Alyssa Jacey popped on our radar about four years ago after she
contacted us when she read an interview I had done with a high school
friend, singer Tristan Prettyman. Jacey had recently moved from Los
Angeles – where she was both a professional dancer and a waitress – back
home to San Diego to follow her dreams of singing.
She sent us several songs which were going to be on her
“The Soul” (and a
few that weren’t) – including the introspective beauties “Understand?,”
“Integrity,” “Prove Me Wrong” and “Sunset Blue.”
Right away we noticed a very skilled singer with above-average
songwriting skills, even in these skeletal early tracks. I agreed to
talk to her about the EP – in fact, she interrupted her family’s Easter
Sunday celebration to discuss her music and her dreams of a singing
Now, these skills are true of lots of local artists, but we can’t
interview everyone and we certainly don’t usually interview them twice.
So why Alyssa Jacey?
Well, beyond her obvious singing talent, there is a simple answer. She
has stayed in our face – but in a good way. A tireless self-promoter,
Jacey has kept us up on every step of her career, through EPs, band
changes, tours and the recent release of her debut album, the
independently released Here’s to Change.
She has made sure that we don’t forget about her and such passionate
determination to get her music out there deserves to be rewarded. The
fact that she is extremely gifted only helps things.
Besides, it turns out that Here’s to Change is a wonderful step
forward for the singer/songwriter, showing her to be an artist of an
even deeper palette than we originally imagined.
Recently Alyssa was kind enough to call us to update us on her music,
her first full-length album, getting a band and the story behind her
deep passion for the color blue.
I was reading that
you have 75 music goals. Obviously you can’t go through all of them, but
tell me some of the more important ones?
One of the most important ones that I wanted to focus on was getting a
solid band. In the past… and I know I haven’t been in the music
industry for such a super-long time… I started in 2005 and found that I
continually was having issues nailing down solid, non-flaky, responsible
people. (laughs) So, I really, really wanted to make
sure that something that happened for 2009 was to make sure I had a
solid band. That is something that happened. I’ve been
playing with the same guys now for over a year. It has been
amazing. Another goal I had was to make sure I opened for people
who had a name in the industry already. Like Bushwalla…
local in San Diego. Meiko… who is international.
Paula Cole is international. Matt Hires who recently got signed to… I
think it’s Universal. Serena Ryder. I got invited to open for Ingrid Michaelson, but I wasn’t able to do it. Just to make sure I was on the
same bill with people who were in the industry. To update my website.
I’m the kind of person who loves to update all the time. I like fresh
content on my websites, so I wanted to make sure that both of my
websites were updated. With everything that had been going on, a
fresher background, a more current background. That was done. And, I
would say my number one goal was to put out that record – the new
Here’s to Change.
I got connected with Studio West [in San Diego] and also a studio in Los
Angeles. I did three songs in LA and seven in Studio West in San
Diego. My goal was to have it done and ready to sell by January 2010.
That’s what happened.
It’s been a few years
since we last spoke. In the time you have released a few EPs but no
full-length albums. Why did you decide that you wanted to start fresh
with newer songs for the album rather than older tunes like “Prove Me
Wrong,” “Understand” and “Integrity?” Do you plan to go back and redo
some of those older songs in the future?
There’s a multi-faceted answer to that question. I did go back and
re-record “Integrity” and “Sunset Blue.” Those were put out on “Turning
Points.” I didn’t necessarily have a release party for “Turning
Points” last year, but I did put out another EP. I re-recorded
Wrong” on the 2006 EP “The
Soul.” I changed it up. I made it longer, fresher, more pop, more indie pop – I guess you could say. Now it’s called “Turning Points,”
and that’s the title track of the EP that came out last year.
San Diego and Los Angeles have such active music scenes. How does a lesser
known artist go about getting noticed in that kind of atmosphere?
