PREMIERE: The Normal Living’s “Fame to Claim”
The seven members of TNL belong to what has been called the “Oregon Trail Generation”—watching MTV rise from its infancy (and then lamenting its ultimate transformation); witnessing first-hand the rise of personal computers, the World Wide Web, and the global community; beholding the global cultural shifts after 9/11; facing a recession and economic hardships as we were building careers and our livelihoods; lamenting and participating in the drastic changes to the music industry; straddling the line between analogue and digital in our bodies, minds, and hearts. TNL writes songs about becoming an adult in this age, navigating (sometimes blindly) a modern era whose waters stretch into an ever-expanding universe. TNL serves up a unique blend of guitar-driven songs, layered with intricate piano, pop-rock vocals, and powerful yet sophisticated drums. It’s American heartland rock for the modern era, for Gen Xers who miss guitars in Top 40 music, who sense the familiar echoes of 1960s girl groups, and who seek out today’s rootsy indie-rock. NL was founded by songwriters Liza Zitelli and Jon Grabowski, who began playing together in New York City in 2009. When childhood friend Paul began to join them for shows around NYC in 2010, along with Zitelli siblings Diana and Andrew, TNL was born. In 2013, TNL independently produced and released their first EP, Less Radio (recorded at Sweet Sounds Studios in NYC). Less Radio is a rock record that expresses the inspirations and frustrations of the city and its satellites. Navigating urban and suburban landscapes, the characters of Less Radio are always in motion—on stages and subways in “Skyline Blues” and “Time Out, New York,” ghostly trains in “Penn Station,” and highways in “Dead End Rock.” They even move in and out of the nostalgic past in “Charlotte Arms” and the dystopian, radio-less future of the haunting title track. The blog RockNYC Live and Recorded named Less Radio #22 best album of 2013 and the song Timeout, New York as the #16 best song released in 2013. With the additions of Nick, Petros, Colin, and Amy over the next few years, TNL expanded its sound and released its first LP, Signals, on Feb 24, 2017. Recorded at Water Music Studios in Hoboken, NJ, Signals is a collection American stories set in the new millennium, as told by characters who consider the redeeming powers of community, love, music, and spirituality. The 8-song LP features an American heartland-rock sound—lush and spirited piano, powerful yet sophisticated drums, and driving guitar and bass, with crisp vocals and harmonies. A record-release show for Signals was held on Feb 25, 2017, at the legendary Maxwell’s in Hoboken, to a sold out crowd.TNL’s next release is planned for 2020, with singles from the new record being released in late 2019. With Grammy-nominated Chris Badami producing the new material, with mastering by the renowned Scott Hull of Masterdisk, TNL looks to help carry on the story of American songwriting in the millennial age. “Fame to Claim” is an inspiring, pensive rock song, with elements of New-Folk, pop, and Americana genres. It tells the story of a girl who decides to leave home in search of something unnameable that calls out to her in the night. It features big harmonies and counter-melodies, lush piano, layered uplifting guitars, and powerful drum beats, with a roots-rock bass part keeping the heartbeat of the song throughout. The lyrics are empowering and self-reflective, as the character talks about the new community she is building, but also reflects back on where she came from, thinking about the dreams and ideas that sparked this huge life change.
“”Fame to Claim” is another one of those songs that arose from the band jamming out on a piano riff brought in by Nick [Sainato, TNL keyboard player]. I’ve actually had the title “Fame to Claim” in my songwriting notebook for a while—I remember listening to a Patty Griffin album around 12 years ago, and she has this beautiful lyric that goes: “I’m no kid in a kid’s game/I did what I did/Got no one to blame/But I don’t give up/no I don’t ever give up, It’s all I’ve got; It’s my claim to fame.” The phrase “claim to fame” stuck with me, because it made me think about the careers of these amazing American songwriters who are writing the best songs of our time, but will likely never be in the Top 40 charts. I thought it might be interesting to twist the phrase around, from “claim to fame” to “fame to claim,” to be more of an empowering message. It resonated with me for a song title or lyric. So I jotted that down in my notebook, but never really had a good vehicle to explore the theme until the day we started jamming on this new piano riff. As everyone layered on their parts and sounds, the music that started to emerge made me think of how I felt when I was a little girl, dreaming big dreams and wanting to find a little piece of fame to claim. Then once I put in “Fame to Claim” as the lyric of the main hook, I started to build a story around it. It’s inspired by my co-singer Amy Elise, who left her home in Michigan to come to Jersey City as a young adult—I just think it is so brave to leave everything you know and start a new chapter of your life, to build bonds with a community from scratch. So that became the basis of our character in the song. I weaved in images of stone, architecture, water, light, foundations, and geology, to really emphasize the idea of building something beautiful from the ground up.”