PDT Staff Writer>
As a 3-year-old, Dana Romanello astounded her family when she starting singing "Blue Moon of Kentucky." She knew all the words. Since then, Romanello has been on a musical journey that has culminated in the release of her new self-titled CD.
"My grandpa (the late Don Romanello) was a musician and my dad, aunt and uncle had formed a bluegrass band called the Poverty String Band," she said. "When I was about 3, they were all having a big jam session at Shawnee Lodge. They started playing Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon of Kentucky.' I recognized it from hearing it so much around the house, and started singing. My grandpa heard me and made me sing it again by myself."
There was never any question that music would be a big part of her life, so at her grandpa's side, she gave her first performance. When she was 9, she performed regularly with the family's band.
With a new CD under her belt, Romanello is no stranger to the public eye.
A 2000 graduate of Valley High School and daughter of Joe and Angel Romanello of Lucasville, Romanello became involved in the River Cities Dance Company with Tammy Jo's Studio in Greenup, Ky., along with school activities and showing market hogs in 4-H. After auditioning and being accepted into the music program at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., she began studying music education with an emphasis in voice. A former National Cheerleader Association All-American, she earned a spot as a cheerleader for the Thundering Herd, carefully mouthing the words to the cheers so she would be prepared for her voice lessons that week. In college she was also involved in Huntington Outdoor Theater, Marshall University Chorus, Marshall University Dance Theater and Opera for Youth, a program designed to introduce children to classical music.
Romanello moved to Nashville shortly after graduating from Marshall, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in communications studies, with a minor in music.
While working at Guitar Center and doing choreography jobs for a high school cheerleading squad, she landed a job on Music Row and also became a cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans for two years.
"I didn't know anyone in Nasvhille, so I thought it would be a good way to meet people," Romanello said. "It was like having a group of 30 sisters."
While honing her songwriting skills, Romanello works with Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, in affiliate relations as a program administrator for American Country Countdown on ABC Music Radio in Nashville. She also sings at Opryland with Louise Mandrell's show, which for Romanello, is a big honor.
"As a kid, I loved the Mandrell sisters -- Barbara, Irlene and Louise -- so it's quite an honor for me to be working with Louise," she said.
On Nov. 8, a CD release party was conducted locally at Southern Ohio Museum.
"It was good to see everybody -- my teachers and friends," she said.
Her new CD, her first, has all original music -- she wrote or co-wrote all 10 tracks.
Romanello said ideas for songs come to her at any time -- while driving, working, at home or shopping. She said she has always loved poetry and creates a story before writing the song.
One song in particular is special for her. She explained she and her co-writer, Ronnie Criss, had just about reached a dead end after a long stretch of writing, so she went back to look at some of her grandfather's songs. It was a song from 1964, and she found a chorus and verse that sparked an idea which took off from there. The song is "No Matter What I Do."
"I had a chance to co-write with my grandfather. That's very exciting," Romanello said.
Many bluegrass groups have influenced Romanello, but, she said, Ricky Skaggs will always be her favorite. In 2006, she coordinated promotion and publicity for Skaggs Family Records.
She calls her music a blend of bluegrass and country and that the process of blending the two begins with songwriting.
"Some ideas require a bluegrass sound and some require a country feel," she said. "Sometimes I will take what I feel like are contemporary country lyrics and put them with a grassy melody. It really just depends on the song."
To expand on those ideas, Romanello will be writing a weekly column beginning in January on American Country Countdown's www.acctop40.com.
"It will focus on stories and interviews from top country and bluegrass artists and will highlight all of the connections between the two genres," she said. "It will also include the Top 15 albums from the Billboard Bluegrass chart, since that chart is no longer printed in Billboard Magazine."
Romanello, who also plays guitar and is learning to play the banjo, is a member of the Nashville Songwriter's Association, the Country Music Association, the International Bluegrass Music Association and is a Leadership Bluegrass Alumnus.
Adding to her learning experiences, she also has appeared in several music videos, including Toby Keith and Julie Roberts.
"The Julie Roberts shoot was the most fun," Romanello said. "We worked from 5 a.m. till around noon doing the same things over and over again, but we were shooting in the cosmetics department at Dillard's, so it was OK."
Fulfilling another life-long dream, Romanello also performed alongside Trace Adkins at the CMT awards, appearing as a backup dancer.
"It was amazing," she said.
-- Dana Romanello