WEST PITTSTON – Global pandemic or not, the show must go on.
Many area musicians, like everyone else during the COVID-19 crisis, had to stop working – no gigs, no recording, and no group practices.
The lifeblood of performing in front of an audience came to a screaming halt when bars, restaurants and venues had to close their doors as mandated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the middle of March.
Early on, it wasn’t clear how long the shutdown would be and certainly nobody expected the world to stop for over a four- to eight-week period. Eventually, many artists took to social media and began to perform live from living rooms, bedrooms and basements all over Greater Pittston and Wyoming Valley.
Tori Viccica, an already established 18-year-old singer/songwriter from West Pittston, found that she was in the same predicament and decided to take the act to social media as well during the shutdown.
Viccica is a self-described rocker playing a mean electric guitar with a flair for acoustic having a distinctive vibrato to her voice that is easily recognizable no matter if she’s singing a cover song, an original, rock n’ roll or country.
Since the shutdown, with cellphone in hand, Viccica heads to the basement of her parent’s home, fires up Facebook Live and plays for anyone and everyone who cares to tune in to catch her perform up to two-hours for the night.
“Social media is a great way to gain fans and reach a lot of people, so I’m very fortunate to have that available to perform,” Viccica said.
“In the beginning (of the shutdown), I was panicking and I think everyone was, but I think it’s actually given me a lot of time to sit down and write and get my hands on recording,” Viccica said. “I’m miles from where I was before the shutdown. I’m actually reaching larger audiences through social media. It’s exciting to see all the feedback.”
Prior to the worldwide crisis, the 2019 Wyoming Area grad didn’t wait until high school graduation to get on the road, she’s been a veteran performer for several years playing wherever she could play for a person under the age of 18.
“At one point, about a year or two ago, I was playing three or four shows a week which was pretty tiring,” Viccica admitted, juggling her senior of high school while performing. “I slowed down to one or two a week around graduation and recently I started to pick back up again before the pandemic hit. I had a lot of shows booked and unfortunately, everything is on pause currently.”
It’s not often you find an 18-year-old that has the drive, talent, songwriting ability, and distinct voice that soaks everything like a sponge pertaining to the recording industry especially since she leans toward rock n’ roll.
“I’ve been writing songs and getting discouraged with them for as long as I could remember,” Viccica admitted. “I think I was probably between the ages of 10 and 12 when I wrote my first song and it wasn’t very good and I can’t remember what it was but I know it wasn’t good.”
Since the early years of playing and writing, she would buried herself in her room learning, growing and maturing both as a musician and a songwriter.
For her high school graduation, Viccica wrote the class song, “Memories Will Remain,” which was impressive enough to catch the eye of 98.5 KRZ’s Jeff Walker, so much so, he gave it airtime during his show.
“She’s going to be a star,” Walker said. “I heard her (class) song on Facebook, and I thought this is a great song because there are many great singers all over the country and many here in this area, but there just is not a lot of great songwriters. That song she wrote for her class was amazing.”
Walker, known for writing parody songs since the 1990s performed by the band the Whack Jobs, contacted Viccica to sing a parody song he wrote about the pandemic entitled “Corona Fight Song,” a take off of the Rachel Platten tune, “Fight Song.”
“I was trying to think who around here could really hit the right aggression for the song,” Walker said. “The song is about stop wallowing, get up, come on this is America, we’ve overcome far worse things like World War II that comes to mind, so we could overcome this (pandemic).”
Walker continued, “I knew how great of a singer she is and I talked at length with John Young (Elite Audio Records president) who’s been working with her a lot. I knew she’s not what I call a pop singer, but I’ve heard her on Facebook at night playing all different genres with her guitar and I thought her voice has the right quality that she could create that urgency I was looking for like, come on get up, we can do this. She said, “Yeah, I can do that.’”
Walker was happy with Viccica from the start after she sang the song to him a cappella.
“The song is played a lot on KRZ, and it’s pretty cool to hear it,” Viccica said.
Viccica has been working hard during the COVID-19 crisis picking up additional recording skills at home where she recently invested in recording software where she can belt out studio quality material suitable for airplay without going through a large recording studio.
“I have a pretty decent laptop, and it works well with the studio program I purchased,” Viccica said. “All you need is the software and interface with input levels, your headset levels and you can record anything just like a full-on studio.”
“Just in the last few months, I’m getting a grip on recording my own stuff and getting the idea to be completely independent as a recording artist,” Viccica said. “For me, this is a huge step in my career.”
Viccica was looking forward to 2020 playing more jobs and to promote her self-titled EP “Tori V” released in December 2019 or having the chance to perform with her new band, “I’m not sure what we will call the new band,” Viccica admitted. Her last band was called Tori V & The Ex-Boyfriends; a name she might revive.
She is currently working on not one but two CDs; one will be acoustic and the second will be with a full band. Viccica isn’t sure on the release dates of either project but she’s hoping for some time in 2020.
The pandemic put the skids on a pretty big job as an opening act at the famed Mauch Chunk Opera House at Jim Thorpe this spring. The show is now on hold until the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
Viccica said she is proud to be totally self-sufficient funding all of her projects on her own without help from her parents Paula and Joe Viccica.
“My parents are totally supportive but I think they were getting sick of going to shows all the time,” Viccica, jokingly, said. “They think I just play hard rock music; they enjoy it but it’s rock music, not what they listen to, but they think it’s good. My dad is actually more of a fan and my mom helps me figure things when I need a second opinion – so yeah, they are very supportive.”
For now, Viccica will stay home and stay safe taking advantage of the downtime to learn as much as possible about honing her craft, writing, practicing and recording.
“I want to keep growing, release albums, get my name out there in hopes to reach a large audience,” Viccica said. “I just want to get out there and work my way up to play bigger venues and theaters.”
For now, you can catch Viccica performing live on her Facebook account once a week or head to her YouTube channel at Tori V for previously recorded songs. You can also visit her website at www.toriviccicamusic.com.