Impressive indeed is Smoke and Mirrors, the debut record by Los Angeles singer-songwriter, Alicia Marie. The set contains 10 riveting cuts that range from the piano-driven ballad "Crying on the Inside" to the edgier "I Don't Believe in Love". All of the songs exude a melancholy that sit like a mist over the whole affair. A lot of great music has been written over the years by people who have had romanticus interruptus and it seems like that's the case here. Whatever the motivation, the resulting CD is an excellent one by this indie artist (who is also heart-stoppingly gorgeous --- I might add).
I spoke with Alicia recently to find out all about her. Here's what she had to say:
antiMusic: Smoke and Mirrors is a fairly dark affair. Have real events shaped the lyrical content of this record or are you writing from a purely fictional standpoint?
Alicia: Absolutely. I had my heart broken repeatedly by one person and out came each song. One after the other. It was almost divine how simple and easy it was to compose. Although, now that I look back, it is rather dark. But, at least my audience can rest assure that the album is 100 percent pure.
antiMusic: The strongest selling point to me is the strong songs and your delivery. Did you work hard at finding songs that all fit into this emotional framework or were these simply the best 10 songs that you had?
Alicia: It was a little of both. Some songs were just favorites of mine at the time and I truly believe that if you really feel what you are singing the audience can hear that. So, I really pushed for the songs that were in the vein of what I was feeling. My producers however didn't always agree and felt the need to step it up a notch. Again, now that I look back they were right. The aggression I got out in my vocals ended up being a real treat on that record.
antiMusic: What went into making Smoke and Mirrors in terms of how long writing, studio and so on?
Alicia: Wow! A lot! I made that record happen on my own by gathering all the people surrounding me that believed in me 100%. Without them I would have nothing. Since I didn't have a lot of money at the time and worked 6 days a week, it really took a lot for me to begin as well as finish Smoke and Mirrors. I started the recordings in Atlanta at Red Zone studios. Then finished the last 5 tracks at Final Mix Studios in the Bay Area. I would literally get off work on a Friday night after saving up for a few weeks for gas money, and drive all through the night up to San Francisco. I would crawl into a bed around 2 in the morning and get up at 10 and head straight to the studio. I would live there till Sunday, wrap around 10 p.m. and drive back to Los Angeles just to head to work again the next morning at 6 a.m.. WHEW! Am I glad that's over! As you can see at that rate it took me about a full year to finish recording as well as mix/master the whole thing.
antiMusic: For those of us that are new to you, what is your background? Where are you from and what musical events have led you to this point, including your time with Stirling Brig and The Shenanigans?
Alicia: I grew up in Bakersfield. Yeah, not a lot to say there. Hahaha! I started Dance and Piano when I was about 5 years old. My life hasn't been the easiest and I always relied on my piano as my escape. It wasn't until I was much older that I discovered I could sing. So, after living in Los Angeles for a few years I tried out for Stirling Brig to sing as back ups. It was kind of my way to secretly learn the stage, gear, what it was like to be in a band, etcetera. Indeed I am a ham for the spotlight so it wasn't long until I went off on my own. I had a solo project for a while and that is where I met Ronnie Borchert. He found me playing acoustic guitar at the World Famous Rainbow Bar and Grill. We hit it off so well writing together that we decided to start a little cuddle punk band called The Shenanigans. As most good bands do, this one fell apart, but, I took so much with me and gained so many contacts that this would not be the end for me. I took a year off, and began Smoke and Mirrors as soon and I was fixed on the direction I wanted to go in.
antiMusic: Were you a musical kid --- school band, piano lessons and all of that?
Alicia: Oh God yes! I danced ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and hip hop and started all of that when I was about 2. I then picked up piano when I was closer to 5. Then I found the magical world of theatre and began traveling with a Shakespearian group. I was in Marching Band in High School as well. I did it all! Anything to be creative and keep my soul at peace.
antiMusic: Do you come from a musical family and is your family supportive of your career choice?
Alicia: My mother was a dancer and danced up to the 8th month of her pregnancy with me. After that I never really saw that side of her. Once she had me it was all work and no play since she was a single mom. Although I remember being a little girl and some nights we would turn on her record player and dance all night to Disco music. Those are some of my favorite memories. But, yes. My mother has been my only family and my driving force behind me. She has opened all the doors within her reach for me and that is why I dedicated my first solo album to her.
antiMusic: At what age did you start writing songs and what was the catalyst behind you deciding that you could in fact do this for a living?
Alicia: When I was about 19. I know I was a late bloomer. I was secretly always afraid of singing in front of people so it wasn't until I got in the band Stirling Brig that I decided to grow some you know what's!
antiMusic: Many musicians I've spoken to have said that Los Angeles/Hollywood is hard on solo artists right now and that the scene has become so saturated that people are playing to far less than full rooms. What have been your experiences there?
Alicia: I have also found that a lot of musicians are extremely lazy and don't put their efforts into filling a room. I have never played to an empty room. Although there was one time but it started to down pour rain about two hours before my show! So, that doesn't count! You know how L.A. traffic is when it rains? Hahaha! Anyway, the point is these musicians all expect to post a bulletin and people are going to magically show up! L.A. is hard on musicians in GENERAL. Even bands have a hard time filling a club. But they need to get off their asses and go out and PROMOTE! Live and breathe your music every single day people! Like I said, I have never played to an empty room.
antiMusic: How do you approach your live shows? You play both guitar and piano. Do you play them as well live? Who else is in your band?
Alicia: For a while I have yes, played both guitar and piano. But, now I have a band, Josh Gudwin (Guitar), Kasey Burdick (Bass), Lucas Bro (Drums). I still play both instruments as well as take a break and let the band play, while I rock out in front. I gotta show off those dance moves! Hahaha!
antiMusic: What are your plans with regards to promoting this CD? Any plans for shows outside of California?
Alicia: I think this album was for my own satisfaction, and I have no plans to go to any sort of extremes promoting it. I am ready for this new project and have gone back into creative mode.
antiMusic: In your MySpace bio it says that you have done some acting as well. Can you tell us what your related experiences have been and do you plan on doing more?
Alicia: Like I said earlier the theatre was my life for quite some time. Other then that the last film I was in before I got trapped in the whole music scene was "The Glass House" with Lele Sobieski. I have done A LOT of commercials, but none are airing currently. I have worked with Spike Lee, and Tony K. (American History X). It was a lot of fun, but financially it's really difficult to do both and my passion lies with music.
antiMusic: What does Alicia Marie do when you're not busy with anything musical?
antiMusic: Anything else you would like to add that I didn't ask you?
Alicia: Stay tuned for the next project! Let's just say "the new Chrissie Hynde".
Morley and antiMUSIC thank Alicia for speaking with us.