Lesbian singer-songwriter takes Philly by tour

Andrea Nardello’s music is the anthem of an open heart.

In “Human,” the title single from the EP she released last summer, Nardello’s crushed-velvet vocals top driving strings and the comfortable strum of her guitar as she sings, “Hold me now/I’m human/I’m broken/Come now.”

Vulnerability serves as the framework for the four tracks on “Human,” which the Philly singer uses to explore setbacks in her own life: the death of her wife’s stepfather and her mental-health struggles. The songs’ emotive cores earned her local and big-name recognition, along with a full summer tour.

Nardello won a social-media contest with her vocals that led to a gig as Brandi Carlile’s opener during Carlile’s inaugural “Girls Just Wanna Weekend,” a music festival in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

“People joke about their dreams coming true, but it really was: She is one of my biggest influences,” Nardello said of Carlile. “It sounds silly — I’ve been doing this for a long time — but when you get to work with somebody of that caliber, it just validates you as an artist.”

The folk singer’s winning spot led to a recorded session on WXPN’s weekly “Philly Local” program with Helen Leicht, and it’s no coincidence that her summer is brimming with festival stops and other gigs throughout Greater Philadelphia.

For Nardello, almost 40, such recognition is a long-sought dream. A South Jersey native, she took up residence in Atlanta after college, singing cover tunes at bars and working in restaurants before she released her first compilation.

She returned to the area eight years ago to be near family and to exercise her writing and vocal talents in the city’s vivid music culture.

“I really just wanted to embrace the Philly music scene … to be a part of the community, because it’s really a collaborative and supportive community,” said Nardello. “I loved Atlanta. It has a special place in my heart, but I’m certainly a Northeast kid.”

Indeed, the Philly music scene has embraced Nardello. After she released “Echo,” her fourth compilation, in 2014, she won the Philadelphia Songwriter’s Project Contest and also was named Tri-State Indie’s Acoustic Artist of the Year. Delaware-based radio station WSTW also awarded her singles “Leave The Light On” and “Home To Me” as Folk Song of the Year.   

Nardello credits WSTW DJ Mark Rogers — whom she met purely by chance — for granting her the exposure she needed to graduate from bar gigs to festivals.

“We were at a Dewey Beach music festival and I was performing and my wife was in the crowd, and [she and Mark] just totally hit it off. We had no idea he was a radio DJ,” she recounted.

Rogers liked Nardello’s music and asked for a CD.

“He sends a message to my wife [that] Sunday morning: ‘Hey, I’m gonna play Andrea’s music tonight on the radio.’ And I’m thinking to myself, What, do you got an Internet radio station or something? And she’s like, ‘No, 93.7.’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, that’s an FM — that’s a real radio station!”

In the five years since, Nardello has released three EPs through Noble Steed Music, with plans for a fourth. “Human,” which she recorded in her home and produced with longtime friend and collaborator Matt Duke, is her sixth compilation overall.

Nardello described herself as a winter writer and summer performer, but said she’s experimenting with weaving songwriting into her summer tour schedule. Her goal is to lighten up on the lyrics.

“My mom jokes with me. She’s like, ‘When are you going to write a happy album?’ And I realized I’m always writing in the darkest time of year, you know, the cold and everything. So, maybe if I write during the summer, something different will come out.”

The artist also is striving to perform outside her comfort zone. This weekend, for instance, she’s playing Robin and Beth Fest at Peaceville Woodlands in the Poconos for the first time.

“Trying to drag people into a dark bar when it’s gorgeous outside is, uh, really just not fun over the summer,” Nardello said. “I try to book things that embrace the summer.”

Her performance tonight at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens should fit the bill.

“The Magic Gardens has an open top and they have an art component to it in the first hour. It’s just kind of a different experience.” 


Andrea Nardello performs 8-9 p.m. June 28 at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, 1020 South St. Tickets are $12 and runs 7-10 p.m. For Nardello’s full tour schedule, visit andreanardello.com.

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