Interview: Alice Marie

Alice Marie Interviewed by S.N.

For the new Alice Marie fan (or for anyone that hasn’t heard this story), how did you begin your musical career?
Accidentally. Erratically. Desperately! The other day I came across a Polaroid of me in front of the baby grand my parents bought when I was seven. I’m facing forward, but my hand is reaching back to the keys, as if I don’t want to lose contact with my new friend. That’s when I first took lessons but not for long. I was more interested in singing pop music instead of playing classical pieces, so I eventually stopped playing until poetry and what would become lyrics brought me back to the piano. I was in college then. I’ve been writing ever since — fifteen years — with long breaks when I taught English and wrote for magazines and television. Moving to NYC added some serious Emeril bang to my career. That was in 2001. I took excellent songwriting workshops, played out a lot more, and found a soul mate of a producer to record my CDs with. CD Baby and the Internet in general have been great gardens for my seeds to grow in. And meeting so many people with indie and major-label careers is incredibly inspiring.

You’ve become a mother since your first CD Equilibrium, how has that affected the songwriting/recording process?
During my pregnancy and the first few postpartum months, I wasn’t as productive, but I think that’s entirely normal, and I have no regrets about that. It’s been a privilege to be with my daughter full-time, finish and release a CD, and play out and write new material, even if it’s not at the pace or intensity it could be were I not a mother. Then again, I’ve actually gigged more since Amanda was born than I did before, so in some ways I’ve been more productive. I think the most significant change has been the limit that motherhood has put on my navel-gazing — and this is a good thing. I can’t spend too much time angsting about a performance that didn’t go the way I wanted it to because Amanda brings me back to the moment and gives me much-needed perspective on things. I also feel like a much better mother to my songs. The commitment I have to caring for Amanda has carried over to them. Giving birth naturally makes you feel you can do pretty much anything, which doesn’t hurt! Several songs have been inspired by pregnancy, motherhood, and moving to the burbs like “Could It Be,” “Black Reverie,” and “Easy Streets.” And I have a bigger heart to write with now.

What kind of response have you received from your latest CD Angels Near?
Surprising in the sense that almost every song has been picked as a favorite by fans and DJs. The industry might say it’s better to have an obvious “hit” but I’m honored that all the songs are resonating for people on some level. I don’t know that I’d call it a “hit,” but “I Was Seven” has taken on a life of its own. I thought it was the track most people would want to skip, but it’s been embraced in such beautiful, reverent ways, both in live performances and as a recording.

Which song(s) on Angels Near is most meaningful to you?
Good mothers aren’t supposed to pick favorites! But if I HAD to pick one, “I Was Seven” would be it because writing and recording it helped open me up to becoming a mother. When Sting said, “Music is its own reward,” I think that’s what he meant. The fact that it’s also helping raise money for RAINN makes it even more special. I also have soft spots for “Could It Be” and “It’s Amazing” because they’re just as raw and honest.

As a songwriter, is it easier to write the dark/painful songs or the more uplifting/positive ones?
I seem to be more eloquent and incisive when I’m in pain, but I’m having a great time with lighter-toned songs too. I recently wrote a bouncy road-trip kind of tune called “Gotta See Where This Goes,” and I had a great time with that. It’s good to put the top down and “soak up the sun” a la Sheryl Crow once in a while. “More” came pretty fast and easy, and I think that’s one of my most uplifting songs. “Madeleine” too.

You’ve had some recent concert dates, how are the shows going?
Really well. I’ve grown a lot as a performer since releasing Angels Near, and I’m very happy about that. A house concert and some of the open mics and showcases I did were incredibly intimate and supportive. I’m letting go a lot more and trusting the live experience more; that’s huge for the Type A girl in me.

Congratulations on having 2 of your songs, “More” & “I Was Seven” chosen for the CD: “Mindful Lullabies” (to benefit the RAINN organization founded by Tori Amos). That must be quite an honor. Your thoughts:
It’s a dream come true to be able to serve with my music. Since music has been so healing for me, it’s an honor to be part of the healing process for someone else.

What kind of impact are your songs having on the sexual abuse/trauma survivor communities?
From the time I shared the rough mix of “I Was Seven” with my mailing list, I’ve received beautiful messages from survivors that confirm my decision to share it. Messages like, “I was eleven.” Women have thanked me for giving voice to this all-too-common experience that’s all-too-often shrouded in shame. Kathleen Brooks, survivor and radio host for Darkness to Light, has embraced the song and my musical journey in general. We had a warm, insightful interview a few weeks back, and I hope listeners found it helpful and healing too.

How does it feel that your songs are being used in such a healing capacity?
It’s an honor and a beautiful surprise from the Universe. And a miracle. When I think of how scared I used to be to share my songs with anyone, even a close friend, and when I think of how depressed I used to be before acknowledging the songwriter in me, I’m in awe that my songs exist at all.

So, everybody wants to know: When will Alice Marie be coming out with a new CD?
When Amanda’s in college! LOL The funny thing is I’m halfway there — at least in the writing department. We’ll see what the Universe has to say about studio time. Right now, I’m really committed to promoting Angels Near and finding more of those intimate venues to share my “hope opera.” I’ve discovered context is just as important as content!

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