WHERE DID SPAGS GET HER START?
Today, Spags operates primarily as a one woman band, however she wasn’t always flying solo. In fact, she paved her way to where she is today by spending years and years performing in bands of all shapes and sizes with backgrounds and influences spanning across nearly every musical genre.
As most would suspect, Spags grew up playing the traditional violin. Beginning with her elementary school days and continuing all throughout her collegiate years, Spags did the classical thing. It wasn’t until her final year at Penn State, when she was asked by local musicians to join their cover band, that she broke away from the mold. Spags jumped at the opportunity and quickly began playing late nights at local dive bars and house parties. This was her first experience with non-traditional music and unconventional settings. Plucked out of her orchestral world and dumped into the grungy basements of frat houses throughout Happy Valley, Spags was quick to fit in, bowing her way through string infused tunes like Smashing Pumpkins “Disarm” and Dexys Midnight Runners “Come on Eileen”. Albeit, a far cry from the refined shows that she’s accustomed to today, these were the significant and defining moments that set her on a path for what was to come. Bittin’ by the bug of rock n roll, Spags set-out to California in pursuit of a career playing her electric violin.
Upon arrival to the west coast, Spags began playing with several local SoCal bands. While performing in San Diego, Spags caught the attention of local band, Stepping Feet, also known as The Dave Matthews Band Experience. This pairing was an ideal fit for Spags at the time, as her self-taught electric violin style was based primarily on Boyd Tinsley, violinist for The Dave Matthews Band. Anyone who is familiar with The Dave Matthews Band knows that their music is laced with heavy jam sessions and big violin solos. So, not only was Spags performing music that she loved, but she was also provided a platform in which she could develop her improvisation and
“Spingola’s display is by far the best cover of a DMB member that I’ve ever seen or heard.” – Dave Matthews Blogger
During these years, Spags was bouncing back and forth between San Diego and Los Angeles. While in L.A., Spags began playing the indie circuit with the beloved female rocker, Brig Feltus. Her music was eclectic, just like her personality, but was largely defined as “alternative rock”. Spags added that rich texture, so often responsible for creating those dark, intense, emotional moments that became a signature sound of the band. The group played at many of the famous Hollywood haunts, including the Viper Room and The Roxy. Spags also recorded violin on Brig’s album, Love and Light, volume 1.
“Spags is the kind of person you feel lucky to have met, and if you are lucky enough to have her grace your musical project with her incredible talent, you will know without question, you are truly being blessed with one of the best! I love this woman!!!” – Brig Feltus
While playing around town with Brig, Spags was spotted by the manager of Hidden Beach recording artist and Grammy award winning producer, Peter Black. (Hidden Beach is a record label, home to many of the well known urban recording artists, including Jill Scott.) She began rehearsing with the group in Los Angeles and soon after, they were performing famed L.A. venues like the Whiskey A G0-Go, Genghis Cohen, and The Mint. Peter’s unique style was a blend of urban, rock, alternative, and soul. He was a masterful storyteller both through his song lyrics and through his live performances.
“Spingola. Jennifer Spingola……. AMAZING, consummate pro, intuitive fluid improviser, and flawless reading skills. Great intonation and diligent respect paid to composition. Also, possessing the great patience necessary when working with others. Add to all of that…is cute as a button. Finally…committed and loyal. That’s Jennifer Spingola. I’m Peter Black. I’m blessed to know her.”
In the mid-2000’s Spags was recruited by Dee Snider, of the 80’s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, to perform in his Halloween themed rock opera, Van Helsing’s Curse. This was a theater show, touring primarily on the east coast and unlike the heavy improv based DMB style of playing, these musical parts were carefully crafted and highly orchestrated in a more symphonic style. The elaborate production consisted of a cast of 5 “Anne Rice” styled Victorian, vampire violinists including world-renowned rock violinist and original member of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, Mark Wood. It also included a choir of Druids singing operatic and chant-like vocals in Latin, as well as a “Marylin Manson “ styled Gothic rock band pounding out chunky chords and razor sharp riffs.
“Jennifer Spingola is the total package…and a hot package she is! Talented, charming and passionate about her craft, she brings everything she’s got to every performance. And in case you haven’t noticed…she’s got a lot!” – Dee Snider (Twisted Sister)
Spags, who is endorsed by Wood Violins, has worked with Mark Wood, on several featured NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show performances. It was here that she hooked up with the rock-fusion band, Human Life Index. This all-instrumental rock band was comprised of electric violin, cello, drums, guitar, bouzouki and the oud. Spags stepped into the role of lead instrumentalist, performing soaring melodies based around exotic scales, fast tempos and odd time signatures. The band played smaller local venues like The Troubador, before moving on to larger venues, like The Grove of Anaheim, where they opened for Rock guitar legend, Steve Vai.
“Keep an eye out for this beautiful and talented woman who plays kick-ass violin! She will definitely be one of our future stars!” – Mark Wood (owner and operator of Wood Violins)
Years later, Spags received a call from a former Van Helsing’s Curse bandmate, asking her to travel to Mexico and audition for Latin piano sensation, Raul di Blasio. She flew to Mexico City for a week of rehearsals before setting out on a series of performances throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Spags was one of the only members of the group who didn’t speak Spanish. Night after night Spags would listen from the stage while Raul would entertain the audiences for hours telling stories, none of which Spags could understand and never knowing what song he was leading up to…or if at any moment he would call her out to the front of the stage for a solo! On several occasions, she can recall being tossed a piece of hand sketched music and being pushed out on stage to perform! It was quite the adventure!
Perhaps a more commonplace setting for the violin, or “fiddle” as some might call it, would be in the country music scene. Although Spags didn’t’ grow up listening to country music, she reasoned that as a violinist – correction “fiddle player” – she should give it a try! She joined forces with “Country Music’s Blue Eyed Bad Boy”, Brian Stace and hit the ground running, performing main stages at massive Country Thunder music festivals that included all-star lineups with artists like Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntyre, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton. The group also embarked on a worldwide USO style tour, performing for the troops. Spags’ featured performance of the country classic, Devil Went Down To Georgia, was a show-stopper for military audiences around the world! Spags also recorded on several of Stace’s hit singles.
“About MS Spingola: I have to say if you want one of the best, not only fiddle player, but a member of the band having a style all her own and an energy that captures the crowd’s attention keeping them on their toes with the passion of the lead man, Jennifer has it all!” – Brian Stace
At the same time that she was working the Nashville scene with Stace, she would return home to L.A. to pick up one-off gigs with tenor, Nick Palance. A trained opera singer, Nick performed music by Pavarotti, Bocelli, and Josh Groban to distinguished audiences at performing arts centers and wineries around Northern California. Week after week, Spags would set-aside her cowboy boots and don an elegant gown for her sophisticated performances with Palance.
As you can see, Spags truly ran the gamut, touching upon nearly every musical genre, all of which can be credited with shaping her one-of-a-kind style. Today, she gets to call the shots and play whatever she wants…which is a lot of hip-hop, pop, and house music. But you will almost always catch her sprinkling in a little Charlie Daniels, Andrea Bocelli or Frank Sinatra throughout her sets.
“I love that I was able to be a part of so many different projects. They all helped to shape who I am today as an artist and I will forever cherish those experiences.” – Spags