Carla Bianco Opens Up About Working with Jellybean, Her Broadway Successes, and Her New Christian EP

Carla Bianco

Award-winning pop singer/songwriter and Broadway actress Carla Bianco is set to release her first contemporary Christian EP, You Love Me As I Am, in the fall of 2021 through Ivory Note Records/BFD/Sony Orchard. The title cut and debut single is slated to impact radio and streaming services everywhere on September 10, 2021. To pre-save Carla Bianco's new single, "You Love Me As I Am," click here.

Best known for her starring turns as Maureen in the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Rent, on Broadway and the West Coast, Bianco was discovered by legendary producer and manager Jellybean Benitez (Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Sting), who signed her to a management and publishing deal while she was still in college. The powerhouse pop vocalist soon inked a distribution deal with Sony/RED and released two albums as a recording artist on Ivory Note Records. She went on to become an ASCAP Award-winning, No. 1 Billboard chart-topping songwriter. 

Q: Carla, thanks for doing this interview with us. I believe it was Jellybean Benitez who gave you your first opportunity in the music business. Jellybean Benitz had produced some of the most iconic music for Whitney Houston, Madonna, Sheena Easton and so many other artists. How did you first got to meet him? And how did he help you in your music career? 

A: Thank you so much for having me. It's wonderful to connect with everyone!  Yes, meeting Jellybean Benitez was how I broke into the music business. It was right when I first moved to New York that I remembered a friend telling me that Jellybean was always looking for new talent. So, for Spring break at NYU, where I was attending, I thought I'd find out where Jellybean's office was and wait for him. He was located at a building on 57th Street and Broadway. 

I can remember it clear as day. I waited outside his office for three days before I finally got my chance. I stopped him in his tracks and asked him for ten minutes of his time so I could play and sing for him. He invited me to his office, and I sat down at the piano and played a song I wrote and then gave him my demo. A week later, he called and offered me a publishing deal and a management deal. Jellybean opened a lot of doors for me, especially getting to work with some of the most amazing songwriters in the business. He connected me with producer David Morales, with whom I wrote the song "The Lover That You Are." Jellybean released the song on his label, and it became a #1 Billboard dance song and won an ASCAP award. I am so very grateful for those opportunities and experiences.  

Q: You went on to have a successful career in Broadway. Tell us more about this period of your career. 

A: Theater was always a great outlet for me to perform and connect with other artists. Growing up, I was very involved in my high school musicals. And then I majored in Musical Theater at NYU. Though my songwriting has definitely been the driving force behind my creative endeavors, theater has always been an open door for me throughout my life. After spending some time in the New York music scene, I moved to Los Angeles for a fresh perspective and to be closer to my music manager.

During the move, I began writing some very personal, autobiographical songs that were very emotional and theatrical in nature. They began to transform into a song cycle and then, unexpectedly, into a musical. And right about this time, I got a call from a friend in New York who told me about the musical, RENT, and how it had won the Tony and Pulitzer-Prize and was holding auditions in LA and there was a part there was perfect for me. I listened to the show and found its message about love deeply moving. I decided to audition with one of the songs I wrote for my musical and landed the gig. It was very exciting to be a part of the West coast premiere of RENT. I got the opportunity to work with Michael Grief, the director, and to perform for all of Hollywood, meeting people like Tom Hanks. 

After playing the role of Maureen at the Ahmanson Theater for many months, the producers asked me to come to Broadway. So, I moved back to New York and spent several years performing on Broadway, off-Broadway and being a part of some new, ground-breaking shows in their early forms. I enjoyed that time of my life a great deal.   

Q: Why then did you decide to sing Christian music? 

A: I don't think there was a specific time that I decided to sing Christian music; it just kind of happened naturally out of a need to express the love I was feeling for God. About five years ago, I had gone on a retreat to reconnect with God in a deeper way. While there, I was immersed in scriptures like Isaiah 43 and Psalm 139, meditating on words like "you are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you" and something just broke loose inside of me. I was receiving God's love in my heart like never before and it was healing parts of me that had needed healing for so long. It was the parts of me that always felt like I was never enough or unlovable. In an instant, God healed that hole I could never fill. It was truly amazing. 

