Buckle & Boots Festival 2021, Whitebottom Farm, sidewards from Manchester!
CL: I would say welcome to the UK,
AB: Thank you
CL: … Except, you have spent a lot of time here haven’t you?
AB: I have. I love it here.
CL: So, you have spent about a third of your life here?
AB: Pretty much yeah, I mean I came over when I was 18 to study at LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) I was there for three years and then toured in 2011. I then came back over with Sisterhood Band in the last five years, so I have been here a lot and I love it so much.
CL: You are a big fan of the Beatles aren’t you?
AB: Huge fan, yes.
CL: Did that have anything to do with you wanting to study at LIPA?
AB: One hundred percent! My dad was a huge Beatles fan, so I grew up listening to the Beatles since I was a baby and this is a random story, but I was at a Christmas party at my Junior High School with my parents, there was a bunch of people there and there was a Scouser, there in Nashville, her name is Siobhan Kennedy, her dad was Billy Maher (I think this is the correct spelling!) She is married to a producer in Nashville. We were talking at this party and she asked me where I was going to college. I was like, I don’t know yet, you know I don’t really want to go to college, I just want to do music full time. I have always known I want to make music full time, since I was a little kid. She asked me if I had heard of the Paul McCartney school. I was Paul McCartney has a school?? She said “Yeah, it is called Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, it is all performing arts, music, technology, you have got to check it out!” So literally the next day, I looked it up, I applied and I auditioned. It was the only place I applied and I told myself if I got in that I would do the college full time. I got in and on a scholarship, so it was my destiny to come here and it was the best decision I ever made.
CL: And then your degree was handed to you by ….
AB: Sir Paul McCartney!
CL: Sir Paul McCartney!
AB: He is so cool, he does it every year, he comes every year to give out the diplomas so it is kind of his thing, it is really awesome that he does that, it really does give people an incentive to keep going as you know that this is at the end of it and we all love Paul. So it is just keep pushing, if you do it you are going to meet him and shake his hand at the end of it.
CL: Did he spend time with you afterwards, for a quick chat?
AB: He actually did a Masterclass with us which was really awesome, he came in & we got to do that. I then met him in the corridor. He does this thing, a songwriters, it is a third year thing. If you are on the Songwriting course, which I wasn’t, I wanted to take it but I wasn’t allowed to. I was waiting for my friend, to come out as she was, actually do you know who the Staves are, the band The Staves? They are an amazing band here. My friend Jess was having her thirty minutes with Paul, talking about a song. I couldn’t wait for her to tell me & I was waiting there & Paul walked out. I had my guitar as we would all sit & play and make music. He was like “Nice guitar!” I said “Thanks” and we had this conversation, he was so nice. So I got that little moment, which was really cool.
CL: Initially you led quite a nomadic life, you were on the tour bus with your parents when you were just 3 weeks old.
AB: 3 weeks old yes.
CL: Until how old?
AB: Well, all through High School I was touring with them.
CL: You managed to go to the same school? You didn’t change school?
AB: I did, it was kind of like a weekend warrior thing, that is what they call it over here isn’t it? You go out on Friday and you are back on Sunday night & so I was able to do that. If I did leave for longer periods then school just set me my work, they were really good about it.
CL: So did you think this was normal and that the other kids were odd or did you think you were odd and they were normal?
AB: I think that when you are a kid, you don’t really think of that stuff because you just are & you are just being. As I got older, I started realising it wasn’t normal and that it was really special to be around all these people. Kids did used to make fun of me at school – “Oh go write a song or go on tour” all that sort of stuff. I had to try & understand why they were making fun of me because I didn’t have a normal life.
CL: Well some of it would have been jealousy as well because you would have been off out every single weekend whereas they were just riding their bikes up & down the street.
AB: I guess, yes. One of my teachers in 2nd grade called my mum. She said “We have a problem with Alyssa at school, she is lying.” My mum asked what about. The teacher said we asked the class to write about their weekend, she made up this whole elaborate story how she went on this bus, met Bonnie Raitt & all this stuff. My mum was like “Yes, that is our life, we just got back from the show & we opened for Bonnie Raitt.” The teacher was like Oh! Some people just don’t get it! It was a crazy life, but it was amazing, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am an only child, so my mum & dad were my best friends, we were like the Three Musketeers travelling in a bus together waking up in a different city every morning, it was quite exciting.
CL: You have rubbed shoulders with a lot of notable people, you have just mentioned Bonnie Raitt, you dueted with Kenny Rogers at the age of 10, what did you sing? Where were you?
