Michaela DeBenedictis glistens in vivid southern California sun.
The Los Angeles blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist radiates strength, positivity and growth on her debut sun-drenched album, Resilient, with The Sea Tease.
“All the songs are super personal, and I was diagnosed with PTSD five years ago. This album was, ‘Here’s everything that I had to process and all the people I had to process it with.’ ‘Resilient,’ the title track, really came out of that,” said DeBenedictis, frontwoman for The Sea Tease.
“My mother-in-law actually said to me when I was a couple of years into my recovery, ‘Baby girl, you’re resilient. No matter what happens to you, when you get knocked down, you just pick yourself right back up.’ That just really stuck with me, and I ended up writing ‘Resilient’ off of that.”
Released May 1, Resilient includes poignant lyrics beautifully draped in DeBenedictis’ soulful vocals and illustrious bluesy guitar solos alongside vibrant piano, rhythmic bass, soft percussion and tender acoustic guitar. Together, the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation unearth a “desert magic” vulnerability that emits courage and authenticity throughout The Sea Tease’s seven tracks.
Part of that vulnerability shines on “Gold,” a majestic track beaming with echoey sitars, bluesy electric guitars, light cymbal taps, bouncy percussion and bright acoustic guitar.
In a sense, DeBenedictis has become a “Gold Dust Woman” of the southern California desert weathered and worn as she sings, “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea/And that’s where you should be/You can only drain so much life out of my bones/Before they fossilize and turn to gold.”
“It’s been so long now, and I’ve noticed a part of the healing journey is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I used to think that hiding yourself, being tough and not letting anybody in, I thought that was strength. But I realized strength is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your story with other people,” she said.
DeBenedictis’ sonic brilliance continues on “Resilient” as ringing electric guitars, delicate cymbal taps, rich bass, sparkling piano and intermittent drum strikes echo her recovery and renewal. She hauntingly sings, “Cuz my light burns brighter than any darkness put on me/And my strength runs deeper than any fear in my veins/What we were will never be again/Resilient.”
“The most important thing in music is about connecting with other people. To me, music is this intense form of communication between two people, and you are communicating on a really deep level that maybe you can’t communicate by just having a conversation. If people can listen to this, connect with it and feel like they’re being heard, then that’s all that I’m doing it for,” she said.
DeBenedictis solders a deeper connection with listeners on “Stardust and Sun” as gleaming piano, light maracas, faint cymbal taps, delicate drum strikes, quiet bass and bluesy emotional guitars fill an internal void.
She revealingly sings, “When your bones feel a million years old/And no one will pick up the phone/Your legs feel like they’re gonna give out underneath/You’re just looking for a piece of home.”
“I like albums that move; I like albums that go together and have a structure. That’s what I tried to do, and all the songs on here, I put them in a specific order, and they are this journey that I have been through,” she said.
The highly personal Sea Tease journey ends on blues-fueled cover of the Scorpions’ 1984 heavy metal power ballad, “Still Loving You.” DeBenedictis fuses soulful, screaming vocals with Ty Asoudegan’s glam hard rock guitar.
“I had been covering that song for years, but I didn’t have that cool ripping guitar solo in it. The song is really a call and response between the vocals and the guitar, so I pulled Ty in to do it at the Whisky with me, and it just popped off. We went and played it at The Viper Room, and we kept hitting the strip with this song, and when it came time to do the album, I asked him to come in and play guitar on that track,” she said.
DeBenedictis also collaborated with pop-rock producer and multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo, pianist Danny Henry and partner Brian Jordan throughout Resilient at Reseda Ranch Studios.
She met Perdomo while performing an acoustic set at the Whisky a Go Go last year after relocating to Los Angeles from Philadelphia. That night at the Whisky, Perdomo approached DeBenedictis about working together, and the two spent three months shaping tracks for Resilient.
“We were able to collaborate on such a great level together, and Fernando was able to bring his immense skill and such a groove and such a vibe to all these things. They were not full-band songs; they were my lyrics and a chord progression, and I played guitar. We’d go in the studio, and I’d play it on acoustic for him, and he’d record a scratch track, and then we build everything off of that,” she said.
From the Cradle to Los Angeles
DeBenedictis starting building her music career while growing up in Plainfield, Conn. She started singing, writing music and playing guitar at age 10, thanks to her musician father who handed her Eric Clapton’s 1994 album, From the Cradle. Four years later, she formed an all-girl band and gigged 10 to 15 times a month throughout high school.
By her early 20s, DeBenedictis relocated to Philadelphia with Jordan, taught at local music schools, performed live as The Sea Tease and worked at Ropeadope Records. Not long after that, she set her sights on moving to Los Angeles and landed a product manager position with Palawan Productions.
Today, she relishes living in Los Angeles and manages several artists through Golden Poppy Music, which provides booking, career strategy, marketing, songwriting and other music industry services. With Resilient now available on all streaming platforms, DeBenedictis wants to write the next chapter in her musical journey.
“I’m definitely going to have another release. I don’t think I could ever stop making music. I think probably within the next year I’ll be working on this phase. Moving to LA was the end of a phase of my life, and that’s what this whole album is about. I feel like this first year in LA is going to be another album,” she said.