From that time, I have only had the inspiration to sing about God's love & goodness to me. I wasn't sure what God wanted me to do with all these new songs I was writing, so I just put it in His hands. I prayed for His guidance and told Him if He wanted these songs out in the world, then He was going to have to do it. The next morning, I had the entire arrangement for "Vessel of Your Love", one of the album cuts, in my head. I went into my studio and recorded the demo right away. I met Sam Hart, my producer, soon after that, and we started working together on recording the EP. God has been leading me every step of the way ever since. Putting this music out has been a truly humbling and amazing experience.   

Q: How and when did you become a Christian? 

A: I have been a Christian my whole life. My parents were from Italy, a small town called San Vito Chietino in the Abruzzo region, so I was raised Catholic. My mom sang in the choir at church in Italy when she was a little girl and was always close to Jesus. Growing up, our family never missed church on Sunday. My mom always dressed in her Sunday best and so did we. My next-door neighbor, whose daughter was my best friend, was also a devout Christian. 

I remember being a little girl and having a sleepover at my best friend's house and her mom would pray with us at night. I remember feeling so overwhelmed in the Spirit, that I would start crying. As a kid, I had a lot of great role models who were believers, and it helped shape my walk with God. I always prayed as a little girl and would write letters to God asking him for help or guidance. I would call him my Best Friend. I just always felt like I could tell Him anything and that He would always work it out. I feel very blessed to have had that kind of trust in God early on in my life.    

Q: I believe your new single "You Love Me as I Am" is a very personal song. Tell us more about the story behind this song. 

A: "You Love Me As I Am" is my personal testimony of receiving God's love on that retreat five years ago. I had grown up knowing the notion of "God loves You" but I had never received it like that in my heart, in my entire being. Years of self-condemnation were healed in a moment, like a flash of lightening. It was the most precious gift I had ever received, and the song is my expression of gratitude for that gift. I think we all suffer from some kind of self-condemning thoughts or behaviors. It is just part of the human condition. But it is in our humanness that God reaches for us and touches our lives like no one or nothing else can. He meets us where we are and accepts us just as we are. There is nothing we can do to earn His love. He already knows everything about us and He loves us as we are. It is the beautiful gift of His grace. The song is a celebration, an exclamation of His loving grace.   

Q: You are following your single up with a new EP, right? What can we expect from this forthcoming EP? 

A: Yes, the EP is set for digital release on Oct. 8th. And the actual physical CD, for those who still like a hard copy, will come out on Oct. 29th. I am so excited to share it with everyone! Sam Hart, the producer, has done some truly breathtaking work on it, making these songs I wrote come to life. We worked long-distance during the entire pandemic, recording in our respective studios, and sharing tracks via email. We are very much on the same creative and spiritual plane, so it made collaborating very smooth and easy. 

After restrictions started to lift, my family and I traveled to Nashville. Sam and I got the chance to work in person for a couple of days and wrote a couple of tunes together as well. One of them, "Hero Rising" is dedicated to youth growing up in the world today. I wanted a song for Hearts on Fire, a nonprofit I founded, that is an art and music program for marginalized youth here in Pittsburgh. This song is about believing in the power of God's love inside each one of us. Written and recorded during a pandemic, a time filled with fear, separation and political and racial conflict, sharing love seems more important now than ever. And this EP is all about sharing the good news that love unites...God is love. And love is always the answer.    

Q: Is this Christian EP a one-off project or do you think you will be releasing more Christian music in the future? 

A: Well, God knows the answer to that for sure. All I know is... I'll be singing His praises forever. My hearts is forever full of His love and it makes me just want to sing. Whether it's something I record and share, I'll have to follow God's lead on that one.  :) 

Q: On your new song, you sing about the unconditional love of God. Can you tell us a time in your life where you have experienced this love? 

A: I know I have talked a lot about the experience of receiving that unconditional love of God, but it's even more beautiful in ways to be a vessel for it and to give it. And the closest I have come to being a conduit for that unconditional love is in the love I have for my son. When he was a born, a wash of love so completely selfless came over me. Motherhood is truly a gift, especially in the divine love we feel for our children. I hope the love I share with my son inspires him to walk with God all his days, too. It was one of the many treasures my mother left me. And my father, too. Their days were spent giving their best to their family, using their gifts, sharing their hearts and celebrating the gift of life, all for God's glory. I hope to do the same.   



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