AB: My parents were on the road with Kenny, it was one of their first major tours. I used to sing in the middle of their set, my mum would pull me up & I would sing. When I was young I used to sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game as I wanted to be just like my mum. As I got older I sang It’s My Party, the Lesley Gore song. Kenny heard me, he was doing a play called Christmas From The Heart, he needed this angel to sing a part in the play. So he called my mum & said he would love to have Alyssa sing on this track. So I learnt the song, went into the studio & I got to sing with him, it was amazing. I will never forget it, he is 1 of the kindest, coolest human beings, I am so grateful to have worked with him.
CL: Your first national tour was with Marty Stuart, he played at Country 2 Country, have you heard of Country 2 Country?
AB: YES! I have always wanted to play that.
CL: He received an absolute rapturous applause
AB: I bet, he is amazing.
CL: Working or rather touring with him, did you learn much from him? He has been on the scene for an awful long time.
AB: Oh I know, he was the same as me, he grew up on the road as a kid, he didn’t actually go to school, his school was the bus. He has this incredible photography book, it is like a big coffee table book, it is all these pictures he took throughout his life & his mandolin has every signature from everybody you can think of in Country music, they have all signed this mandolin that he plays. He was so wonderful. It was my 1st tour. It was me, I was the opener, then it was my parents played and then Marty played , so I was the 1st of three. The promoter called me & asked me if I wanted to be the 1st of three, you can play your songs. I was are you kidding me? I was 15 & I started to play all these songs I had written in my bedroom, that is what I did, it was kinda crazy!
CL: Apart from your parents, who is the biggest influence in your life musically … I am asking that but you are going to say the Beatles aren’t you?
AB: Well, yes, but there are probably three major ones aside from my parents. There is Joni Mitchell, she was a really big influence on me, I learnt to play guitar listening to her records. Coldplay is another huge influence, I love Chris Martin, his melodies & his songs, he is one of my favourites. And of course the Beatles.
CL: I saw you at Nashville Meets London in 2018.
AB: You did?
CL: Yes, when you were with Ruby Stewart as the Sisterhood Band. You teamed up with Ruby following your joint love of Joni Mitchell.
AB: Yes, we met through mutual friends and one night we were all hanging out & we started talking about Joni Mitchell, we then started talking about England & she told me who she was which lead on to us talking about being Road Babies & Tour Babies, we became really good friends off the back of that, we then started the band just for fun. That took us a lot of places, we had so much fun, that was a good five year run.
CL: Your new single New Wings, you wrote it during Lockdown with Tawgs Salter over Zoom. How did you take to songwriting over Zoom? I don’t like Zoom, I find it annoying.
AB: I know, it is kind of strange isn’t it?
CL: Did you take to it like a duck to water?
AB: I did a few of them, but I have a studio set up at home as I am really into music production & so it was fun to actually be sat at the studio in front of my computer & have all my things around me & then be working with someone else who is sat in their studio. When I met Tawgs, it was the 1st time we had ever written together and I brought in this idea of transforming & this poem I had found by Paulo Cohelo called The Lesson Of The Butterfly about struggling & how butterflies struggle to get through the cocoon & why that is such an important process to make their wings strong. He brought in this music which was so beautiful. Nowadays a producer can send you a link to your email. You click this link and it is like you are in the studio with them, you can hear everything that is coming out of the board. It was actually a lot of fun to do it that way, because we wrote the song, it was so inspiring. We actually wrote the song in something like an hour! I think it was because it was all about losing a lot in 2020, just like everyone did and trying to see where the good in it was, what can I learn from this. How can I learn from this struggle & make my wings strong. So that is how New Wings was born. We finished the song & I put down my vocals & guitar, I then sent it to him, he finished it & that is how we made it. It was actually a really cool way to do it as it was like instant. It makes it quicker & you can do it anywhere, I could have been in England. I think that is why I have been here longer this time as I don’t need to be in the room with anyone, you could be on an island somewhere, as long as you have got WiFi!
CL: You have got an Instagram campaign encouraging people to add their own stories along the same lines. Have you found some more stories that you have thought Oh, I can make a song out of that!
AB: Yes, I think people are beginning to share their stories & I think it is hard to share a story sometimes, you know, it is personal. I think that is why songwriters are so important because we are the thread, as long as we can write a song that is going to connect & it says what you are trying to say & the thing that you felt. I have seen some really amazing stories. A lot of people have lost, but then transformed like a phoenix out of all this & it has just been really inspiring. it also makes you realise you are not alone in this
CL: New Wings will feature on the album you are planning on releasing next year, is New Wings going to be the title of the album?
AB: Right now it is yes, the songs all have that theme of coming out of something & coming out stronger. Who knows though, it might change.
CL: Have you recorded most of it at your own studio?
