by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter
Dan Reifsnyder: I know you got into music at a young age…can you tell us about that?
Briana Domenica: Yeah! I started singing when I was in diapers. The first song I learned was “Jesus Loves Me” and there’s literally video footage of me in my diaper singing it.
DR: Could be a music video!
BD: *laughs* It could, it could. Quite frankly I’d rather that stay hidden. But I’ve always loved music and my parents have always had music playing in the house. All different types of music from like Andrew Lloyd Webber to Andrea Bocelli, Celine, Whitney. It was always something that was a big part of my life. And then in second grade I started actually taking voice lessons and I was like “this is my passion, this is what I’m meant to be doing.”
DR: Where are you from originally?
BD: I was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts but I lived in Saint Thomas, USVI for three years, and I was primarily raised in Lighthouse Point, South Florida.
DR: Nice. When did you come here?
BD: I actually moved here a little over a year ago! My one-year Nashiversary was August 10th!
DR: Awesome. How do you like it?
BD: I actually love it. I hate being away from my family because we are really close. That’s the one downside. If I could move my whole family up here it’d be ideal.
DR: Who were some of your musical influences?
BD: In my genre, my two biggest influences are For King And Country and Lauren Daigle.
DR: I love Lauren Daigle! I think she’s going to cross over, if she hasn’t already. She’s gonna be big.
BD: I totally agree! My non-Christian influences, it would be Whitney and Celine…
DR: The big voices.
BD: Yes! Oh gosh. I have so many influences, because my parents had me listening to music all over the spectrum. I love all genres.
DR: What are some songs you wish you’d written? This is a tough one for everybody.
BD: Currently, it’d probably be a tie between “God Only Knows” by For King And Country and “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. I think both of those songs are genius. Especially “God Only Knows” it’s so near and dear to my heart. I wish I had said that. As far as classic songs, probably “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney.
DR: Great songs. So how did you get connected with Sheree?
BD: I met her through Dallas Gregory of Song Rocket Music and his wife Cheri who is my P.R. person. I got the husband and wife team working with me, which is great, and Sheree is on my team too. I met her shortly after I came to Nashville. Dallas was like “We need to get you a meeting with Sheree Spoltore.” and that meeting literally changed so much. She jumped on board and started championing my cause and me and is a big part of why I’m doing the school tour. She helped me put the whole program together, got me connections for doing the PowerPoint, and has just been monumental in getting that together.
DR: Awesome! And how did you get hooked up with Dallas?
BD: Actually my co-writer from Florida, Keith, he was one of the first people in the industry in Florida to believe in what I did and me. He always said to me “You need to meet Dallas”. So on my Testimony album I did two covers and I needed licensing fees – because of course I picked two monster covers by Hillsong United and Kari Jobe. The red tape to get those on my record was a nightmare, so Keith said “Call Dallas” and I did. Dallas did all the paperwork and filing for me. Then when I came to Nashville we started working together and he signed me as one of his writers on Song Rocket Music. It’s just been a really great relationship and friendship.
DR: He’s a really nice guy.
BD: Yeah! He’s good people. And so is his wife! Both of them are just the sweetest and they’ve really taken me under their wing. It’s like I’m an adopted daughter.
DR: Very cool. What are some of your goals for the near future?
BD: I’m going to be releasing my first ever original Christmas song called “Oh Night Divine” – not to be confused with “O Holy Night” – that I wrote with Scott Barrier and Donna De Sopo, two awesome GSC members. Grammy winner Nate Cornell, who worked with For King And Country, produced the song.
DR: That must have been a thrill!
BD: Yes! It was awesome! In 2020 I’ll be releasing my new album Warrior In Me, which is going to be twelve songs – all originals. I’ll be doing a music video for both the title track off the album and the Christmas song. That’ll be exciting because those are my first big music videos. Lastly I’m planning to be touring in the schools.
DR: Nice! Now I understand you know another GSC member, Troy Castellano?
