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Agnes Ingarra: KCMS Artist Sings the Blues
Appearing
June 15, 2007 at The L.A.B. , Seattle, WA
by Karla Ash
06.11.07

Seattle-based singer/songwriter Agnes Ingarra was already on the radio years before her first record contract. At the age of only 15, Ingarra’s demo for “Shadow of the Most High” made it onto the airwaves on KCMS 105.3, one of the highest-rated radio stations in the state. But, while Ingarra continues to write for the Contemporary Christian market, she has evolved as well, evolving into a blues rocker. Her new album,
Uncertain Things, is her first album with Sutton Music Group, a local independent label headed by Michael Sutton, ex-writer for the All-Music Guide, co-founder of the legendary early ’90s grunge magazine Pandemonium!, and a publicist for Ray Manzarek of the Doors. Ingarra discovered Sutton through Craigslist while searching for a promoter, not realizing that he was half-Filipino like herself.

Karla Ash: According to your bio, you were only 15 when you had a song, "Shadow of the Most High," played on KCMS 105.3 in Seattle. What was it like to get onto commercial radio at such a young age, so early in your career?

Agnes Ingarra: The most exciting four minutes of my adolescent life. I remember hearing it on the radio when I was 15, and I just got on my knees and cried and prayed and thanked God like there would be no tomorrow. After those four minutes I had everyone and their moms calling me. All my friends and family were blowing up my phone, and suddenly I was the next big thing in high school - everyone wanted to be my friend.

Ash: You play different musical styles without calling a single one your own. Was this absence of genre categorization something which you had planned from the beginning? Or did it simply evolve that way?

Ingarra: It most definitely just evolved because of circumstance. I started singing in church when I was 14 so my first EP came from that. Later I started working at Guitar Center where I found my band mates who were complete rockers, the real deal, so we made a compromise between my pop voice and their rock playing. Then when I was alone or doing solo gigs I did a lot of soul/R&B, and now with my new passion for the blues after watching John Mayer on his Continuum tour last year with Sheryl Crow I believe it's safe to say I've found my common ground and my home with my blues guitar playing and singing soul.

Ash: Your debut album, So Incredible, was released in 2005. I've listened to the mp3s from it that your label had e-mailed to me, and it struck me as a remarkably solid juggling act of Christian and secular rock. Is it difficult to appeal to both crowds?

Ingarra: In my opinion and experience I find it very difficult. I mean the secular rock fans want an artist who is "real" and true to the lifestyle of rock, and the Christians want the same as well. But what it always came down to was where my band and I played. If it was a secular venue, we would come do Christian rock songs but mostly secular and for the Christian venue we had all Christian songs prepared. I am a believer, but I don't see why I should limit myself to Christian or secular only because I am a human being who experiences pain, who has had someone cheat on her in the past. Pain and feelings are relative no matter what your religion and I choose to write and sing about things that are true to my being.

Ash: At only 22, you're already a veteran of the Seattle music scene. What are some of the things you have learned in the years that you've spent performing in local clubs?

Ingarra: I've learned that who you know, and how much you bug (follow-up), is everything. I remember I bugged the venue El Corazon for a full year before they let my band and I play, and when they did we were able to get about 250 people there. Now they'll let us play whenever we want. A lot of venues will let you play no matter what as long as you follow-up but knowing other bands will make the process of gigs and fan-making a faster process.

Ash: Recently, you sang live on KCMS 105.3. How did that come about and what feelings were going through your head while you were there?

Ingarra: Well, it all came about when I met this publicist on Craigslist (thank you, Craigslist!) and we got to talking. I wanted to hire him, but instead I ended up landing a record deal and after hearing my CD he set up the interview since my songs were already being played on the station. On the interview day in my mind I was thinking, “No way - I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life." Also, I was so nervous so my mind went blank quite a few times. After the show we went to eat lunch, and I couldn't even eat. To top it off the next day I got the flu for no reason, so obviously I was very nervous.

Ash: You're working on a new CD, Uncertain Things. What creative developments have transpired between the albums?

Ingarra: A lot has happened - the most obvious is my genre changes again. However, I feel that this time this will be a permanent change. I have been testing out the material for about six months now, and I have been getting better reviews than I did with all the other genres I've ever done in the past. New developments also include the guitar lessons I've been taking to further my guitar playing in the genre of blues. My dream is to be in the same caliber of guitar playing as Bonnie Raitt, and I fully believe I can achieve this with the dedication I have been giving it.

Ash: You're of Philippine descent, and honestly there aren't any Filipino musicians I can think of who have truly entered the American mainstream. Do you get a sense of national pride in your accomplishments? Does it motivate you even further in your desire to succeed knowing that what do you will reflect upon on how the world sees your country's talents?

Ingarra: My nationality and the barriers that come with it is a major motivating factor for me. I am also half-Italian and a born American so i can see the views of the American music industry against "Asian Americans" making it in the music biz. I have a few friends who are Filipino who have been turned down in the past by major labels just because of the fact they were Asian and considered non-marketable to the American audience. One person who has made a little difference for us Filipinos is the Black-Eyed-Peas’ apl.de.ap, but I feel there is more that can be done in other styles than hip-hop to show that we don't only sing karaoke or rap, we can actually make music in different genres as well.

More on Agnes Ingarra:
www.myspace.com/agnesingarramusic.