AB: Yes, it has either been done at my studio or over Zoom with friends who are helping co-produce some of these tracks. That has been a lot of fun, I still have about five that I am finishing up now, so I am almost done, some still need to be mixed & some need some electric guitar, but for the most part they are pretty much done.
CL: You very much cross genres with your music, you don’t classify yourself as any one genre, do you find you get criticised for that?
AB: Yeah, when I was signed to a major label, I think that was more of an issue because everybody wants a radio single, the one radio single that is going to go. The truth is I don’t think anyone is going to know what is going to be a number 1 until they allow it to get played, so for me, being an independant artist now it is really freeing, whatever I feel in that moment, I can create. It is still me though, it is still Alyssa, I can be a little bit Country, sometimes rock and roll or whatever I feel. I heard Jacob Collier, I am a big fan of his, he is an English artist, he does everything, folk, jazz, rock, RnB, whatever he is feeling, he creates. I heard him in an interview say that the most important thing is to keep becoming more of yourself as an artist. I loved that sentiment. A lot of people will tell you you should do this or you should do that to get a number 1 song. The truth I, to get a number 1 song I think you should just be you, then if that connects with someone then it will go if it is supposed to, that is what I think anyway!
CL: Is there anyone in particular that you would really, really like to songwrite with?
Without hesitation, even before I had finished asking the question …
AB: Chris Martin. I would love to write with him. He is my favourite, it would be magical to just be in a room with him & have him play piano, I think I would cry!
CL: What about touring, who would you like to tour with.
CL: With things gradually re-opening, where would you really like to play next, once everything has re-opened?
CL: Anywhere & everywhere?
AB: Pretty much! I love playing, whether it is small or large. I would love to do C2C at some point, so many great artists have played there. I would love to play that festival, I have never played there, but I have always heard about it. I think it would be really fun. I would love to play Glastonbury, I played there in 2009 in the Acoustic tent, just as I was graduating, that was so fun! I love any kind of venue or festival though, just where I can share my music, that is what I want to be doing. Back yard, BBQ, anywhere!
CL: Touring with Rod Stewart & Marty Stuart, any annoying habits that they have?
AB: Hmmmm, annoying habits, hmmm, I can’t think of any! I can think of some cool ones, just not any annoying ones! Rod is cool as he always has really nice wine in the Dressing rooms, so that was always a plus! Minute you walk into the dressing room you have got this really nice rose wine. He has got this cool routine where he has to work out before the show. I was really inspired actually, by watching his work ethic, how he tours & how he takes care of his body & his voice so he can do an amazing show. That is why he is who he is, it was really inspiring! So no annoying habits, oh he is a prankster, he pulls a lot of pranks! Oh, one thing that was annoying, he used to call me Candelabra, because he could never pronounce my last name! So he called me Alyssa Candelabra – Come on Candelabra! I would be like “Fuck off Rod!” (laughs) One of our last shows, I bought him a candelabra, I put it in his dressing room with a note, Thanks for a great tour! So it was funny! It is good to be fun & play pranks on people.
CL: Well that kinda ties in with my last question, you can be a cartoon character for 24 hours, which one are you going to be?
AB: Gasps … God, these are great questions!
CL: Thank you & double checks I did record that!
AB: A cartoon character for 24 hours? Oh, this is exciting, let me think about this. I would probably be Superman so I could fly. I just think it would be fun to fly. I have had so many flying dreams, do you ever have those?
CL: No, mine tend to be falling down the stairs, or off the kerb!
AB: Actually, I have changed my mind, I think I would be Bugs Bunny, I loved Bugs Bunny when I was growing up, I thought he was so funny! I would love to be Bugs Bunny for 24 hours, just to mess with Elmer Fudd. Or I would be a Rugrat. Or I would be Hey Arnold! Can I change my mind?
CL: First of all you were stuck, but now you can’t stop!
AB: Well, I had to think of cartoons for a bit, but my favourite cartoon growing up was Ren & Stimpy, did you guys get that over here? I loved that cartoon, I thought it was the dumbest thing ever! It was my favourite! No, Bugs Bunny!
CL: Final answer?
AB: Yes, final answer!
CL: Thank you so much for your time, enjoy your show.
AB: Thank you so much.
CL: You got a really good reception yesterday (at the Songwriters round) so it should be pretty amazing!
AB: Thank you so much, I can’t wait to play with the band! Great questions by the way, that was fun!
There is still time to catch Alyssa in the UK, she is playing the following dates.
Aug 25th – Nashville Sounds in the Round at Kitchen Garden – Birmingham
Aug 31st – NML Presents at Pizza Express Live, Holborn – London