Gianna Isabella is here to prove she’s more than just a contestant on American Idol. While she swooned audiences all across the world ascending to the Top 10 on Season 15 of the singing competition, the New Jersey native arrives with an incredible vocal range, a charismatic personality, a keen intuition, and songwriting perfection.
Born into a musical household with mother Brenda K. Starr being a recording artist and late grandfather Harvey Kaplan co-founding 60’s pop sensation Spiral Starecase, music is embedded in Gianna. Having the opportunity to join her mom on stage to perform as a teenager would translate directly into her current state: 20 years old with a debut EP on the horizon.
Last month, she unleashed her debut single “Nights With You,” an uplifting ballad to help you escape the current sunken state of the world. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Gianna makes it a point to give back by supporting local relief efforts and donating meals and essential supplies to Jackson Food Pantry and Catholic Charities of Lakewood.
Flaunt caught up with Gianna via Instagram Live to discuss her upbringing in Jersey, her new visual for “Nights With You,” her Top 5 artists in rotation, and more!
Being from New Jersey, what was the household like growing up?
It was good, I like Jersey because it’s so close between the city and the beach. Jersey’s small, but my hometown Jackson is the third or fourth largest town in Jersey. I’ve seen all of Jackson so it feels small to me, but it’s pretty nice here. I’ve lived here my entire life, I really enjoy driving around and listening to music. I’m near the woods mostly. I’m in the boondocks, so there’s a lot of quading and dirt bike riding. I’m more of a beach girl, I’m at the beach a lot. My family, my grandma, my cousins live in New York, so I get the best of both worlds.
So you’re in Jersey right now?
I am. My family’s actually in the process of moving so my bed’s on the floor right now. It’s just a mattress in my room. We’re staying in Jersey. We’re going by the beach which is great for me, I’m really excited. If it looks really dingy behind me, that’s why. [laughs]
What was it like when your mom brought you on stage to sing as a little girl?
It was very exciting. I always liked the spotlight on me. I’d always look up to my mom, she has all those people looking at her and they all know the words to her songs! The first time she brought me on stage, I was 7 years old. She brought me on stage to sing a Spanish song with her. I sang her song “Herida” with me and her, it was really cool. It became a thing as I got older. We started doing “I Still Believe” together, which was her biggest hit. She’d bring me to all her concerts. When I went on American Idol, I actually sang her song “I Still Believe” so it came full circle. It was definitely cool.
Mother’s Day recently passed, how did you guys celebrate?
I got her her favorite candies. We stayed at home and watched He’s Just Not That Into You on Netflix. It was good, we watch chick flicks together. I’ve been spending a lot of time with her because of quarantine, but also she’s my best friend. We’ve been making the most out of it. We watch a lot of movies together. We’re both musicians, so we’ve been finding a lot of new artists on Youtube together.
How have you evolved since American Idol?
I was on American Idol when I was 15. Almost 5 years ago, so it’s been a while. Now I’m starting to come into my own, writing my own music. I’m making my own stuff for the first time ever, which is really exciting.
You released the visual for “Nights With You.” Who or what inspired this record?
Everything that’s going on in the world right now with this pandemic. Because we’re all in isolation and in quarantine for the safety of everybody, I’m sure everybody’s at that point where they’ve hit that “I want to go out, I want to go clubbing with my friends! I want to go drive around, I want to hang out with my friends.” Since we can’t do that right now, I wanted to release a song that’s uplifting with a positive feel to look forward to for nights with people we love. It wasn’t written for one person specifically. It could be a relationship for someone, or hanging out with your friends or family who live far away. I wanted something uplifting to look forward to.
Best memory from shooting the visual?
My favorite part of the shoot was Dave & Buster’s, because they shot us playing games the whole time. I got milk shakes and I love milkshakes. The clothes were really comfortable too. There’s a gas station scene and the outfit is awesome, but it’s all leather so I was sweating. [laughs] The best outfit, everything was Dave & Busters because the other ones weren’t as comfortable.
What flavor milkshake do you like?
I like chocolate, but I had a vanilla milkshake that day. My co-star liked vanilla, so we had to find a medium for us. I used to work at a diner, I had to make milkshakes all the time. I’d make extra so I could have some on the side.
