics about life, she and co-writer Ian Hisert somehow make you want to dance. Most of the time you're thinking you're in for ballads with songs that begin slow and steady, but Cotton Poly-Blend catches you off guard with toe tapping, shoulder shifting grooves by the next minute. And let's be honest: there can be a sleepiness sometimes when it comes to singer/songwriters ... like they've never heard of anything but an acoustic guitar.

The title Cotton-Poly Blend is another wonder, and one can only make the connection with the kind of music that Van Spall and company have created. The blend of genres and influences is soft, manageable, and would probably stand the test of time without any heavy wear and tear. Who knows if the reference was intended, or just a love for fabrics. But all of that aside, Cotton-Poly Blend is a great in its telling of life stories and is a wonderful debut of music that will only get better as life goes on.

Written By: Caroline Leonardo - Evolution of Media

"Awaken to a beautiful voice and brilliant lyrics"

Awaken to a beautiful voice
and brilliant lyrics.
Venture into a mix of music,
sung with passion, by
a gifted vocalist.
Experience the extraordinary music
end. - Michael Capozzoli, Jr., a freelance journalist and former Billboard writer

"FMQB, AC Pick"

Weaving a clever balance of Pop, Rock and Blues, Van Spall and company deliver a refreshing debut with “Save Me.” The emotional and heartfelt lyrics are offered expertly and are supported by a stellar rhythm section, hooky melody and tasteful viola work. From her new album, Cotton-Poly Blend. - FMQB

"What to Do This Weekend"

Since there's no football this weekend, there's no good excuse for not going out to hear a band that's been described as a mix of the Ben Folds Five, Tori Amos and Ella Fitzgerald. In my book, that's two-thirds of a really intriguing mix -- I'll let you guess how my math breaks down."

-Jim Harrington - Contra Costa Times

"CD Review"

"There's a hint of Fiona Apple in the way Grace Woods modulates her voice from high to low and sing to speak"
-Nate Seltenrich - East Bay Express

"Review of "Hopeful""

“An hour past the sunrise in a San Francisco morning mist driving down Van Ness toward the shoreline.” Sounds like a novel, or an on-the spot reporter. Notice the lack of traditional rhyme. No prob, add a voice and some background music and we move far beyond anything we want to consider “traditional”. In all reality I feel like I’m floating above the mist looking down on the scene as she sings. The narration tells us this is the first time driving this street, but doesn’t tell us what causes the despair that’s being felt. Turns out to be okay because the song looks forward, not back. “And I sure feel hopeful. Hopeful that today will be beautiful and chase despair away.” As I float ever higher, I can admit this song has accomplished that for me. The morning fog images of San Francisco brings back many good memories, however the song transcends place and works just as well 2000 miles away. - eartaste

"Interview: Take the Long Way Home"

Singer-songwriter VANESSA VAN SPALL didn't simply happen upon music. It was something that was always with her. At the age of 16, VAN SPALL recorded a demo that actually ended up in the right hands. A deal was in the works, but life had otehr plans for VANESSA. You see, the deal was never signed. This was no mere oversight by an administrative assistant at some record company. VANESSA simply walked away. "I think was a lot of things; fear of success and fear of failure, and a fear of confronting your dream." says VAN SPALL. "It's like you set this goal for yourself and then suddenly, the possibility of failure is right in front of you. Maybe, I wasn't ready to face that yet at that age. I also kind of felt that my life was pulling me in other directions as well."

Not being the person to get lost in regrets, VANESSA threw herself into marriage, college, and a string of careers (including database management and substitute teaching) that all lead back to her questioning if such paths were ever going to make her happy. Eventually, she met up with pianist/keyboardist IAN HISERT and started singing and composing again. Along the way, they recruited ERIC GOLUB on viola and cello, DEREK YERGLER on bass, and ATMA ANUR on drums to round out the sound. "The four of us have a distinctive contribution that makes it really unique." says VAN SPALL " I view all four of us as non-replaceable."

Her curiously titled CD COTTON-POLY BLEND is a provocative listen. In an age where the right wing-waged Culture War has divided the country socially and politically, VAN SPALL sings of humility, redemption, and praise so honestly and hauntingly,the listener can actually believe that the woman is singing about the real thing and not trying to sway anyone at the ballot box. "I am a Christian and I write from my perspective but I don't try to make the music be one thing or another." says VAN SPALL. "I personally not aiming to sing in churches alot and I'm not aiming for a Christian audience. I'm just open to whoever likes it. If I tried to make it not sound religious that would be contrived and if I tried to go the other route that wuold be contrived and annoying."

The material on COTTON-POLY BLEND eases back and forth seamlessly from electronic to acoustic, to earthbound to spiritual. No matter what end of the political/religious spectrum you are on, COTTON-POLY BLEND has that thing that all of the great pop albums great - substance. Save a space for this CD somewhere in between CAROLE KING's TAPESTRY and ANNIE LENNOX's DIVA.

VANESSA VAN SPALL spoke with ROCKWIRED over the phone. Here is how it went.

RW: After looking at your website, it looks as if you guys are hitting the internet radio route with a vengeance.
VS: Yes. We're really excited because we've now also hired a regular radio promoter and he's been doing well for us also.

RW: What the first single?
VS: The first single is SAVE ME, which is at the end of the CD.

RW: I'm surprised that that one is the single.
VS: Really? I guess we were surprised to or else we wouldn't have made it track eleven on the CD. The midwest is a different world than what we're on in the coast. What song would you have picked?

VS: Thanks. It doesn't mean that it won't be a single somewher down the line.

