so, i recently got a chance to listen to singer-songwriter alyssa graham’s upcoming EP lock, stock & soul. it’s a lovely EP, filled with plenty on intriguing sounds (think folk, rock, country and more) that easily compliment alyssa’s sweet sounding vocals.
alyssa was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her influences, the decision to become an artist, and what’s up next for her:
have you met heather: what inspired you to become a singer-songwriter?
alyssa graham: There were certainly a few moments in my childhood that really influenced me musically. The first one I can think of is a time period when I was obsessively listening to the musical Really Rosie on vinyl. Really Rosie was based on a Maurice Sendak book that he and Carole King (one of my idols) turned into a musical. I listened to that record until it skipped all the way through. I knew every single lyric. There was a song called Screaming and Yelling on the record that I sang all the time and drove my brother nuts, “It takes personality, a lot of personality to make them see it my way. It takes personality, more personality to turn twelve boring hours into a fascinating day. I can do it, that’s a fact, I can do it, don’t you see and I’ll do it all for free. Do you know, can you guess who I simply have to be, stop screaming and yelling and screaming and yelling… the enchanted one that’s me” or something like that. After I grew out of that record a bit, I of course moved on to Carole King’s >”Tapestry.” Her style really led me down a musical path and introduced me to the great tradition of singer-songwriters. I started playing the piano and tried to write songs about anything I was feeling at the time. Then my parents and my brother introduced me to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Neil Young. My brother played the guitar and since I always wanted to do everything my big brother did, I started playing guitar too. That’s when I knew I was going to be a singer-songwriter… I was hooked. I learned every Neil Young song from my favorite album On The Beach and then I started collaborating with my brother’s friends who all played guitar. One of those friends was Doug Graham who has been my musical partner and the love of my life ever since.
hymh: you started out with a deal with a major label but eventually walked away. why?
alyssa: I walked away from a negotiation that was leading down a path I didn’t want to go. It was exciting to think of having a major label career and there are of course a lot of benefits that go along with having major label support. However, I’m a pretty simple girl and I like to keep the songwriting and the delivery simple. Let’s just say, they didn’t share that vision. In my humble opinion, a good song doesn’t need a parade, it just needs an honest voice. I’m not saying there isn’t good music out there being made by the majors and/or by people who have a more elaborate sound or presentation. But, for me it wasn’t right. I love playing songs that are personal and sharing them in an intimate setting with an audience who really wants to listen and be part of the experience. Sunnyside Records, the Indie label we are now on, is wonderful. They truly believe in their artists and trust them to make the music they want to make. I may not be playing the Tonight Show anytime soon or have my face plastered on a billboard in Time Square but I’m free to be the artist I want to be and that feels really good.
hymh: your sound is quite lovely and eclectic, with lots of different genres mixing together. what are some of your influences?
alyssa: Well, thank you for the nice compliment first and foremost. There is so much amazing music out there and so much that has influenced us over the years that I guess when we write all of it pours out. I never understood the need for genres or compartmentalizing music. We listen to everything from Hank Williams to Bjork to Serge Gainsbourg to Wilco. From The Kinks to Billie Holiday to Nirvana to Joao Gilberto. I have never heard music that has been made in a vacuum without the influence of other music. In other words, I think it is part of artistic growth and development to genre surf. Every great artist is influenced by a multitude of other artists and sounds. We can’t create in a vacuum. If we just listened to one type of music we would be missing out. I think it’s ok to blend and bleed and defy musical genres. So, I take your comment as a true compliment. Personally, I would say one of my greatest influences is Neil Young. He taught me so much about feel. His songs are simple and honest and most of all when he sings a song you believe him. Doug and I have a joke… whenever Neil sings a song like On The Beach (one of our favorites) and he croons a line like, “All my pictures are fallin’ from the wall where I placed them yesterday. The world is turnin’, I hope it don’t turn away” we say out loud, “oh Neil, it’s gonna be ok man. it’s all going to be alright.” We believe him and we feel like we’re right there with him. That’s the mark of a powerful song and Neil has so many of them.
hymh: three of the songs on lock, stock & soul are original and one is a grateful dead cover. What inspired you to choose the songs you did for the EP?
alyssa: We wanted to give the listener a well rounded experience of what the LP was going to sound like. Honestly, I tried to stay out of that process, that is of choosing which songs would go on the EP and be released first and which would go on the LP. Each and every song is part of my soul so picking and choosing is just impossible. Sure, there are songs that are more fun to play or songs that I’m more in the mood for at a certain moment but each of them are equally meaningful to me and to have to choose between them would be too difficult. So, I pretty much try and leave that up to our team. I think those decisions need to be made by people who have more distance from the actual creative process. Part of the thinking was, give them a taste but don’t give away too much because there is so much more to come. I love food so I like to think of the EP as an amuse-bouche, something not ordered from the menu but rather the chef’s selection meant to excite the taste buds and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach while preparing the guests for the main course.
hymh: any plans to tour?
alyssa: Yes. Dates will be announced shortly. You can check our website at: http://www.alyssagraham.com. We are going to do a small exclusive preview tour this Fall, probably 10 shows or so. Then a full tour after the LP comes out in January. We can’t wait. Writing and recording is always an amazing experience but getting out there and playing for the fans is the most rewarding and the most fun for us.
hymh: what’s up next for you?
alyssa: Doug and I have been writing a great deal of new material. Some of which we will also bring out on the road with us and start working into the repertoire. However, for now our plan is to swim in the sea that is Lock, Stock & Soul. There is so much to explore and so much to learn about these tunes still and that all happens on the road and on the stage. I love experiencing each of these tunes live as they always morph and grow and as musicians and artists we grow with them. Sharing this music with the fans is the greatest “high time” we can score!
have a listen to the lovely watching the sky:
the lock, stock & soul EP will be released on august 23 via sunnyside records. you can pre-order it HERE.