“My ultimate goal is to make the genre of country soul a more popular form of music. I have seen people of all ages, races and genders dance and tell me how good this music makes them feel. Feedback from the audience is that they love the stories, can understand and relate to the lyrics and can really feel its beat.” 

Those are the words of country music artist Petrella. Born and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, she has crisscrossed the nation from Los Angeles to Nashville, developing her unique blend of R&B, roots and gospel that has earned her the title “First Lady of Country Soul.” Now that she has made a home on the Central Coast, she’s well positioned to bring a groovy kind of country to Ventura County. Her recent performances at Margarita Villa and The Canyon Club, and on the Red Light District Show, are just the beginning.

Like many, Petrella’s love for music was initially inspired by family: Her aunt and grandmother were lead vocalists in their church.

“It was natural for me to follow in their footsteps,” said Petrella, a resident of Santa Maria.

Growing up, she was further inspired by her second grade teacher, the late John Puckett, who mentored her throughout elementary and high school, and was her accompaniment until she went professional.

Today, her list of achievements is vast, including seven nationally distributed CDs. The single, “I Found Somebody,” spent 14 weeks on the national Top 100 Country Singles, peaking at No. 52. Petrella has also been nominated for New Female Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Performer of the Year by a variety of music industry organizations and publications, including Nashville Tracker Magazine.

While she was busy building her musical career, she’s had the chance to work with some of the most prestigious names in the business: Kevin Dorsey, one of Michael Jackson’s music directors; Oren Waters of the Waters Family; Phillip Ingram of the Motown recording group Switch; and singer/songwriter Alex Brown, who has performed backup for Ray Charles.

“My career began as a songwriter with the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase and continued as a recording artist working with my L.A. producer, David Scheffler, for many years,” Petrella said.

She also met her Nashville producer, Jack Gale of Playback Records, through the showcase, and cut three albums with him in Nashville.

“Six singles from my first nationally released album through Playback Records charted on the top 100 country chart of Cashbox Magazine, headquartered in L.A.,” Petrella noted.

George Albert, owner of Cashbox, and Gale were also responsible for getting her on the cover of Cashbox Magazine in March 1993.

“As you can see I have a deep connection to Southern California,” Petrella said.

After touring the country for 25 years, she and her husband chose Southern California as a location to retire — or in her case, semi-retire.

“After three years of living and performing in Pasadena and surrounding areas we relocated to Santa Maria,” Petrella said. “In keeping my Pasadena band working, we decided to split the mileage distance so Ventura County became the ideal place for performances.”

Over the years, Petrella has performed throughout the United States, touring extensively through the Southwest, Midwest and the Mountain States, with the majority of her performances in California. Some career highlights include opening for Gladys Knight at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo in Pomona, opening for the Delfonics at Jackie Robinson Park for Black History Month, and opening for AJ Croce and Billy Vera at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. 

“I also toured my one-woman show ‘18 Reasons to Live, Laugh and Love’ through the Midwest as part of the Mid-America Arts Alliance,” said Petrella, who concluded her tour at the historical Pasadena Playhouse Carrie Hamilton Theatre in the summer of 2012.

As far as her future performances in Ventura County are concerned, she is currently finalizing a date at The Garage in Ventura in September with her Pasadena band, Mixed Influence. Additionally, she has a new Mixed Influence band out of Santa Maria that made its debut earlier in June.

“We are looking forward to working in both Ventura County and the Central Coast with both bands,” she said.

Meanwhile, Petrella is putting together a new album that the she and both bands are rehearsing.

“We are looking for the best forum for release,” she said. “And I will continue to perform throughout Ventura County and the Central Coast.”

As a songwriter and recording artist, she enjoys both equally, she added.

“Because of my love of people, my live performances allow me to interface with them and introduce the sound of country soul.”

For more information on Petrella, including music and show schedule, visit www.countryversial.com.