By Sharon Allen Gilder
Domenic Cicala may be the owner of O’Hair Salon & Spa on Main Street in Kentlands, but his latest cut is his newly released CD, “Who’s Foolin Who.” A Villages of Urbana resident, Cicala could be classified as a “triple threat” with his multi-faceted talents: He is adept at running a salon and styling hair, writing and performing music, and capturing beautiful photographic images.
Periodically, Cicala is asked when he is going to retire from the salon. “I don’t know what I’d do in retirement that’s different. If these are my retirement hobbies, I’m committed and serious. Everything fits into a world where I can do it all. With the music at night, I don’t have to quit my day job,” said Cicala, who is a Montgomery County native.
Cicala’s album title pays homage to his start in music, with no formal training at a self-proclaimed “ripe old age,” and he describes the title song’s theme as a flawed relationship where the couple is not “on the same page.” He said, “The tag of the song is in the lyrics of the first and last verses, ‘If you thought that I could be true, I thought you could be too.’”
Cicala describes himself as a rudimentary guitar player and he once thought about buying a T-shirt that read, “World’s okayest guitarist.” But shortly after learning to play, he knew he wanted to write.
Three years ago, he took his first step into a recording studio and laid down the track for “Lisa’s Song,” a particularly meaningful composition because its namesake was his kidney donor. Diagnosed with the genetic disease PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease), Cicala underwent a kidney transplant four years ago. He fondly refers to his donor as ‘Miss Mississippi’ and continues to advocate for the charity Donate Life to increase awareness and encourage donor registration.
Cicala classifies his musical genre as Americana—some country, some blues, some rock and roll, noting that the well Americana dips into has very blurred lines. He said his music is hard to classify because “it’s a blend of decades, musical influences, and dark places that just come through—all the situations of life.” He added that his songs are semi-autobiographical with an emphasis on ‘semi.’ “Because I’m a fledging writer I fall on all things, bad love and trouble—all parts of a relationship, good and bad. It only takes one bad relationship to give you some really great songs. It just flows like a fountain.”
He finds writing cathartic. “One song came from a real painful moment and I found real relief immediately—such a cool thing. Having sat on the sidelines of music all these years and wishing I could write a song and then to be able to write, I feel like a kid taking training wheels off. You do it for the feeling, exorcising demons, or just for the accomplishment of it—I don’t do it for the profit, I know that. The need to write makes you want to write. You write a lyric, and when you attach that to music it’s magic.”
Thirteen songs comprise “Who’s Foolin Who.” In “Lili,” the eighth track, the vibrato of an accordion works in concert with Cicala’s guitar, giving the song what he calls a sidewalk sound like a French café. “We’re the only rock and roll waltz band,” laughed Cicala. Horns, a piano, and gospel quartet give the second track, “Trouble,” an R&B feel.
Cicala rallied 25 other artists inside and outside of the Washington area to sing and play on various tracks. Local vocal powerhouse Sandra Dean of the Sandra Dean Band sings backup on tracks two and three. “His music has a style of its own, and I thoroughly enjoyed recording with Domenic,” said Dean in an email.
Cicala is a driving force behind Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green Singer Songwriter Concert Series. Several years ago when he met with Suzanne Takahashi, music program coordinator at the Arts Barn in Kentlands, she shared with him that the Arts Barn was such a great space they should be doing more music. He volunteered to reach out to some people and book the acts—the rest is history. The concert series began its third season on Sept. 6 with performer Hannah Aldridge, and Marshall Crenshaw appears on Oct. 4. This year, O’Hair Salon & Spa is sponsoring the series. Cicala conducts photo shoots for the artists at no charge and provides transportation to and from the airport as needed.
Takahashi said, “The concert series is an opportunity for people to hear music of this quality locally. Domenic is a curator in a way—he suggests the musicians and he is the first presenting sponsor. His involvement is an outgrowth of his personal interest in music and he is very supportive of the community and arts in the community.” She added that the size of the venue allows for the musicians and patrons to interact more and creates an intimate musical experience.
“There is nothing else in Montgomery County like it,” said Cicala. He hopes somebody becomes inspired to open a music venue that provides the environment that caters to touring musicians like the concert series at the Arts Barn. “The shows have been stellar. I’d love to see this parlay into more music in this area. I’m tired of driving. There’s nothing this side of the river. We’re the missing quadrant in Northern Montgomery County and Frederick. I’d like to see music in my backyard.”
His band, comprised of Cicala and Jeff Carmella on guitars, Steve Kochersperger on bass, and Joel App on drums, plays in different configurations—sometimes as Domenic Cicala & Thensome, other times as the Domenic Cicala Trio, Duo or Solo. “As musicians, you want lots of opportunities,” he said. The band predominately plays cover songs from known and lesser-known groups with some original tunes in the mix.
Cicala’s multiple talents have rendered him the moniker “Renaissance man.” “I joke about that. I think now they call that ADD,” he said. Aspirations for the future are to play at Jammin’ Java in Arlington, Iota Club & Café in Vienna, and be an opening act at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. “I want to get back into the studio, get three tracks laid down and have my writing improve. I’m new to the process, but I think I have the heart for it and I want to get better at it.”
For more information, visit www.domeniccicala.com.