James Callahan

VIDEO PREMIERE: Resilient rocker Karen Bella takes a shot of ‘Jack Honey’ in debut music video

VIDEO PREMIERE: Resilient rocker Karen Bella takes a shot of ‘Jack Honey’ in debut music video
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Early in March, the gang here at Camp Rattler in West Pittston was contacted by our superstar PR agent Denise Kovalevitch of DMK Publicity, her boutique agency located in the greater Philadelphia area. Denise, who I have known since the mid-’90s, works with clients such as Blues Traveler, Candlebox, Steve Vai, Corey Glover of Living Colour, QVC, and Heidi Klum Jewelry, to quickly namedrop a few, but also quietly represents famous TV and film celebrity types, high-end chefs, and the passion project companies of a few music industry biggies. She is a superhero in her field with press chops for days and a Rolodex that could choke a horse.

She is, as the kids say, no fucking joke.

After a quick catch-up, Denise tells me about a current client that is in the market for single art to accompany a digital release (Camp Rattler also works in high-end design for many, diverse and forward thinking bands, brands, and agencies). She, upfront, informs me that the artist in question is not the ilk of the customary Camp Rattler clientele. I knew immediately what she was jokingly (not jokingly) trying to say – this would not be extreme hardcore, blazing punk rock, blistering metal, or even the odd alt rapper or dark country crooner. This musician was an adult female, pop-oriented, singer/songwriter.

After a shared chuckle, and certainly not wishing to paint my kooky collective into an artistic corner, I shared my honest interest in the project and promptly pumped Denise for more information on this new account. Like a flash, she emailed me the single, a press shot, and the website for Karen Bella.

Here is what we learned from Karen’s website:

New York-based Karen Bella is one of the hardest working singer/songwriters in the business, and after enduring 2020 filled with setbacks, many may say she is also one of the most resilient. Pre-pandemic, she performed eight to 10 shows a week in the tri-state area, playing such notable venues as the Rockwood Music Hall, The Bitter End, the Landmark Theater in Port Washington, Great South Bay Music Festival, and the Philadelphia Music Festival. Despite her busy schedule, she still had time to write, record, and release her debut album and perform high-profile shows that not only earned her a VIP audition for NBC’s “The Voice,” she was also named a Sam Ash Music Store “Spotlight Artist,” and she has been an official Fishman endorsed artist since 2019.

In March of 2020, Bella was set to release her new self-titled, six-song EP, produced by Josh Dion of Paris Monster, which she describes as “capturing her experiences and spirit,” and one that was already being hailed as her strongest to date.

Karen Bella premiered live at the Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on March 13, 2020, the night before the world stopped due to COVID-19. Following the performance, she suffered a broken wrist requiring surgery and several months of therapy, and then she contracted COVID-19. Deciding to put the album release on hold, Bella focused on getting healthy.

Finally, now in 2021, after recovering successfully, “Karen Bella” is being released to radio and getting the attention it deserves. Her self-titled project is a heartfelt record that transcends genres and encourages deep listening. The lyrics on “Karen Bella,” at times, feel light and free, then dive without apology into traumatic relationships, betrayal, and past struggles with substance abuse. Though every song has a different twist stylistically, the production team and musicians worked hard to craft a consistent, crisp, authentic, timeless, and even dreamy sound.

“I grew up listening to a multitude of genres. As a songwriter, there are many benefits to having genre versatility,” Bella said. “I get to share my love for folk, rock, R&B, pop, and country to its fullest. This record represents that. I want my fans to enjoy these little chapters of my life. My goal as a songwriter is to have a positive effect on the listener, because music has been a miraculous coping mechanism for me, helping me to fight the depression and anxiety that followed traumatic life events.”

I was immediately impressed, having been entrenched in the New York City music scene for almost two decades, I absolutely know how difficult it is to not only break into this closed-door community but, more so, sustain and remain. Those two traits seem the most elusive arrows in the East Coast professional musician’s quiver. Having “return fans” in the city is a hard-earned privilege.

I set to task fleshing out an independent art piece that would adequately represent the artist that I had read about and the song, “Jack Honey,” that we were playing around the office. I am not sure of the exact sequence of the following steps of the story but, through a series of telephonic meetings with Denise and Karen, it was decided that Camp Rattler would be doing a larger media campaign. We signed on for photos, a feature-length video, Instagram drops, BTS, and design materials.

Now… I would like to say that we chose to work with Karen because we were sought out by DMK Publicity (a wholly egotistical notion)… or possibly that we prefer to work with emerging artists on the brink (which is also very true).

The truth of the matter is that Karen Bella’s single, “Jack Honey,” is an absolute pop “earworm.” It has radio-sensible barbs that root themselves to your very core. It accesses that tiny portion of your soul that is reserved for the guiltiest of audio pleasures and unapologetically sets up residence in your frontal lobe. And then throws a house-warming party. “Jack Honey” is pop fucking gold.

Flash forward to June 18, 2021. We are on location near King of Prussia at a cooler than cool juke joint called the Bridgeport Ribhouse. The “Ribby” (as it is referred to by the regulars) is a rocker/biker bar with badass musical features, a killer staff, and ribs so good they will make you “wanna” slap your mama. If you make it out that way, stop in and say “hello” to the owner, Melissa. She is the best kind of human. Period.

That particular morning, Camp Rattler teamed up with the gangs from Video Ninja Productions and UbiFire to ensure the highest level of production and professionalism. Much love to both teams. We had referred downtown Philly salon owner Brit Goldberg (Heavy Metal Hair Salon) to assist Karen Bella with attaining the perfect rock ‘n’ roll hair and makeup treatment for the day. As we began take after take after take – resetting of shots, lighting adjustments, audio issues, reorganizing extras, more takes – Karen stayed on point. She remained current, involved, and at her peak for close to 10 hours that day (and subsequently several additional outdoor hours in 100-degree temperatures a few days later) to complete her shots and close out the pre-production for her first professional music video. We were excited with the raw material captured and the ease of process with this particular artist, but also a bit curious.
Where did this tenacity come from? Was it the product of that “extra drive” that artists destined for commercial greatness must possess?

In one of our final, post-production conversations, I finally realized the source of this pop stalwartness.

As we discussed the possibility of continuing our professional relationship and moving forward on a second release for Karen, the conversation turned a bit socio-political. We spoke candidly on the hard stuff. We wandered from national news topics to world news issues, sharing our opinions for the first time, openly on topics generally reserved for one-on-ones with like-minded cohorts. Karen then shared that missing tidbit of info that immediately explained that something “additional” that we recognized within her work ethic.

Karen explained to me that, when she was younger, she had spent a number of years living with family in a war-torn country. She described attempting to sleep through missile attacks. She talked of her fears of going out to a nightclub or of riding a public bus. It was then that I realized where this no-nonsense approach to her craft and the development of that tough skin necessary to “swim with the sharks” originated. It was the resolve that comes when one has experienced, endured, and triumphed over the most brutal of life’s tests.

It was simple. This cool resolve was the product of surviving what thousands of souls don’t. It is our distinct pleasure to submit, for your approval, “Jack Honey” by Karen Bella.

Proceed with caution – highly addictive.