Local Musician Check-in: The Design

Posted on May 1, 2013 by


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Jennifer Stuart at The Paramount Idol 2012

For the past month, it’s been kind of hard to miss the Charlottesville’s Paramount Idol advertisements around town. This month’s artist check-in has a special connection to this 2nd annual event.

Nelson County’s homegrown rock/jazz/soul fusion band, The Design, is fronted by last year’s Paramount Idol Winner, Jennifer Stuart. Once you hear Jen’s voice or see a live performance of The Design, you will see why she holds the first Paramount Idol title. Captivating audiences with her joyful charisma and powerful vocals, this band is one to look out for.

This month, Jen and drumming partner, Jacob Tal, share their love and passion for music and how they desire to inspire.

A Q&A with Jennifer Stuart and Jacob Tal of The Design

Tell us a little about yourselves: where you’re from, when did you start the band?

We are all Virginia babies except Jason. He’s from NY. We started working on this project in 2007. It has changed a lot since then.

When and why did you start playing music/singing? Talk about your bandmates and what instruments they play.

Jen (Vocalist): Singing was a major family past time in my household. I’ve been singing since I can remember. Once I went away to school, singing and dancing was how I connected with friends, how I studied, and how I coped.

My amazing bandmates are Jacob Tal – Percussion, Dave Bartok – Bass and Guitar, Jason Viglietta – Keyboard and Synth, Jimmy Spitler – Guitar and Bass, and Jon Goff – Guitar/Bass and harmonica.

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Most influential artist. Child? Teen? Adult?

Jen: As a child, Nina Simone. As a teen, Erykah Badu, and it’s been that way ever since.

When did you write your first song?

Jen: Just in case a jingle counts, I wrote my first jingle when I was 11. If that doesn’t count, then I wrote a love song when I was 14.

What influences your songwriting?

Jen: Seems like everything. The weather, my mood, the vibe of the collective, what I’ve eaten, what I’ve had to drink!

Also, the way the pen glides and what I’m writing on. I write on napkins and in journals. But, the best is an empty page in a college ruled
notebook with a mid grade pen like BIC.

What aspects of life excite you and stir your affections, fuel your passions? (i.e. nature, heartbreak, joy, pain, relationships, serenity…)

Jen: Love.

When did you play your first gig as The Design? What emotions and thoughts ran through your head after finishing the set?

Jen: Funny… I just spent quite a while discussing this with Jacob. We have 2 first gigs in mind : ) One was at Michael’s Bistro in 2010 and it was terrible. We walked off the stage wondering if we would ever try that again. One was at The Local in 2010, it was a
“Get Him To The Greek” themed party. We walked away sure that we would travel the world together and play tons of festivals! We don’t know which was the first.

Do you get pumped or nervous pre-show?

Jen/Jacob: Yes.

What does a day in the life of a modern day songwriter look like from your perspective?

Jen: Work followed by band rehearsal, gig, or personal writing time.

What do you want people to take from hearing your music? As a fan, what do you want people to take from experiencing your live show?

Whatever they need. I like to write leaving lots up to interpretation. I write according to life experiences and use many of them in one song. My intent for the listener is that they can hear their own story. The Design as a whole believes music is healing. We want our audience to leave inspired.

What does the not-so-distant future hold for The Design? Tell us about your recent CD release!

We’re recording a demo with The Design Quartet. We are playing our first headline at Fridays after Five on July 26th. Our CD release for When Wit Hits The Fan was great. It was at Fellini’s, a place we consider home as a band. This was our 2nd release but first live album. We explored a jam based sound on this project and went through a lot emotionally as a group. The album is pretty intimate.

Lastly… Describe The Design in 10 words. Be creative!

Eclectic, diverse, versatile, funky, soulful, genuine, percolating, scrappy, retro, growing.


Check out their new single Dark Lightning from their recent album, and next time they have a show in town, you know you have to be there!