In San Diego I think it’s… well, I don’t think it’s easy anywhere, so
I’m not going to use the word easy, however…
Well it’s a lot less
cutthroat than LA, but there is still a big scene there too.
Absolutely, absolutely. In San Diego there are so many different places
to play. I feel like the musicianship and the support from the radio
stations to the other singer/songwriters is very strong, whereas I think
you used the right word, it is cutthroat in LA. It’s really a lot
harder to be a diamond in the rough in Los Angeles. I could be wrong.
How do you go about getting noticed? Nose to the grindstone. Work your
tail off every single day. I don’t think this is the kind of career
where you can slack off for one day. I think you constantly need to be
working on it. Constantly you’ll be passing out business cards,
networking, booking your shows, practicing with your band, writing,
practicing on your own. That’s how you get noticed. I feel like that’s
how I’ve gotten noticed. I put in a ton of marketing and promotion
work. It helps.
The new album is
Here’s To Change. What kind of changes have you been going through
in your life and career?
I think that the record itself speaks to that. Here’s to change.
Here’s to finally getting a full-length professional record out –
something that I’ve wanted to do since virtually I started. Like I
said, I want to take my career up a notch. I’ve been working my butt
off since I first started. Let’s say I’m putting in 100% effort, here’s
to putting in 110% effort and really focusing on what I don’t have.
What I already do well is obvious. I can write a ton of songs – no
shortage of inspiration. The songs come easily. Now I have the band.
Now I’ve been at the bigger venues. I’ve been able to sell out some of
my concerts. All of those things have happened. So, here’s to change,
making sure that I can put this new record out, maybe I get noticed and
have some label interest as well as a music video. It wasn’t
necessarily a goal of mine until I played at a Twitter festival and I
was approached by one of the NBC cameramen, who asked if they could do a
music video for me. So, I think that really takes me a notch above some
of the people who don’t have it, because if you get a music video
together that looks like that one – very professional – it sets you
apart. It is like, “Whoa, this person is dead serious about their
career if they went this far into making sure they could have something
that shows that they are… I don’t know, serious, I guess is the word.”
It seems to me – and
I’d have to go back and listen to the older songs – but it seems the new
album is much more richly produced and has a more varied set of styles
and instruments – it sounded like you had horns, some pedal steel,
strings, etc. Did that come from working with a set group of musicians?
“Feel Like This,” for example, is what I call my baby of the record.
That’s a song that when I first wrote it – and I wrote it in February
2007 – I knew with 100% certainty what instruments I wanted to go on it,
when I wanted them to come in, how I wanted them to sound, where I
wanted them to come out. I knew everything. But when it comes to,
let’s say, “Someone Like You,” I didn’t write that until I pretty much
had recorded the record. It was just a few months before, so I didn’t
really know how that was going to sound until I got into the studio. Of
course band members in the studio suggest what to put on some songs, but
I’d say, you know, “Fall Out of Love,” I knew how I wanted to sound. I
have a greater idea for how I wanted most of the songs to sound, but
there are a few that I needed help with. “All Over Again” was one that
I didn’t know exactly how I wanted it. Instrumentally, but 100% I knew
I wanted that to be a pop song. It had pop written all over it. There
are so many genres in this record, which makes me so happy. I think
that’s what you were kind of asking me about, too.
Yes, it was, but also
I was asking if knowing the strengths of your band made you feel more
comfortable delving into different areas.
Oh, yeah! Absolutely! Absolutely! I had a ton of fun
doing it. You might have wanted to ask me this question later, but
before I forget…
was actually inspired by Eminem's song
don’t know why, I heard it on the radio for the first time and that
melody got in my head. I got back home and I wrote “Here’s to Change.”
Obviously, you’ve heard it, it’s jazzy, bluesy kind of hip-hop.
Do you believe that
people can fall in love “All Over Again”?
I believe that people want to be able to fall in love all over again.
Whether or not it’s possible: I haven’t lived that experience, yet.
