“Don’t take rejection personally. Just keep believing in yourself and putting yourself out there.”
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erene Mastrangeli.
Italian-born pop/folk artist Erene Mastrangeli, skilled in jazz voice, classical guitar, and piano, honed her craft in Italy before making waves in NYC and beyond. Influenced by American and Italian contemporary styles, she has performed at iconic venues, collaborated with Brad Roberts of The Crash Test Dummies, and achieved recognition in major competitions across Italy. Endorsed by Italian press giants, Erene’s enchanting and soulful music resonates globally, drawing inspiration from legends like Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
Thank you for asking me to join!
I don’t know that I ever chose it actually, it feels more like it chose me. I started singing when I was little. I think I was about 7 years old when my dad suggested that my sister and I join a choir. And just about a year or two later I started taking classical guitar lessons.
I spent some time with my parents over the summer and one day my dad and I were saying how our musical inclination and desire to sing most likely came from my paternal grandmother. When I was a child, we’d go visit my grandparents in Rome every summer and she used to sing Neapolitan songs all the time around the house. She did the same when my dad was little.
I also started using music and poetry as a way to cope very early on. My guitar was almost like a stuffed animal to me. I ran to it when I needed soothing. In a matter of a few minutes difficult feelings would be transcended by the joy of music and the vibrations of the instrument. I believe I did the same with singing and writing short poems on little note pads we kept near our landline.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh sure, I made and still make so many mistakes! And I wish everyone to make some since I believe it’s the best way to learn. I was playing a show at the Living Room, in NYC, years ago. I started playing this very intimate song of mine in Italian. I was intensely absorbed in the intro of the song when I heard a cell phone ringing. I tried to keep going with the song as you are supposed to do, but the ringing continued. So I stopped playing and I looked at the audience with a funny inquisitive look on my face and I asked whose cell phone that was. Nobody came forth. The phone kept ringing and all of a sudden I realized the sound was coming from the left side of the room, near the stage. It was coming from my bag…it was MY cell phone! Oh boy, that was something, lol! I announced it to the audience and they all started laughing, and of course I was laughing with them. I went to my bag to turn off my phone and restarted the song. I usually like to turn these moments into comedy on stage and that was definitely a memorable one.
A dear friend of mine told me later on that all those slips and hiccups on stage created intimacy with the audience. When she witnessed me in one of those moments, she felt closer to me. I never forgot her saying that. I had no idea, it was so powerful. From that moment on, I became less afraid of mistakes on stage. And now, what I hear most people say after one of my shows, is that they felt connected to me, that they don’t feel a sense of separation, they didn’t feel I was up on a stage, it felt as if I were among the audience while performing. I love when people feel that way at my shows because that’s my aim, I want to make people feel close to me, feel comfortable. I love communicating from the stage, I love people talking back to me, I have so much fun when it becomes a big love fest.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
To just get out there and not wait until you’re “ready”, there is no “ready”, you just do it and learn on the way. I wish I’ve done more of that myself. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. I’ve done a lot of that and it’s pretty useless. Now I know there is no comparing. We are all unique beings with our own story, baggage and experiences. We all have something to say and if I stay close to my purpose there is more of a chance I will say what I am meant to say through my music and not desperately to say what someone else is meant to communicate with theirs.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Yes! She doesn’t know this, but my elementary school teacher impacted my life greatly. I went to public school in Italy. My elementary school teacher happened to be a lay nun. She was not supposed to teach religious things in class but she kind of did. My parents were atheists at that time, now they are agnostics. I started doing some strange things when I was about 8 years old, like carrying a cross on my back up on a mountain, and they were totally freaked out. They told me about this episode just this past summer, but I don’t remember doing that at all. We were laughing about it.
The thing is that she was not doing it in an obnoxious way. She didn’t teach our class any dogma or try to convince us of anything, she just opened us up to the possibility of something out there greater than us. She taught us about values like generosity, equality, compassion, love and helping others. I don’t think I would be who I am today without her influence. She opened up a whole world for me, she nurtured a curiosity about the mystery of life that was already in me but that I didn’t know I had. She initiated me on a path of spirituality, one of my main interests in life. I never became religious but I became a seeker. I explored Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Eastern and Western philosophies like Buddhism and the New Thought movement. I simply settled on a spirituality influenced by all those things. And my music is a direct manifestation of my spirituality.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
I try to bring goodness to the world by doing my inner work and by allowing songs to come through me. That is the first fundamental element. When something affects me strongly in the world, there are songs that want to come through and they have a message to share with me and with the world at large. Then I simply try to bring them out into the world hoping they will inspire a message of peace and love. And I try to be kind, kindness matters to me very much.