BD: Yeah! Troy, Jeff McMahon, Anatalia Joy and I got together and did a live acoustic video for my new single “Invisible” which you can stream on all platforms. We filmed it at Troy’s studio My Blue Heaven which was really fun. That was the first time I got to work with him – and he is great. So are Jeff and AJ!
DR: So what led you to Christian music specifically?
BD: I had always wanted to be a Pop singer. That was initially the goal. But it just didn’t feel right to me; the content of the songs wasn’t something I wanted to sing about. And after some family tragedies, I eventually decided I wanted to glorify God with my music.
DR: Yeah, I get that. I understand you were bullied in high school too?
BD: I was bullied in middle and high school. Just didn’t fit in, was never good enough, talented enough. The common things that most teens go through. Especially teens that aren’t into the party scene, which I was not.
DR: Ah…yeah. I wasn’t either. I get it.
BD: I had seen a lot, and knew that I didn’t want to be involved in that. I had two older brothers and I saw how partying and drugs affected their lives and I didn’t want it in my life. And when I was a teenage girl, people find that odd.
DR: Peer pressure. It’s a real thing. A lot of my good friends were bullied in school, and they’re some of the coolest, interesting people.
BD: I was shy back in high school too, and I think some people misconstrued my shyness as cockiness and being full of myself, but I was just shy.
DR: Circling back for a minute, you mentioned you had family tragedies. Do you want to talk about that?
BD: Yeah. I lost three people in my immediate family to suicide. One being my oldest brother David, when I was sixteen. The first suicide was my cousin Chris, and I was four. Most four year olds don’t know what suicide is let alone having lost a cousin. Then fast
forward to December 27th, 2007, it started out like any other day. Until the phone rang and I could hear my mom’s screams – her screams were so loud that I could hear her through my closed bedroom door and over my blaring TV. I ran out and said “What’s wrong?” and she said “David’s dead.” and I said “No, that can’t be. He’s thirty five!” and she said “He killed himself.” and I said “No, no…” because if you knew my brother, he was the most happy-go- lucky person. Mind you, in hindsight, I can see all the signs. But back then I was just shocked. That day I literally considered suicide myself. I wanted to run out in front of a car, drown myself, slit my wrist…anything that could dull the pain I was feeling. But I saw my parents suffering and I couldn’t put them through that again.
So I started cutting myself to control the pain I was feeling…I dealt with that for about four years until I was able to ask for the proper help. My music played a big part in my healing and my recovery, because I took all of that grief and put it into my songs. That’s what inspired me to start writing actually…I needed somewhere to put that grief. I found the light at the end of the tunnel. Then in 2012 we lost my Aunt Debbie to suicide. So that’s three immediate family members that we’ve lost to suicide.
DR: Wow. That’s really tough. And you’ve built a non-profit as a result of those tragedies, right?
BD: Yes, I started my non-profit in May of 2016 called Angel In The Sky for suicide prevention and awareness. I’m launching a school tour where I’ll be going to middle and high schools to share my story along with my music, as well as some tools and facts to help the kids out. My hope is that another family doesn’t have to go through what we’ve been through.
DR: Very important. High school is a difficult time for a lot of people.
BD: The thing is, when I lost my brother I picked some very unhealthy coping mechanisms by harming myself. Now I have a very healthy coping mechanism in my music and writing. I want to teach kids there are healthy coping mechanisms, start a dialogue and really educate these young adults on prevention. Also, I want to help stop the stigma. If these kids are already feeling like an outcast, they’re not going to want to go ask for help and embrace prevention to see a change. But if we talk about it and embrace preventionrts. Until I asked for help, I was just drowning. I wasn’t the person sitting before you today. I was broken. So that day literally changed the whole trajectory of my life. I hope this program can be a beacon for kids.
DR: Yeah. I really think the stigma around mental illness is changing, and it’s a good thing. I think it’s a very important conversation to have. How can people get involved, or donate to Angel In The Sky?
DR: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us and sharing your story!
BD: Thanks for having me!