Some artists will use
actual phone messages on their albums. Was the phone call that you used
to lead into “Feel Like This” an actual call or acting on your part and
If there is one thing on the record that didn’t turn out the way I wish
it did, it’s the phone call. Yes, it is something that I’ve always had
in mind. I wanted to portray what actually happened the night I wrote
that song. My boyfriend and I at the time, he and I were supposed to
spend some time together that night. He flaked out on me and decided to
go out with his friends instead and didn’t tell me. I call him and he’s
drinking at a bar and he’s just being a total jerk. My poor friend who
acted out my ex-boyfriend in the fight didn’t know how to be mean.
(laughs) But, I think, on the record, if the actor would have been
mean to me, then I would have sounded… I think I came off a little bit
needier than what really happened.
It seems to a certain
extent that you did more up-tempo music – like “You Are My Passion” and
the title and then back loaded it with ballads like “Beautiful Night,”
“Dear Life” and “Someone Like You.” Was that a conscious choice – to
sort of musically convey a mood – or did it just hang together best for
you that way?
I think both. I’ve never been the kind of person or musician or whoever
who knows exactly. I don’t know if there is rhyme or reason to putting
songs together, truly, other than do they sound nice one after the
other? Okay, that’s good. But does it tell a story and does it make
sense? I wanted to make sure I had a little more of an upbeat [feel].
I want to put this record on and be able to drive to Santa Barbara and rock
out for the first half of the record. Then it turns into this unhappy
breakup, from “Give In, Give Up & Get Out,” “Fall Out of Love” to “Feel
Like This.” It’s like this breakup center of the record. Then get
happy at the end, perk yourself back up with “All Over Again” – we’ll
have a pop song. Then a beautiful little ballad about being in love and
getting married with “Beautiful Night” and the romantic “Someone Like
You.” I feel like I’ve always known I wanted to end with “Dear Life.”
That’s a good bookend for the record.
I was reading that
you also did a cover of “Come Together” which was included as a bonus
for people who purchased
Here’s to Change
at shows. Why did you decide not to include that in the CD?
I don’t think it was necessarily such a conscious decision. I wanted
to, but things you have to go through in order to get permission to be
selling Beatles songs…. I sold, I don’t know how many, a handful and
then I decided not to do that anymore because I didn’t want to get into
trouble, selling these without [yet having the] permission. I decided
not to put it on the real record. From the article I assume you read
from North County Times, is that the one?
Yes that was the
I assume when he put that, he was saying he felt it would be a good idea
for me to put that on the record. And I agree. I wouldn’t mind having
eleven tracks on there instead of ten. I want to put 30 songs on the
record. I’ve got the material. I just don’t have the money.
Well, speaking of
that, you have a new song, “Down.” Of course, it becomes really popular
right after the album came out. Are you going to put that on future
pressings, or are you going to save it for the next album or what?
I want to get into the studio as quickly as possible and record that
song. I’m already starting to ask for donations from friends, family,
fans, whoever likes that song. Chip in whatever you want to get me back
in the studio. I’m already talking to Studio West and we have some
dates swirling around. I think I’m going to try to get in there and do
two different versions of it. Do an acoustic version, I think we’re
aiming for this month for me to get in and do that version. Then
sometime by the end of June or early July, bring the band in and do a
full-band version of “Down.” Before “Down” the song I got requested the
most was “Prove Me Wrong,” I would say. But I can’t even compare the
reaction. It’s incredible. People just start flying out of the
woodworks, emailing me, texting me, getting me on Facebook and MySpace.
On YouTube it got about 70 plays in about twenty minutes last night.
I believe you also
did your first East coast shows recently. What was it like getting
exposed to a totally different audience?
