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Rena Guinn set to release new album at South Hill Cider

Rena Guinn
Rena Guinn

For the past 10 years, singer-songwriter Rena Guinn has been honing her talents in the Ithaca music scene. Two years after her debut EP, she’ll play a release show for her first full-length album, “Is This Now?” Thursday night at South Hill Cider.

Rena Guinn's "Is This Now?"
Rena Guinn's "Is This Now?"

“Is This Now?” is a major step forward from Guinn’s 2021 debut EP, “Shine,” which had a sparse, quiet, mostly acoustic vibe.

“There are a lot of different sounds on this one, with an electric band and then still some of the acoustic stuff,” she said. “But it’s definitely a much bigger project than last time.”

Recorded at Sunwood Recording in Trumansburg, the new album includes 11 new songs – eight written by Guinn, and three by Bill Ring, who also produced the record. Some of Ithaca’s top players contributed to the sessions, including Neal Massa, Liam Lawson, Joey Arcuri, Dave Richman, Lou DiPietro, Joe Lule, Sam Schmidt, Ring, and Chris Ploss, who also recorded and mixed the album.

“I feel so honored to have all these people on the album,” Guinn said.

“I have been doing acoustic solo stuff for a long time,” she added. “And I've always had the vision of having kind of a bigger band and going more electric. And I love both sides, the acoustic and electric, so the vision was kind of built along with my producer, Bill Ring.”

She described Ring, who also produced her debut EP, as a “true musical mentor,” noting that they met at an open-mic night in downtown Ithaca about 10 years ago.

“Bill was there, and he just loved my stuff,” she said. “He asked me to be in his band, and I actually turned them down, because that wasn't what I wanted to do.”

They connected again a few years later at another open-mic night and began to form a musical relationship. “He started giving me lessons, and it just kind of all unfolded from there,” she said, “and then he really wanted to help me put these albums out.”

Guinn, who turns 31 next month, hails from Windsor, New York, a small town just outside of Binghamton, and moved to Ithaca about 11 years ago. She grew up in a musical family – her father was “an incredible musician, and her brother, Adam Guinn, released his own album last year.

“My dad passed away about 10 years ago,” she said. “But it goes way back for me. I started listening to music when I was in my mother’s womb. The reason they named me ‘Rena’ was because it means ‘song’ in Hebrew, and he was just so passionate about music at that time in his life.

"He had his own recording studio. He was a phenomenal guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and really amazing songwriter, with a great voice. And I just kind of grew up with that in the house. And he was always showing me things, or telling me to check out a Beatles album or other classic bands. I really got all that from him.”

But she hasn’t always had a smooth musical journey. “I had a lot of fear around singing and I just didn't do it for a long time, But I always wanted to,” she said. “And then, when I was around 20, I started dabbling in songwriting a little bit more. And then when I was 25, I got really, really serious about it. And, so I just love writing, I love creating, and I love just picking up the guitar and seeing what comes out and sharing my experiences through music. It's just one of my greatest passions, for sure.”

Rena Guinn
Joshua Guinn
Rena Guinn

For the last few years, “a bad relationship” provided inspiration for her songwriting.

“Sometimes when you go through hard stuff, the best way to channel it is through music,” she said. “Sometimes the easiest songs you'll write is when it's just all right there. So yeah, I love life's challenges. And then the hope, that is coming through all of that.”

Right now, though, she’s “in a really good spot in a good relationship. And none of that stuff is really sparking songwriting, which is a good thing for me,” she said. “So now I'm leaning more towards some of my other passions, like gardening. I live out in the country, and I want to start writing more songs about that way of life, or lighter songs about cultivating more peace. I just joined a string band, which also inspiring in that it’s more positive music. But really, any experiences that I have feed and inspire my songwriting.”

At Thursday’s release show, Guinn will open the night with a solo set and then will be joined by some stellar players for an acoustic set. For the second half of the show, she’ll debut her new electric band, Rena Guinn & the Gentlemen, which also includes Neal Massa, Doug Henrie, Liam Lawson, and Sam Fishman. Other guests will include Joe Lule on mandolin, Lou DiPietro on guitar, and Alejandra Diemecke on violin.

Rena Guinn & The Gentlemen: from left: Rena Guinn, Neal Massa, Doug Henrie, Liam Lawson, and Sam Fishman.
Rena Guinn & The Gentlemen: from left: Doug Henrie, Sam Fishman, Rena Guinn, Liam Lawson, and Neal Massa.

If you go

Who: Rena Guinn

What: Album release show for “Is This Now?”

Where: South Hill Cider

When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 18

Event Info

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.