How’s quarantine? How have you been adjusting? Have you picked up any new hobbies?
I’m learning Italian! I read a lot so I’ve been reading a lot of novels. Watching a lot of chick flicks, those are my favorite. I’m actually learning 3 new languages. I’m currently loving Italian the most, but I’m also learning Spanish and French. I’m trying to learn how to play chess, it’s something good to pass the time. I take a lot of naps too.
Has it affected your musical career at all?
Absolutely. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry. Usually my poetry ends up being songs, when I’m stuck on “what should I do? What should I write?” I’ll find old poems I have, then grow on them further. I’ve been writing a ton of new music lately. I have at least 2 albums right now that I’ve written in quarantine alone. It’s been a lot of music writing, a lot of Instagram Live singing. It’s been good, I’m keeping myself busy.
Are you signed or independent still?
I’m signed, but it’s an independent label. They’re a new upcoming label by my 2 family friends, they’re starting their own label. They don’t have a name for it yet, but the 2 of them signed me. We’re doing it independently. God-willing with the way things are going with “Nights With You” and the future songs I’ll be releasing, then we’ll get signed to a larger label.
What books are you reading?
I’m reading the classics right now. It’s more Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, etc. Currently I’m reading a suspenseful horror book called Baby Teeth, I’m also reading Jane Eyre. I’ve been occupying my time playing Animal Crossing from dawn to dusk. I’m on there all day long. When I first started, I thought “this game’s wack, there’s nothing for me to do.” But the more you play it, there’s so much to do. Whether it’s picking up the weeds or tree branches or having to build the town hall, you’re always doing stuff and working. That’s why it’s a very time-consuming game, you can play it literally all day and lose track of time.
Top 5 artists in rotation?
Harry Styles, #1 hands down. I love him. I spent my car payment to go and see him. I loved him since I was 11 or 12 years old. I’m paying my own bills now because I hit that age where I’m 20, so I have to be independent. I just paid my car but my second car payment, I put towards the Harry Styles concert because essentials. I was going to see Harry Styles but with the pandemic going on, unfortunately I’m not 100% sure if he’s having his concert. If it gets a refund, I’m going to put it towards the next one.
Ariana Grande, hands down. Love her. Her new song with Justin Bieber is outstanding, I have it on replay. It’s so good. With everything going on, it’s very upsetting, but seeing the artists come together to put all of their work towards Covid is great. I like this girl Yebba, she’s not a huge artist but she’s in a Sam Smith song. She released a song called “Distance,” she’s really, really good. I absolutely love Post Malone. I listen to him non-stop. I listen to his older stuff on Youtube, his covers of Bob Dylan are really good. Watching artists in their earlier performances when they haven’t made it big yet, so Post Malone for sure. My 5th artist, Beyonce or Megan Thee Stallion. They’re both amazing.
I saw you playing carnival games in the video, what’s your ideal date night?
Listen to music and drive somewhere, get drive-thru food. Sit in the car, eat food with them, get to know that person. I consider myself an introvert, my friends consider me an extrovert. I enjoy my solitude, I enjoy my time. I don’t really like to go out with a ton of people, but it won’t bother me if I have to. If it’s a first date, if you don’t really like that person, I don’t want them to spend a bag on me then me be like “I’m not feeling it.” I’d rather do something cheaper and get to know them.
What’s the first thing you’re gonna do after quarantine?
Honestly, I’m a church girl. I want to go to church! [chuckles] I’m excited to see everybody and be able to worship and hug people. That’s what I’m most excited about, because I’m very affectionate and touchy person. I’m really excited to hug everyone.
What can we look forward to next from you?
I have a new song coming out within the next month. I’ll be having another single release which I’m really excited for. It’s more uptempo and upbeat, more of a summer feel. After the second single, we want one more, then we have a completed EP called Heartbreak Gaze coming soon after.
Anything else you want to let us know?
I have a lot of new music coming. If anyone’s watching the Live right now or has seen me previously on American Idol, I know a lot of people saw pre-Gianna when I was 15 years old. I’ve grown a lot as an artist and I finally found my sound. I’m excited for everybody to hear what I have to sing. Hopefully evoke some emotions from people, make them feel like they’re not alone with whatever it is that they’re going through.