Everything is Better in Blue
by Jay S. Jacobs
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 third EP “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 career.
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 record, 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 and changed “What Went 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 called 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… the title track “Here’s to Change” was actually inspired by Eminem’s song “We Made You.” I 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”?
(laughs) 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 a friend’s?
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 on 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 one….
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. (chuckles)
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 whatever?
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?
(laughs) 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?
(laughs) 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.
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 8, 2010.
#1 © 2010 John Hancock. Courtesy of alyssajacey.com. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2010 John Hancock. Courtesy of alyssajacey.com. All rights reserved.
#3 © 2009 Bill Hughes. Courtesy of alyssajacey.com. All rights reserved.
#4 © 2010 Kirk Guadi. Courtesy of alyssajacey.com. All rights reserved.
#5 © 2010 Will J. Courtesy of alyssajacey.com. All rights reserved.