• BWH Music Group

When Humans Had Wings

Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.

Yes. 3 years ago, I had a supernatural experience during a Dark Night of the Soul (as it's called). I was living out in Seattle, isolated and depressed following a nasty breakup. So, unsurprisingly, I was feeling pretty lost. Whenever I tried to take up hobbies and find "the thing" that would make me feel fulfilled, I just felt emptier and emptier.

It all came to a head one day when, after hours and hours of compiling an astrology database, I realized that even this "passion" which occupied my time for hours still didn't feel fulfilling. In that moment, staring at the computer screen, something snapped. I realized I had always known what I was called to do: make music. But I had turned my back on it a long time ago out of fear. I also knew that I was going to die with all this music in me having never been shared.

I was stricken with regret and horror, so I collapsed to my knees - literally collapsed - and began to pray. I hadn't talked to God in years, but at that moment I could think of nothing else to do. I begged God for another chance. I promised I would make music if only the path would be revealed to me. My prayer was so desperate and intense, that I kind of got lost in it, and when I "came back" to awareness, my nose was bleeding. Even though I was raised religious, I'd never communicated with God that passionately before. I'd never been so honest. My song "Pray, Animal" is actually about this dramatic reckoning with God.

And I do believe God heard me, because ever since then, all the resources I need to make music have practically been falling into my lap. I keep faithfully following my calling, as promised, and the path continues to make itself clear.

Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?

What HASN'T been crazy? That's the real question! I'm a Synchromystic, which means I live my life by following synchronicities. And this decision to "follow the signs" leads me to exactly where I need to be and who I need to meet, all of the time. The way it always works out is so unpredictable and mind-blowing, you might not believe me if I told you.

For example, the first time I came to Chattanooga, I walked into a random bookstore by instinct and picked up a book by June McDaniel called "The Madness of the Saints," which completely changed my life and healed me on very deep spiritual levels. This provided the inspiration for the song of the same name on my debut album, RUN RABBIT RUN!

This, and a few other mystical experiences in Chattanooga, made me decide to move here rather blindly — and after I moved, I discovered that the local library has a fully outfitted recording studio that I can use for free! I discovered this just as I was beginning to make music and needed help learning the ropes. Like, what are the chances I'd move to a random city and that they'd have a whole recording studio I can use for free, you know?

There are so many other stories I could tell you, like how my co-producer came into my life serendipitously, then my mixing engineer, and then the filmmaker for my first music video... Basically all the people and resources I need for music-making just appear out of thin air as soon as I need them, and always with this sense of divine timing and cosmic dot-connecting that is nothing short of divine.

The funniest part is that I just got here! I only started making music less than a year ago; I haven't even released my full-length yet. So if the path is this crazy now, imagine a year from now? And a year after that? I can't wait to see what else is going to happen, honestly.

What has been the high point of your music path?

I have accolades from my involvement with arts programs in my youth, like: I got to sing with certain celebrities, and I also got personally invited to sing for some national and international politicians. In the past, I might've told you that rubbing elbows with these famous people was my high point — because every musician wants that, right?

But now that I've grown up, I can look back and see that I didn't know who I was, and I didn't know what my values were. So yes I was performing in these ritzy contexts — but internally, I was quite dissociated from myself and from God. So can that really be called a high point?

Now, I define my high points by how Truthful and Free I am. So when I'm up late because I'm too inspired to go to sleep, making music in my humble Lowe's shed-turned-studio, fully present with the process, knowing the difficult journey leading up to this point where I can sing without fear... that, to me, is more of a "high point" than all the glitz and glam of my past. Truly. It's such a gift to have breath and sing. It's a gift that I don't take for granted anymore.

So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?

It's like part of me is here in this dimension with you, while another part of my awareness is in a different dimension where elaborate, glorious music plays forever and ever — and if I'm lucky, sometimes I'll hear something that my mere mortal mind can pull into to this realm and turn into a song on my laptop. Usually, this happens just as I'm going to sleep, in the hypnogogic state. So I keep my phone right on my nightstand, with a shortcut to the voice recorder app on my lock screen, so I can open it and start humming the melody as soon as I hear it. Then as soon as I can, I go to my studio and put it together on my DAW.

This was how the guitar riff for "I'd Rather Be High" and the horn section for "Alternate Universe" came to me, as well as many of the songs throughout my life — some of which you'll get to hear on my future full-length album, Ugly, which I'm already working on.

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?

Probably not the answer you're expecting, but the biggest problem I see is a spiritual one. I think there's a sinister agenda running the modern music industry that is seducing young creators and their fans over to the dark side, so to speak. So now we've got a lot of disheartened artists who think that the only way to make music is to sell one's soul or compromise their values in other ways, and by accepting these falsehoods, they lose sight of their visions, their callings and their joy. Most of all they lose sight of Truth.

So I just want to say that it doesn't have to be this way. Sure I would love to redeem the music industry, but the music industry isn't doing this dark dance alone, you know? On deeper levels, we've agreed to this dance. So only we can disengage and start living by our values again. It's so important for artists to have a strong sense of their guiding principles, to know what their "WHY" is, before they get involved with other players in this scene. It's easy to be misled by other people's "lights" when you haven't yet started shining your own. I choose to live by example, prioritizing the self-liberation aspect of my musical path above all else. And that, I truly believe, is why everything keeps falling into place for me so effortlessly. I want others to know that this is possible for them, too.

If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?

Paul Meany, one hundred million billion trillion percent. The man is a musical genius and, from what I hear, an unforgettable live performer. His songs are the soundtrack to my life. If I'm happy, there's a Mutemath song for that. If I'm sad, Mutemath song. Actually, my biggest regret in life is not seeing Mutemath live before the band broke up. Performing with Paul would be the only way to make up for that mistake, frankly.

If not him, then Melissa R Kaplan (Splashdown, Universal Hall Pass). She's like a siren or something, her voice is truly otherworldly. And she keeps such a low profile, if anything I'd want to perform with her just to confirm that she's a real person who actually exists. Because when she sings, I get transported somewhere else. Maybe singing onstage with her would be risky, then, because we'd probably start in one place but end up in some other dimension or something.

What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?

That's a good question! I used to be onstage all the time from childhood and into my teens, because I was part of all these programs and choirs that had events constantly. So because I was always "on," there was no need to prepare. I would just go up, perform, and get offstage like it was nothing. It was my "normal." But I fell off, due to some trauma I was working through, and now I haven't performed onstage in 10 years. So my next challenge as an artist is to get back in the ring — this time, singing MY music, not somebody else's.

It's going to be so interesting, performing on my own terms for the first time. I've literally never done that before. My goal is to just have fun. I already can't wait to re-read this interview in the future and laugh at how scared I used to be to get back onstage. Like... get over yourself, Alicen.

Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!

Ooo. Good question. Probably my stand-alone single, "Smoke and Mirrors," because the melody came to me in a half-dream and it wouldn't get out of my head until I turned it into a song. Problem was, I knew nothing about mixing at that time, and I didn't want to bother my engineer friends because they were busy with other projects. So I decided to teach myself how to mix a song by watching all these tutorials on YouTube, and produced the song as I went along. Took me a month, and I didn't get much sleep, but I did it! And I learned a lot about music-making in the process! I would like to think the Muses gave me that song specifically to make me learn how to produce music by myself.

What's coming up in the future?

Well I'm working on a full-length album called "Ugly." Just as my EP was inspired by Rabbits, this LP is inspired by the Anglerfish. You know the deep-ocean fish with the huge jaw full of fangs and the light on her head? That's her, and I absolutely love her. She lives in the deep-dark all by herself, and she's kind of horrifying to behold, but she just keeps shining anyway. I find her symbolism inspiring.

People generally react to the anglerfish with misunderstanding and judgment, which is like a microcosmic representation of how I feel in general. I've spent most of my life avoiding that feeling of being judged or rejected, but as a consequence, my art has not been as free and expressive as I know it should be — I haven't been fully "shining."

For example, I've always wanted to write darker, more eery music, but on my EP, I held back from doing so because I feared... I don't know, creeping people out? Being perceived as weird and ugly? Though these fears are common and may seem reasonable, they actually reveal a commitment to deception. And I can no longer live from those fears because Truth matters more than social approval.

So this album, Ugly, goes to a darker place than I was willing to go to in RUN RABBIT RUN. Because I'm learning to love my dark-creepy sounds too. It's all part of learning to love myself. Maybe I am weird. Maybe I am ugly. But so what? I'm honest. I'm free. That matters more.

Tell us where fans can access your music?




About When Humans Had Wings

When Humans Had Wings is the solo project of Alicen Grey, a Jupiter-voiced musician-magician chronicling her in-progress self-liberation process with melodies and metaphors. Weaving the soul-stirring intensity of alternative rock with the whimsical surrealism of a storybook, her "alt-whimsy" music reminds us of the time when we flew without fear — the time is also known as "now."



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