To start, I understand you lived in Peoria, IL. It’s funny for me because a lot of my dad’s family is from there.

It’s such a small world! I have some family still there as well. My aunt Pat, who was like a mother to me, passed away in 2009 and she lived there her whole life. So, Peoria will always be my home. I have many great memories growing up there and will definitely never forget where I came from.

What was it like growing up in Peoria?

My childhood was weird and a bit uncommon. I traveled a lot because my mother was in the military . So from 6 to 8, I lived in Naples Italy and went to an Italian school there.  Before 6, I have wonderful memories.  We lived on the south side of Peoria, but at that time we were well off for the neighborhood.  I’m an only child but my grandmother, who raised me for the most part, had 9 children.  When I came back from Italy I was the odd child out. I remember everyone calling me “the Italian girl” and asking me to count in Italian everyday.   As I grew up in Peoria, hard times hit my family and we struggled to keep up.  It was a fight just to eat and live.  But there was never a day that went by where we didn’t eat.  My grandmother was a strong woman and made sure that no matter what we had what we needed.  She pretty much supported the family by herself in those years. In Peoria there is high unemployment, (at that time) the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, a high incarceration rate, and not enough opportunities. So life can be hard there for many people.  I’ve seen many of my childhood friends go to prison, and too many of them die young.   

What was behind your move across the pond?

Because I lived in Italy during my formative years, it left a real impression on me.  I thought everyone ate oysters on the beach fresh from the sea, and eggs from chickens in the backyard, and pizza hot from stone ovens made before your eyes.  I had learned the real “joy of life” and missed it after.  After returning to Peoria my school did an experiment to see if underprivileged children could learn a foreign language at early ages.  I was chosen and started learning french at 11.  I kept up with it until I did a foreign exchange program with my university.  After I studied at Sorbonne for a summer and was hooked on Paris!  I went to New York after graduation, had the time of my life but suffered great personal losses, emotionally, physically, and financially. Shortly after I returned to Paris to live because it was the right personal choice for me. I felt like it was the place where I needed to be in order to grow as an artist and find myself.

This April, France passed measures that effectively legalized same-sex marriage and adoption. What’s your thoughts on that?

I want to live my life as I choose and others should have the same opportunity regardless of sexuality, race, creed, religion and what have you.  As long as you are not harming others, live your life as you choose! Be happy! Be Free!  So in short I’m happy that gay families can have all the rights and privileges and protections as everyone else.

Are the anti-same sex marriage protests as bad as the media’s showing here in the U.S.?ajala2

Yes, they are pretty bad. Mostly because it became physically violent. Gay people were beaten, harassed, and verbally abused. The French are slow to change their ways and that a good thing and a bad thing. Also they will physically go into the streets and burn down town hall if you get them riled up. So its a very delicate balance and it will take lots of time.

What is the music scene in Paris and Europe like compared to here in the U.S.?

I think there is more musical variety available outside of the states. In Europe we have the same music as the states, except maybe for country and folk. In addition to that there is zouk, African, Caribbean, trip hop, dub step, two step, electronic (and all the genres inside it), trance, house (all those genres mixed), French music, tectonic etc. So I feel like I have more fuel for my creative fire. 

As far as the music business I think it’s difficult everywhere.  But because I’m in France, its particularly difficult because there is a law that a certain percentage of music on the radio must be French music.  And for a song to qualify it must be sung 51 percent in French.  Outside of that, most of the American super stars take up whats left of the radio airtime.  So its a tight slot to try to fit in. Last month I just recorded my first French electronic club song called “Play The Night Again”. I sang and rapped in french so I’m very happy to have finally done that. There will also be an English version of the same song especially for London.

Tell me a little about your latest single and anything else you have coming up.

Tom York is a very big part of my current musical activities. He saw something in me and re-inspired me when I was tired and needed a hand. I’m so happy to be working with him.  We have just released a single called “I Believe Again” to create some buzz. I must say that it has created more buzz than we ever anticipated. It’s playing on radios all over the world, Brazil, France, Japan, the U.S., Canada, Thailand, everywhere. 

It’s on the charts and just defying gravity.  We just recorded a new single that won’t be on the album.  It’s an electronic song called, “Honor”.  That should be out in the fall.  In the meantime we are producing a pop-rock album, with our own sauce, called “Once Upon A Time” which we hope will be ready end of next year.  But since the album has a full instrumental production, it’s another level of difficulty to produce compared to an electronic song.  So we’re working hard to realize it in collaboration with Yan Memmi who has also worked with the greats; Cyndi Lauper, Brian Adams, and The Fugees, to name a few. The first single of the album called “We Live On Forever”  is being recorded now with musicians from London who have also worked with legends such as George Michael, Annie Lennox, Massive Attack, etc. We’re really looking forward to it! It’s like nothing anyone has ever heard from me before.

For more on Paula’s music, visit her website at: www.ajalaking.com

By MATT JAMIESON – STAFF WRITER