Brooklyn Singer/Songwriter Makes Her Anthology Debut

Friday, January 20, 2012 12:12

An Interview with Halle Petro of Halle & The Jilt

by: Casey Pukl

I have to admit, I really admire people who do crazy things. I love hearing stories of people who aren’t afraid to sky dive or make a big career change. Insert Halle Petro’s story here. The Brooklyn based singer/songwriter released her debut album in February 2011, quit her cushy job on Wall Street in July, and hasn’t looked back since. She’s gearing up for her west coast tour with guitarist Michael Gomez, and already thinking about her next record! I had a chance to chat with Halle on the phone this week, and I think you’ll all enjoy her immeasurable spirit and dedication to her music.

CP: I know you’ve had a pretty crazy road to get to where you are, so I guess let’s start from the beginning!

HP: A very good place to start (laughs)! I moved to New York right after I graduated from college, and I did theater primarily— off Broadway and regional primarily. I was doing a lot of Broadway auditions, and I just did one show, and then there were some lapses between the next couple of jobs, and I was just kind of getting bored. The business end of things can kind of make you lose your love for what you’re doing.

I just wanted to start having fun singing and making music again, so I put together a band just to do cover songs on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had met with a friend of mine who was a singer/songwriter who told me that if I had an original piece, I should really just do it. So I told her that I did have one, but I didn’t know if it was any good, but eventually with her encouragement, we wound up doing the piece. It went over really well, and so I was like, ‘Well, I’ve actually got a bunch more!’ Before we knew it, the show was all original music.

And then shortly after that, I said, ‘I want to make a record.’ So I started figuring out what I had to do to make it happen.

CP: So it really progressed pretty naturally from there.

HP: Yeah. The band was initially put together to make the record, and coming from a theatrical background, I thought that we would rehearse the songs for 6 weeks, and then go into the studio and bang it out. I was totally wrong (laughs)!

CP: (Laughs) I’m sure it took a little bit longer than that, huh?

HP: We basically worked with the band for the next 6 months developing the music. And then it became a matter of who’s going to pay for this if I’m going to self-release it. Kickstarter wasn’t something that I had really heard about at that time, so I actually took a job on Wall Street to make money to make the record.

CP: You’re kidding? What were you doing on Wall Street?

HP: I did marketing and corporate access. We basically set up meetings between CEOs and investors.

CP: Wow, that’s a far cry from what you’re doing now!

HP: It is absolutely a far cry, but I really think that experience, working in that environment, especially working with primarily men, you have to have a good head on your shoulders and keep your wits about it. I think it really helped develop my business aesthetic. I think that’s a very important part of being an artist now. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to really understand yourself and your brand. You have to know what you’re promoting from the business perspective and also artistically what you’re trying to accomplish.

CP: Absolutely. It’s a different business now where the artist has to be more savvy.

HP: Totally. And since the record has come out and we’ve been touring and performing, I’d say that 70% of what I do off stage is about moving my brand forward. It takes a lot of communication and trial and error. It’s a lot of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks (laughs)!

CP: Are you doing all of your booking and promotion by yourself at this point?

HP: I’m just now starting to pick up people. In February I’ll be launching a fundraiser for my next record, and I’ll be working with a publicist full time for that, which I think is essential. I mean, when I released the first record, it got some press, but I was doing it all myself, so it only went so far.

I’m also loosely working with a booking agent right now. He actually helped secure the show at Yoshi’s in San Francisco that we’re really excited about.

CP: That’s exciting.

HP: Yeah, I’m kind of picking up people piece by piece. But this journey has been about building things from the ground up. At this point, I’m still learning as I go.

After I released the record last February, I knew what my next projects were. I knew that if I was really going to be serious and make this happen, I had to promote the record. I reached a point where I could either stay in this place where I’m financially secure with my day job and have a hobby, or I could take the risk. So I made a plan, quit my job in July, and have been going full throttle ever since.

CP: Congratulations on that. That’s something that not a lot of people have been able to do successfully.

HP: Thank you. There’s just no way I could be doing everything I’m doing now if I had continued to keep my day job. There’s also the conundrum of being an artist in New York City, there’s no such thing as a middle class artist. You have to be able to support yourself in some way. Either this will continue, or the gas will run out at some point, and if I’m not touring every week by then, we’ll just have to see what happens then. But at this point, I’m so committed to doing it all. I’ve been doing our publicity, booking, writing, band-leader. I’ve been doing it all. We joke that I’m the CEO (laughs)!

CP: Well, it sure sounds like you’ve got a ton going on, and I wish you all the best! Can’t wait for your show here on the 30th!

HP: We’re really excited for the show! Coming to San Diego is really important to me. My Uncle has been a long time resident of San Diego. He and his partner have lived there for over 30 years, and he and his partner were together for over 40 years. Unfortunately his partner passed away a few months ago. But right now, I’m working with the LGBT Center of San Diego to donate a portion of the proceeds from the show to their center in his name.

CP: That’s great!

HP: It’s important to me, and I know it will mean a lot to my uncle. It’s important to give back to the community that means so much to my uncle.

CP: Absolutely. Well thank you so much for your time. It has been a pleasure speaking with you, and again, I’m looking forward to seeing you!

HP: Thank you! I’m really looking forward to coming out there!

Special thanks to Halle for her time! I hope you’ll all come out and welcome her to San Diego, as well as help her donate to her very important cause. Be sure to preview her album on Spotify at the link below, and check out more information on her (including where you can connect with her via Facebook and Twitter!) at her Artist Profile page on our website!

Halle & The Jilt

WHAT: Halle & The Jilt
WHEN: Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:30pm
TICKETS: $10-$18 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile