Singer-songwriter Alison James is what some people might call a modern-day Renaissance Woman. After graduating from Yale and entertaining such career ideas as a physicist, Italian literature researcher, church worship leader, or professional weightlifter, she realized she could kind of do all of those things writing pop (ish) music. She released her debut EP, Degrees of Separation, as an audio-visual project in 2017, and will follow up with an EP Beautiful Disruption in early 2019.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. When I was young, it was honestly my friends that kept pestering me to write songs. I was playing music everywhere and had the knack for it but I ignored them for years because I just had no idea how to write a song. I learned... it's crucial to surround yourself with good people who will pester the good things out of you. Then my vocal coach, whom I credit for encouraging me over the edge, offered to co-write a song with me - and from there it was all over. Now I try to always speak life and encouragement to younger musicians that have potential because so often that can be the difference between quitting and not.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Well... I did meet my now-husband playing music in New York City. It was, obviously, a crazy game changer that I never expected. In fact, my upcoming EP is about different parts of this story, called "Beautiful Disruption."
What has been the high point of your music path? When art forms inform one another, that's my favorite. I got the opportunity for my song "At the Source" to be the ending title credit song in a major motion picture called "An Interview With God" (2018), and to be able to watch a whole film and my song sum up and evoke the themes of the film in a different artistic presentation ... that was incredibly powerful. I was dumbfounded the first time I saw it all the way through and watched how my song fit at the end. I'm super grateful for that opportunity and am looking to do more of that in the future.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? Artists are, in essence, professional observers. I am constantly observing people, places, design, my own experiences, musical genres, etc. I try to fill myself up with these things - taking both literal and emotional notes - so that when I sit down to write, I have a deep well to draw from. I'll usually come up with an initial idea or chorus, then I have to go through the much longer and much less sexy process of editing (a lot). Please take a momnet to check out Alison's video "Nets to the Sea"
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think the biggest challenge facing indie artists these days is promotion (read: cutting through the noise). There is so much music in the world now, thanks to the democratization of music production (which I think is great) and of social media (eh). It seems like often the folks who become successful are those who excel on the promotion/social media side, not necessarily those who are making the best music. I don't think there's "one thing" that the music industry could do to change that, though I would love to find a genie-in-a-bottle solution to get great music to everyone's ears regardless of their personal social media capabilities.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
If I could share the stage with one artist, it would be Lady Gaga. Yes, she would absolutely upstage me. But how incredible of a live performer and vocalist is she! The energy and conviction she brings to her music is extraordinary.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I usually have the blessing of playing with a group of very talented musicians. For rehearsals I will tell them some ideas that I have, but given that collaboration usually produces the best results, I always ask them to contribute ideas for their parts and even song arrangements. It usually feels like a party (well, my kind of party). There's nothing as electrifying as creating beautiful sounds with people you care about.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! The two songs that were the hardest for me to write I ended up throwing away. It was important for me to finish them -- I think the worst thing creatively to do is to discount ideas too soon -- but at the end of the day, the ideas just never quite landed like I wanted them to. One of them was about me feeling almost delusional for pursuing a dream that felt like it was taking everything from me....and it ended up sounded depressing instead of empowering. [Moving on.]
What's coming up in the future? The future! I love it. As I mentioned, I have an EP coming out very soon called "Beautiful Disruption" -- a bunch of love ballads. But with all the realities that come along with finding your person. There will be a release show (venue / date still TBD) in New York City, and a couple music videos filmed shortly after. After that, I have songs for years, so it's just about refining how the next set of songs will fit together and getting back in the studio!
Tell us where fans can access your music?
I love Spotify and YouTube, though you can search for me on any major music platform! For updates, follow me on Instagram.
For more information on Alison, pleae visit her website.