Quitman is a small town in the northeast corner of Texas, best known as the birthplace of actress Sissy Spacek. However, here on Cape Cod, another performing artist is putting Quitman on the map. Since moving to the Cape in 2004, Monica Rizzio has injected the local music scene with a healthy dose of Americana. Rizzio’s music is an eclectic combination of country, folk, bluegrass, and jazz—an authentic southern sound that reflects her deep ties to Texas.
Rizzio grew up on a 30-acre ranch and spent most of her childhood outdoors. “I was a real tomboy,” she says. “I was always riding horses and being in rodeos.” When she wasn’t on a saddle, Rizzio was learning about music. “Bands are really big in the South because of all the football games,” she explains. “Starting in the third grade you learn how to read music.”
Rizzio’s father supplemented his daughter’s formal education by introducing her to bluegrass and country music. “I remember as a kid not having a traditional bedtime because my dad and I would stay up all night long and listen to records,” she recalls. Her father encouraged her to sing and by the time she was 10, Rizzio knew she wanted to sing for the rest of her life.
This ambition led her to Nashville, the capital of country music, where she studied at Belmont University. “I would go out every night and listen to great artists and songwriters perform,” she says. In Nashville, she met a guitarist named Demetrius Becrelis and they started writing folk and country songs together. Rizzio moved to New York City and Becrelis returned to his home on Cape Cod, but they continued their songwriting partnership.
The partnership evolved into Tripping Lily, an acoustic quartet, and Rizzio moved north to focus on the band. “When I moved to the Cape, I didn’t know what to expect,” she says, “but I felt like I found my second home after leaving Texas.” Tripping Lily achieved early success as the band’s soft, soulful pop appealed to a wide audience. After nearly ten years as the lead singer, Rizzio made the hard decision to leave Tripping Lily last December.
In her new pursuits, Rizzio is as busy as ever. Last year she and her husband founded Vinegrass, a non-profit production company. “Our goal is to bring Americana music to the Cape,” she says. Vinegrass organizes six to eight feeder concerts a year, and their main fundraising event, an Americana-bluegrass festival at the Truro Vineyards on October 4.
Rizzio also has a new band, Monica Rizzio & Old King’s Highway, with whom she is currently recording a self-titled debut album. “This is going to be very Americana-country sounding,” she says. The band includes a guitarist (who also plays banjo), an upright bass player, a fiddler, and a drummer. Rizzio, who plays guitar and piano, has written a majority of the new songs. Her music and lyrics draw on her Texas roots while offering a fresh sound to her New England audience.
Even though Rizzio—now a Yarmouthport resident—is thousands of miles from Quitman, she still performs in cowboy boots. It’s like that old saying: you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl.
For more information, visit monicarizzio.com