RW: COTTON-POLY BLEND isn't your first CD, is it?
VS: It's not my first CD ever in life, but it is with this band. It's a CD that I'm 100% proud of. I did do some prior CDs and they did limited runs and they were good, because just having the experience was awesome, and one of them was a CD that my dad and I actually did together. It was a great experience for us. We had a rough patch in our relationship and that was sort of the "getting back together" type of experience. COTTON-POLY BLEND is the first CD that I'm ready to put out there for a mass audience.

RW: Is it safe to assume that VANESSA VAN SPALL is more of a group effort as opposed to a solo artist?
VS: It's totally safe to assume that. We couldn't think of a band name and we sat on it for a year and a half . Four of us couldn't agree, six of us couldn't agree and finally after playing out under the name VANESSA VAN SPALL for so long we got advise not to change it becuase we would have to start all over again with people not knowing who we were. I kind of felt like I was standing in this band then got pushed out to the front. It appears to be about me but the four of us are really tight. It's definitely more like ALISON KRAUSE AND UNION STATION as opposed to SHANIA TWAIN who just assembles musicians when she needs them.

RW: So your saying it's not a machine.
VS: No, it's not. The four of us have a distinctive contribution that makes it really unique. I view all four of us as non- replaceable.

RW: You grew up in a house full of music.
VS: Yes. My dad is very musical. It's funny, through the internet where I'm running into all of these people witht he last name VAN SPALL in -, Brian Lush


Cotton Poly Blend (2007)
Time Converged (2002)



* * *
Showcasing The Diverse Songwriting Skills of Van Spall and Keyboardist Ian Hisert
The Album’s 12 Tracks Were Produced By Veteran Rock Drummer Atma Anur (Journey, Third Eye Blind, David Bowie)
* * *
Van Spall’s Kickoff Single “Save Me” has been on the top 10 on the FMQB AC Radio Charts 5 weeks in a row!

Everyone knows that California’s Bay Area is full of brilliant “techie geeks” and incredible indie musicians, but we rarely think of these two different worlds colliding. That’s about to change with the emergence of Vanessa Van Spall, a powerful confessional singer-songwriter who deferred her lifelong goal of making music to enter the lucrative (and far less risky) world of information technology.

While working in corporate project management, she won the attention of a colleague, Ian Hisert, by showing him some database tricks. By night, Hisert was a keyboardist in a popular local 80s band, and he inspired Van Spall to stop being afraid of her dreams and get working on her first album.

The two began performing together at Bay Area hotspots like San Francisco’s Blondie’s Bar & No Grill, Starry Plough in Berkeley and The Bistro in Hayward. The compelling result of their eventual songwriting collaboration is Van Spall’s stylistically diverse debut Cotton-Poly Blend, whose 12 tracks draw from her love for rock, blues, gospel and pop, as well as a cool mix of Hisert’s lighter side with her unique dark and brooding vibe.

“Save Me,” the infectious, Fiona Apple-flavored first single, recently spent 5 weeks on the top 10 of FMQB’s AC radio charts. FMQB tracks Secondary and Tertiary Hot AC Radio stations across the country.

Cotton-Poly Blend was produced by veteran rock drummer Atma Anur, whose extensive resume boasts workwith everyone from Journey and Third Eye Blind to Richie Kotzen and David Bowie. True to the spirit of eclecticism that the album title promises, Anur adds exotic elements of Indian Bangra music to the mix.

“I originally met Atma when I was 16 and was on the path of having a musical career that I always should have been on,” says Van Spall, whose early musical memories include harmonizing with her friend at church at age 12. “He encouraged me to sing back then and meant a lot in my life, but we lost touch for a long time after that. I went to college, got a degree in history from San Francisco State and got married while he moved to L.A. I didn’t see him for ten years and then ran into him just as our careers were moving in similar directions. It was a great experience to work with him after all that time.”

While the singer attributes her edgy, brooding side to “typical artistic temperament,” there is an ultimate optimism in her lyrics that gives Cotton Poly-Blend an overall feeling of optimism after a series of struggles. The title of the forward thinking, easy rocking “Hopeful” captures that sentiment beautifully, as does “Follow Me,” in which she sings eloquently about that point in her life when she was struggling with the dilemma of finally pursuing or giving up her dreams. Her lyrics provide heartfelt, bittersweet and piercingly incisive reflections on the ups and downs she has been through. Musically, it’s just like the title implies, capturing multiple moods and styles—from unplugged acoustic numbers to more synthesized ‘80s influenced songs.

“This album represents the culmination of a few years worth of work, spanning a number of seasons in my life,” she says. “A lot of the songs were written right after my divorce. In fact, a lot of them came from a period where I was in the middle of that, while at the same time moving residences and being laid off from work. I think that all of the life experiences have made me a kinder person overall. I remember being very critical when I was younger, but time and these hard experiences mellowed me out and gave me a deeper understanding about other people.

“Maybe I never should have run from my dreams,” she adds, “but my songs reflect a broader life experience than I had starting out at 16. I hope people can relate to that and appreciate it. This music is for anyone who’s ever made mistakes, been afraid or just taken the long way to get there.”

That long road was paved with a great deal of musical ambition from the get-go. The daughter of a church music minister, Van Spall—who moved back to her hometown San Francisco during high school after four years in Chicago--began performing for live audiences at age 5, started piano lessons at 6 and won her first statewide songwriting competition in second grade. While she performed in musical theatre in high school, the lifelong choir singer grew disenchanted with this type of performing “since I didn’t like the acting part and felt it was more important to express my own voice. That’s where songwritin