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Sibling harmony

Lisa Guyer, David Stefanelli’s Message of Love

By Michael Witthaus
mwitthaus@hippopress.com

From Manchester nightclubs with Mama Kicks to stages across the planet backing Godsmack’s Sully Erna, Lisa Guyer and David Stefanelli have made music together for over 26 years. But it wasn’t until Dec. 1 that they finally released an album of their own.

Stefanelli said in a recent joint interview that the new record, called Message of Love, “was a long time coming,” noting that the process started five years ago.

“We’re in our 50s now, so life kind of had a bit of unfolding by this time. We sat and talked about what kind of stories we’d like to tell,” he said.

Guyer, who said Stefanelli is like a brother to her, disagreed with his timeline, saying the album was in the works for longer than five years. “We started exchanging ideas a good year and a half before that,” she said.

Despite such sibling-esque disagreements, there’s an undeniable musical chemistry captured on the album. The radio-ready “Spirits of 7” and “Now And Forever (Something About You)” along with heartfelt ballads like “On My Own” and “Endless Weight” find the two at a creative peak, seasoned by time.

“Even in a world where in pop culture they write you off after 23 years old, we’re just starting to get it,” Stefanelli said. “This is the good time now.” Guyer agreed.

“It opens the door, coming a little later in life,” she said. “From young to old, your music changes… we’re just getting to that mature message, the things we’ve had to walk through separately and together. Hopefully, poetically.”

Most of the creative process happened in Stefanelli’s rustic home. “Always in the kitchen,” he said, with nothing more than an urge to make music driving them.

“We just wanted to be in that creative state,” Guyer said. “If something comes from it, wonderful, but we don’t care. We just want to create something we can be proud of, share it with some people, and if they dig it too, all the better.”

Freed from expectations and studio costs as they worked in producer Chris Decato’s living room and Stefanelli’s cabin, they indulged in flights of fancy like poetry breaks performed by Drew Robertson — and extended songs.

“What, we’re not supposed to [record those because] they won’t play it on the radio? So what,” Guyer said. “We took all the rules away … that’s what they did in the 1970s, just created. Better things happen when you take that weight off your shoulders.”

Songs came “organically, almost magically at times,” she added. A good example is “Alexandra When,” inspired by a painting done by Stefanelli. It tells the story of an unborn daughter, and an artist’s efforts to paint her memory. “With the stroke of a brush, two worlds collide,” the song begins, a brooding tale of obsession.

“My wife and I never had children, and Lisa has no children — as far as she knows,” he said with a laugh.

“He’s been using that joke for years,” Guyer said.

The idea of parenthood produced a “painting of a faceless child looking out of the window of my living room,” he said. “I wondered, if I ever had a child what would he or she be like, or look like?”

Guyer empathized, having been friends with someone who’d lost a baby late term

“This woman was at a place where that child would have been 18 years old,” she said. “She was ready to let go.”

Beginning with a musical bed from Stefanelli — “he’s always the launcher,” Guyer said — they built a quick framework. Then there was a knock at the door.

“David leaves the table, and I proceed to just write the whole thing in three to four minutes,” she said. “He came back and I started singing and writing. It was ridiculous how it fell into place. It poured out of me. It was almost like I didn’t even know what I had written.”

They hope to perform the new music soon, at area listening rooms, opera houses and other venues.

“We deserve to get out on the road and play these songs,” Stefanelli said. “We already know the musicians we want; we’re gonna keep that a little secret until we tell them, ha ha. But we really want to play this live and see if there’s some machine in gear to help us spread this music.”