New Sounds: Quiet Giant’s Danielle Capalbo takes on Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’


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Spoiler Alert: It’s quite likely that Quiet Giant’s May EP You’re In Heaven will land on more than a few Best of 2017 lists. The Connecticut guitar-rock band’s latest effort is a five-song collage of sounds that defies any real genre containment; each song possesses its own distinct personality, and we could have a field day on our psychologist’s couch tracing all the emotions it triggers, while also going full Pepe Silvia attempting to trace its influences and inspirations.

This Sunday (November 5), Quiet Giant singer/guitarist Danielle Capalbo rolls into Cambridge for a solo gig at the Plough & Stars, and has released a stripped-dwn cover of Tom Petty’s iconic “American Girl.” Capalbo’s fluttering vocals and shimmering guitarwork breathes new life into the song, and the musician says it was on her personal radar long before Petty’s sudden death last month.

“About a year ago, it came on the radio and struck a very different chord than usual,” Capalbo tells Vanyaland. “I was moving through some heavy experiences at the time, and boom — it went from a simple pop jammer to some profound shorthand for my life as a woman. After Tom Petty died, I revisited the song and decided to pay tribute with a bare, emotional rendition. Jeff Brown, who recorded and engineered the project at his studio in New Haven, helped me exaggerate its bittersweet sentiment with some thoughtful amp tones and delay. It’s hard to touch a perfect song, but this provided cathartic exploration of a well-worn classic.”

Capalbo’s “American Girl” is available to stream via Bandcamp, and any money she makes from the track will be donated to Girls Rock Camp Alliance. She’s specifically asking for $5 donations, which will be funneled to the musical non-profit.

This “American Girl” is designed to help other American girls.

“#metoo kick-started some powerful conversations in the music scene about toxic patterns of sexual harassment, misogyny and power abuse—patterns that unfold at even the hyperlocal level,” Capalbo says. “Ultimately this culture hurts us all, and it’s had me thinking about practical ways to empower women and femmes as we also dismantle corrupt systems.”

Capalbo describes Girls Rock Camp Alliance as “a great nonprofit that helps girls find their voices and build self-esteem through music education and performance summer camps around the world,” and was tipped off to the cause by Roz Raskin of Roz and the Rice Cakes. “Roz volunteers at a camp in Rhode Island, and her work is clearly changing young lives,” she ads. “Beyond the music, Girls Rock provides a challenge to systems of oppression through social justice workshops, and elevates conversations about power and representation. I wish I had access to this kind of program as a girl. I’m thankful others do.”

Featured Danielle Capalbo image by Kaitlin Anne of Just Vibe Photography.