Refreshing, if I had to choose one word. Just an out-of-body
experience, almost. For somebody who had never done that before, I
booked the tour on my own. I was gone for three weeks. Just even
booking it felt really good. I love being on the back end of my
career. Getting out there, meeting new people, exploring new venues,
seeing how other people work their careers in different states on the
other side of the country. It’s just so cool. It’s so neat and it’s so
refreshing. Not to say that fans here on the west coast don’t react the
same way, but I felt like I was welcomed – or my music was welcomed – on
even a different level. It was just fun, super, super fun.
Do you have any plans
for more traveling – New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston or
Yes. I think that’s going to be a 2011 trip. It’s only really money
that’s been holding me back from getting on the road more often. A lot
of people would even say that’s an excuse. I don’t have excuses for my
career. I make everything happen that I want to make happen. I can
have control over it. If I really wanted to go to Philly and New York,
I would go. I would just have to put it on a credit card… and I’m not
making those decisions right now. There is another tour coming up that
I’d like to do. One of my best friends from college is getting married
in October and what I’d like to do is – since I haven’t done this yet –
she is getting married in Sonoma, which is where I went to college, and
I’m going to try to do a north coast to south coast California tour in
October. Little quick one, short trips, maybe starting in Sacramento
and heading all the way back down here.
How did the tradition
of people wearing blue to your shows come about?
I love this question! It’ll be great to get this out on paper, because
I get asked this all the time. I absolutely don’t mind answering it.
It puts a smile on my face. I was sixteen when I got my first car. The
car was painted brown, but you couldn’t really tell because it was
chipping all over the place. So it was just this metal and brownish
paint job. Obviously, at sixteen years old I was starting to work part
time. I didn’t have any money for a paint job, so my dad was, “I’m
going to make a deal with you. I will let you paint this car any color
you want if you get straight A’s this semester.” I made the deal. I
did it. So he takes me to the paint shop. I’m looking through this
book of cars and there are about 5,000 different colors. I open up the
page to the blue section. Mind you, before this day, I knew blue
existed, but something kind of just snaps in my brain. A light switch
went on. These colors were just so beautiful. I noticed this one
specific color. It was called “Highlight Blue Pearl.” I will always
remember the color. I was like, dad, that’s the color I want to paint
my car. He thought, “I think you’re crazy, but okay, I did tell you
that you could paint it any color.” So from that moment on, I kid you
not… I’m driving around high school, I’m the only person who has this
electric blue – highlight blue pearl was kind of electric blue with an
opal covering over it. After that happened, I noticed my clothes
started turning blue. I was shopping with girlfriends and they’d have
to literally pull me out of the blue section. I’ve had three cars since
then. They’ve all been blue. All my apartments have been blue. To top
it off, if I’m going out with my girlfriends and going to a bar and I
see just a gorgeous-looking guy in… let’s say red… and then a decent
looking guy and he’s in blue, I automatically want to talk to the guy in
the blue shirt. (laughs)
Okay, good to know.
Just one last question: you mentioned this earlier, but beyond
performing, you also book your shows, you manage, you promote, you
market yourself. Do you ever get a chance to get some sleep?
It’s gotten to be
very, very busy. Right now I have a full-time day job. I got a
job about two months ago and before that I was without a job for a year. I
utilized this last year to my benefit and every day I would use my
career as a day job. For six hours a day I would be working on it in
whatever possible way I could, whether it was emailing the venues, or
calling the venues, or setting up my website, or practicing, or
writing, or the band, or whatever. I’m marketing and promoting every
day. Every day. I wouldn’t take a day off. So, yeah of course I’d
sleep. (laughs) But, for all I do, the one thing that I’d
really like to catch a break on is, I’m not really great with dealing
with the money side – having to talk to venues about compensation and
that kind of stuff. I’m at the point now where I think I need a
manager. I know I need a manager. They would take care of that side
for me. I do have an entertainment lawyer now, which is great. It’s
been helpful. So, yeah, I’ve been able to sleep a little bit.
To read about what Alyssa has been up to in 2010, visit her blog on MySpace
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