Rocked by the beginning of a pandemic, many artists and musicians found themselves in a hibernation of sorts. Venturing off to their quiet hideaways and exploring undiscovered territory within the depths of their artistic souls, they emerged to give audiences the rare opportunity to experience something organic and raw.
Local singer/songwriter and illustrator Elisabeth Geel belongs in that camp. The Dutch-born singer felt it was the perfect time to dive into the past, uncover old wounds, and finish songs she had left incomplete.
Geel’s recently released album, Monument to Madness, is a collection of what could be considered unfinished business. This eighttrack compilation of various genres was born of the pandemic, yet took years of blood, sweat and tears to conceive.
Growing up near Amsterdam as part of a musical family, Geel had a guitar placed in her hands at a young age. Inspired by bands like The Eagles, The Doors, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, she often fantasized about life across the pond. One song by ’70s rock band America comes to mind as she sentimentally speaks of how the lyrics mimicked her childhood imagination. “My dream was always America … in the desert on a horse with no name,” she says. Not just any desert, though. It was Tucson she yearned for after hearing of her older brother’s travels here among the towering saguaros and stunning sunsets. But first, she would travel the world creating and performing along the way.
Eventually settling in Italy, Geel made a name for herself on the Italian live jazz scene, playing at music clubs and concert halls alongside some of the most prominent Italian jazz musicians.
When asked how her new project came to be, it’s her time in Italy she recalls. The first song on the album, the title track, tells the story of a more tumultuous time in her life as a young woman. While living in a beautiful old Italian villa, she soon found herself in the grips of an abusive relationship. In 2019, when she returned to the same area for a musical tour and went to see the old villa — hoping to find it remodeled and occupied by a happy family — she instead found it in ruins. “Nature had taken over,” Geel remarks. “Musically I wanted to create a traditional ‘ballroom’ arrangement, the perfect music to make everything seem right when it isn’t.” Another track with Americana flair and whispers of country western sound, “Desert Souvenir,” illustrates a similar narrative.
For Monument to Madness, what started as recordings in her walkin closet, quickly turned into something much grander. With the help of fellow musicians Federico Malaman on bass, and Fred Hayes on drums, the album takes listeners on a musical journey through the singer’s past.
Find upcoming shows or download music at Elisabethgeel.com. Music also is available on all major streaming platforms.