Right now I’m working on the issue of gun control, and I try to promote peace, equality and justice in the world with my newest songs.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I feel that since I was very young my purpose had to do with my name. My first name means peace and in Ancient Greek Mythology, Eirene (the original Greek spelling) is the Greek goddess of peace. In particular the cause of gun-control came up very strongly on June 12th 2016, the day of the mass shooting at the LGTBQ nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando. I am queer and that’s the day I woke up to the tragic reality of gun violence in this country. I was devastated. I felt completely lost and disoriented. The only thing I could do that day was to go to my guitar to find the soothing I was talking about earlier. A riff came and that riff became a song, “Love, Shine”. The song gave the title to my new album which will be released on Nov. 17th of this year. “Love, Shine” has marked a change in my songwriting, it solidified my purpose in life, to nurture love in people’s hearts through my music. Whenever I’m shaken up by what is happening in the world, like in this very moment, I sing that song as my prayer, asking for light to replace darkness and for love to replace hatred and violence.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Just recently I released the music video of the song and a friend of mine, who is an ordained non-denominational minister, called me up to tell me how this song says everything she has always wanted to say to the world. I felt very flattered and honored by that. She has had it playing on repeat since…My intention is not to really change people, but to make people feel loved and supported in their own path towards more love.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
I am looking to partner with LGTBQIA and anti-gun violence community organizations. I’m offering them to perform for free at some of their events and to use my song “Love, Shine” for free for their campaigns. I would love for this song to become an anthem for one of the organizations I’m getting in touch with. If some of you belong to an organization that fights against gun violence and/or protects LGTBQIA rights, please feel free to get in touch with me.
I encourage individuals to listen to “Love, Shine”, watch the music video, and share them with their friends and family, and with people who they feel may need some soothing and a warm embrace in this very difficult moment we are in.
Why do you think music in particular has the power to create social change and create a positive impact on humanity?
I believe music has created social changes throughout history. I’m thinking of Pete Seeger, Helen Reddy, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Sinéad O’Connor, just to name a few.
Music changes people’s lives, it has certainly changed mine. It has given me respite, refuge and hope, and it continues to do so. How many times do people feel upset or stressed, they put on music and all of a sudden they are smiling or even dancing. I find that music has the most immediate impact on people of all the arts. Not to say that it’s better, it just has this instant effect, it’s like magic. And I believe that social change happens slowly and starts with one person at a time.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
I wish I received more encouragement and positive reinforcement, things like:
- “Don’t take rejection personally. Just keep believing in yourself and putting yourself out there.”
- “When a door closes, another one opens.”
- “You are loved and treasured no matter what.”
- “You are strong and powerful, and you have the ability to choose.”
- And finally, I wish someone had asked me as a child: “What do you want?” / “What do you like?”. Young girls of my generation in my country in general were not asked those questions, were not encouraged to find our own, ask for what we wanted and needed. We were not taught to say No but always to say Yes and obey. It has taken me all these years to learn that I can trust myself and my instincts, that my body is sacred, that I can ask for what I want and need, and that I can choose.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I already have the name for it: THE LOVESHINE PROJECT. I would like this movement to promote more love and light into the world. It would support people who are doing good in the world. It would have a news channel that would give only good news. It would do features on unknown people who are changing lives everyday and that nobody knows anything about. It would also support enlightened businesses that produce goods and services that benefit humanity and the environment, that care about the land and town they are in, that value their employees and pays them salaries way above average. It’ll be a movement for world peace.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson
When I first heard this quote I had just performed at a club in Manhattan. Someone spoke it into the microphone as part of their set. I still remember how struck by it I felt. I had never heard it before and it changed everything for me. The idea that what I was really afraid of was my light and my power was so counterintuitive and yet it made total sense. I always try to remember it when I’m afraid to be visible and I try to play small. Me being small doesn’t allow me to channel all that the Universe wants to manifest through me in this lifetime, it doesn’t serve anyone.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oprah! No doubt. I simply love her work and what she is about. She has helped all of us discover incredible authors and spiritual teachers, people who have changed and continue to change lives. She cares about what really matters and uses her platforms to do good. It would be amazing to have a conversation with her, share ideas, hear her take on some of my work and receive inputs from her on how I could be more effective. I’m pretty sure I’d be transformed by that conversation.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Music Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Erene Mastrangeli Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.