Breakups are hard. Everyone copes differently when relationships come to a close — and for 20-year-old singer-songwriter and third-year theater arts major Ciarra Fragale, coping looked like “writing three songs in three days.”
Fragale wrote her first song at age 13, she says. For this dark-haired, quick-witted songstress, making and playing music is as natural as breathing. At age 7, Fragale picked up a guitar for the first time. Today, she’s a true one woman show; she can play guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bass and piano. The singer-songwriter records almost all of the instrumentals (and all of the vocal tracks) for her studio releases herself, she says. When she performs live, she keeps her setup simple.
“It’s almost always just me and my guitar,” Fragale says.
Knowing Fragale’s musical background, her major in theater arts seems only natural. In high school, she performed exclusively in musicals. At New Paltz, she’s branched out into straight plays. Fragale doesn’t have a preference, but she says she’s gained an appreciation for plays after performing in 2015’s modern-day adaptation of the Bard’s Julius Caesar and 2016’s rendition of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. Fragale’s time in Julius Caesar brought her close to adjunct faculty member and director Lauren Bone-Noble, who constantly inspires her, she says. Fragale is perfoming in April’s rendition of A Comedy of Errors under director Connie Rotunda.
A child of 1980s high school sweethearts, Fragale grew up in Montgomery, New York listening to the music of ‘70s and ‘80s rock greats. Think folk-rock superstars Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame and Joni Mitchell. Along with the folksy tunes she was raised on, Fragale cites contemporary indie artists, like Bon Iver, The Staves and Sufjan Stevens, as influences to both her lyrical and musical style. Her sound is a breath of fresh air, blending indie folk instrumentals with Fragale’s bluesy, passionate croon.
In October 2016, Fragale released As We Go, a short, six-song EP. Now, Fragale is in the throes of recording a full-length studio album at Hudson Valley Adirondack SoniC Studios in Hadley, New York. She’s calling the project Seasons, a nod to the inevitability of change and evolution, she says.
The album opens on a song she wrote and performed for her then-boyfriend. It closes on a track she calls “It Died in the Winter,” a song she penned just days after ending things with her ex.
“Writing that song was catharsis,” she says. “It’s like that for people hearing [the song] and the person creating it.”
Fragale says her songwriting process varies from project to project. Sometimes, she’ll jot down a word or phrase in her notebook; other times, she’ll choose a chord progression on her guitar and work from there.
Fragale isn’t one to obsess about originality or sounding “different,” though. She shares a Jean-Luc Godard quote that she lives by: “Nothing is original. It’s not where you take things from; it’s where you take them to.”
Music lovers can find Fragale’s EPs and studio albums on iTunes, Spotify, Google, or Bandcamp. For more information about her upcoming shows and future releases, sign up for Fragale’s Email newsletter at ciarrafragale.wixsite.com/music.