Battistelli headlines Ole Brook Festival

Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 5, 2012

It’s her first time as a headliner, but she’s a stage veteran.

     And the stage is right where Francesca Battistelli will be Saturday night as she makes the Ole Brook Festival her latest stop in the “Hundred More Years” tour.

     Battistelli released her first studio album “Paper Heart” in 2008 and her second studio release “Hundred More Years” in 2011 and has soared to the heights of the Christian music scene, scoring awards for artist of the year, female vocalist of the year and song of the year at the 2011 Dove Awards.

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     Those wins yielded a headlining tour, with Sidewalk Prophets, Andy Cherry and City Harbor opening for her. The tour comes to Brookhaven’s downtown this Saturday night beginning at 6:30 p.m. across from the Inez Hotel.

     She’s racked up big record and single sales, but top billing on a tour is the next step in her career Battistelli has been waiting for.

     “It’s been a dream,” she said in an interview Thursday.

     That dream, though, brings greater responsibility for Battistelli.

     “There’s the decisions and all the behind the scenes things you don’t think about it,” she said.

     It’s more work, but it also allows for greater creative control and fulfillment.

     “My fingerprints are all over it,” Battistelli said. “I feel like I have more ownership. I’m more invested. Everything is the way I envision it in my head.”

     But when she steps up to the microphone, she feels she’s right she belongs.

     “I feel so comfortable on the stage because I’ve been on the stage for so long,” she said.

     That’s thanks to an early induction to music via her family.

     “I grew up in a musical family,” Battistelli. “My parents come from the musical theater world.”

     Battistelli, 27, grew up in Orlando, Fla., and was involved in local music theater.

     The transition from the musical world she grew up in to the musical world she lives in now began when she took up songwriting for herself.

     “I started writing songs in high school and felt called to Christian music in college,” she said. “I started pursuing it as much as I could, just playing and writing.”

     She still sees the mark of those early musical theater years in her approach to songwriting.

     “I try to tell a story in the way I write,” she said.

     That writing process, whether she’s working alone or with a collaborator, often takes different forms.

     “Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody and no words, sometimes just a great lyric,” Battistelli said. “It’s always a little different.”

     The feedback she receives to the songs she’s written and recorded is one thing she craves most about the time spent touring. Battistelli tries to make time to interact with her fans, and she calls many of the stories she hears “incredible.”

     “Angel by Your Side” is a particular favorite of hers because of how important it is to many of her listeners.

     “I’ve heard amazing stories about how it’s touched people’s lives,” Battistelli said.

     As she preps for Saturday night’s performance in Brookhaven, Battistelli said she likes to tweak some of her songs live, but not too dramatically.

     “We stick pretty close to the record, but there will be some surprises,” she said. “Hopefully people will like what they hear.”

     She also sometimes likes to try out new material she’s writing for the next album.

     Battistelli admits the time spent on the road and preparing for the shows takes a lot of energy, especially as a mother of two young children. But there’s also another side she was quick to highlight.

     “Part of it is invigorating,” she said. “I love it.”