“I’ll be your lover, if you’ll be my Willie Nelson” — “Willie Nelson” by Monica Rizzio

by: Jim Sullivan

“I think I got to the point where I was really missing my Texas roots. The music that I first fell in love with, the music of Guy Clark and Hank Williams, Ricky Skaggs. I wanted to challenge myself to go back to that, to pick up the guitar again and be one with my music.”

That led to a song called “Willie Nelson,” inspired by the man himself. “Willie Nelson is one of my biggest influences in songwriting and music and career,” says Rizzio. “It was in January, it was really cold and snowy out and we (she and husband-manager Pete Fasano) were renting a house on a lake in Brewster. I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to write a song like Willie Nelson. What would he do? He’d probably take out some bourbon, light up a joint … so I said that and channeled my inner Willie, if that makes any sense. I didn’t even intend for the chorus to be ‘I’ll be your lover if you’ll be my Willie Nelson’ – it just came out.”

Singer-songwriter Monica Rizzio went solo after leaving Tripping Lily in 2012, and recently released an album, “Washashore Cowboy” that combines her Texas roots with her Cape Cod life.

Sometimes, you forget about the power a song can have. And then you get a reminder. Musicians live for moments like these.
Area singer-songwriter Monica Rizzio recalls a particular moment when she was attending last month’s Cape Cod Women’s Music Festival. That moment was related to “A Little Time,” a song on her solo debut album, “Washashore Cowgirl,” which was released in March.

A woman came up to Rizzio and told her she’d first heard the song on WMVY radio while she was driving, but didn’t catch the artist’s or song’s name. She went home and tried to Google lyrics she could recall from that listen, but nothing came up.

The woman happened to hear the song again on another drive, pulled over and heard the deejay say it was a new song by Rizzio. The woman told the singer that she started crying because she could relate so much to the lyrics.

“That was touching to know that song made her feel better, gave her a little hope – (the feeling that) you’re going to be OK, we’re all going to be OK, you just have to give it a little time,” Rizzio says.

“A Little Time” was a very personal song for Texas-born Rizzio. It’s a country song with a chorus that runs: “I’ve gotta make this life worth living for/Even when I’m feeling down/I gotta get back in and fight it off/ Oh, the demons that live within my mind/ Oh, give me a little time.”

That song and “Long Lost Friend” were the two hardest songs on the album, she says, because she didn’t want her fans or listeners to know about her “imperfectness.”

“You don’t want people to see you like that. You want them to see ‘Oh, I’m great!’ But in reality, people want to hear when you’re having a really bad day. I’m embracing those moments of life. When I’m feeling that I grab my guitar and not just because it helps me, but because hopefully it’ll help somebody else.”

Rizzio, 35, came to a measure of fame as a violinist-singer in the harmony-driven folk-pop band Tripping Lily, which she co-founded in 2005. She exited Tripping Lily in 2012, and the band continues as a trio. That group – and her relationship with then-boyfriend/singer- guitarist Demetrius Becrelis – was what brought her to the area in 2004. Becrelis grew up in Barnstable and lives on the Cape.

Not being a native, Rizzio, of course, was a “washashore,” hence the title of her album.

Since leaving Tripping Lily, Rizzio has been heard at events and performances around Cape Cod and the Islands and toured elsewhere in the country. Just in the past couple of years, she has collaborated with the Cape Symphony Orchestra; been a supporting act with Chris Botti, Boz Scaggs, Diana Krall, Joan Osborne, Slaide Cleaves and Tom Rush (at his annual Symphony Hall show in Boston); and co-founded Vinegrass, a non-profit music production company that raises money for scholarships, instruments and grants through concerts and an annual roots-music festival.
Rizzio and her current backing trio – the same folks who played on the disc: double bassist/co-producer Jon Evans, guitarist Ben Kushigian and drummer Mathias Bossi – will celebrate the “Washashore Cowboy” record release with a gig Friday (June 3) at Wellfleet Preservation Hall. She has eight other shows scheduled so far this summer on the Cape and Islands, according to her website, monicarizzio.com.

The transition from being part of Tripping Lily and going solo wasn’t easy. Rizzio and Becrelis broke up as a couple, but she stayed in Tripping Lily for another year and a half. “We continued to tour,” says Rizzio. “It was a little scary for me to leave something that was so easy, to make music with those guys.

“It wasn’t until the end that I think our musical differences really started to come out. I think that’s pretty normal when you’re in a band with someone for about a decade.

Read Jim Sullivan’s article here.

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