When you sing your child a lullaby, you may be doing more than just lulling her to sleep; you could be planting the seed for a woman who will one day form a blues band, self-release three albums, travel around playing gigs and, all the while, have five children who she will sing lullabies to.
Debbie Fisher Palmarini is that little girl, a woman who raised five sons, works as a Catholic school aide and has been writing songs for 40 years, performing in varying venues all over.
Palmarini will play as part of this month’s Third Friday Art Walk Wilkes-Barre, bringing along the blues, fresh off the release of her latest collection, “Rose Mountain.”
WEEKENDER: You wrote your first song at 7 years old, so you began your musical journey at a very young age. Does musical talent run in your family or is this something you picked up on your own?
DEBBIE FISHER PALMARINI: I attribute any musical talent I may have to listening to first my Sithoo (Arabic for grandmother) and mother singing to me songs like “You Are My Sunshine,” “Bye Bye Blackbird” and Aramaic lullabies. Other elements came due to a couple factors, one being the oldest of three girls in a single parent household. I grew up early and sought much solace in my mother’s record collection and Casey Kasum’s “Top 40.” It was a world where feelings could be articulated in a music art form that I took comfort in,sort of like my playground. I learned song structure, hook and melody lines instinctively and was soon on my way to trying to create songs of my own. By the time I was 17, I had 100 songs copyrighted with the Library of Congress - that I was afraid to sing in front of people and couldn’t play on an instrument.
W: Where do you draw inspiration from for your songwriting?
DFP: Over the years, I’ve found my inspiration to be from affairs of the heart, which may be sourced in love, God, anger, frustration, jealousy, kindness, generosity, any sort of life situation that involves people’s spirits which moves me in some way.
W: Why the blues? What makes you gravitate towards that particular genre?
DFP: When I heard traditional blues for the first time, it struck me how much emotion was pouring from the singer, coupled with the instrument phrasing, complementing each other from a place more that what we are perceived at first glance, compared to other styles. It struck me so much, on a deeper level of truth or clarity of suffering perhaps; it’s hard to put into words, but just something about the blues generates a rawness and purity that captivates me.
W: You just released the album Rose Mountain – what sets your newest collection of songs apart from the previous ones?
DFP: It’s been 12 years since I released a new CD. They are newer songs about life, perseverance, what’s more important to offer or share with others now that I mature into my - dare I say - late forties. I’ve always put my sons first, as a mother, and music percolating on the back, side and sometimes front burner, depending on the day. So, this is a joy for me to have something tangible that someone might relate to and appreciate.
W: You’re a mother of five, you hold an academic job, you self-release albums, you play gigs – how do you find time to do all this and to keep it going for as long as you have?
DFP: A good friend once said, “If only I could buy more time.” Really, every day is a gift and each morning I offer it up to Divinity. asking God to guide me through and be open to what activity I need to do in the moment. It’s not easy; I don’t do everything. But, I listen to the spirit and try to respond with my heart to what is in front of me, trying to keep my dreams alive. It’s important to keep your dreams alive. They’re there for a reason that’s not always explained or understood. As mothers, we sometimes feel guilty taking time for ourselves, for things that might seem trivial to others. But, it’s the little things that speak to you that are way bigger than you realize. So, all in God’s grace does anything get done. There are many hurdles, distractions and mistakes that happen along the way. Half the time, I wonder myself.