By Daniel Warren Hill
“I, as a human, am searching for a lot of space.” – Alicia Blue
When Alicia Blue released her debut album, Bravebird in 2020, the then L.A.-based artist was told the record sounded like Nashville. Now that she has relocated to Nashville to work with songwriter and producer Lincoln Parish, formerly of Cage The Elephant, Blue is amused by feedback suggesting that her latest EP, Inner Child Work (Releasing July 15 via Magnetic Moon Records), ‘sounds more like L.A.’
Some of this ‘confusion’ is certainly the result of the removal of physical restrictions from collaborating and producing music, as ever-expanding opportunities for remote collaborations reveal themselves between artists and producers across the globe. In the case of Alicia Blue, it may also be that her initial leanings as a folk artist have more commonly been associated with that Nashville sound, even when recorded in Los Angeles. While her folk roots are certainly present on Inner Child Work, the EP drastically expands Blue’s palette with dreamy indie rock (“Dog Days in L.A.”), delicate pop meditations (“Saline Waters”), ’90s alternative rock (“Dirty Hippie”), and Tori Amos-esque introspection (“Fine”).
Perhaps some of the best music of our day is the music that exists somewhere between worlds; music that feels slightly elevated above the familiar without being derivative. The music of Inner Child Work fits that description. Containing songs that, at their core, are gems akin to her influences by poets like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen, the production leaves lots of room for future interpretations and arrangements, yet none of the songs feel lacking in any regard. Blue attributes this kind of spatial awareness to how she, Parish, and the band she recorded Inner Child Work with prioritized the status of the lyrics with all the underlying elements following suit. She appreciates the ambiguity that comes with operating between genres but acknowledges how this focus on lyricism may be the key to pinning down her contemporaries.
“No artist wants to sound like anyone,” Blue says, “but someone told me ‘Dog Days in LA’ is like ‘if Phoebe Bridges and Lana Del Rey had a baby,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that is fascinating!’ I love Lana; I don’t feel I make music that sounds like hers, but I do think the lyrics and narrative – and same with Phoebe – the lyric is always king, and the music always follows that.”
Inner Child Work is an extremely personal project that in a lot of respects is pure catharsis for Blue, having much more to do with her own journey and experiences than as an observation of society or current topics. “Each song on Inner Child Work is really just about the difficulty of navigating this life and not having all the proper tools to live it in the most successful way,” Blue says. “And by successful, I mean the most healthy way. I like to think that getting this all out helps me in some way.” However, the feelings expressed in Inner Child Work are creating strong connections with listeners who have undergone these same kinds of transformations during the pandemic; with one podcaster who interviewed Blue recently commenting along the lines of, ‘Inner child work is all I could do [during the pandemic].’
“Dog Days in LA” the lead single from Inner Child Work, actually the last song written for the EP, is about Blue’s realization of how much she didn’t have her life in California figured out. “I had no idea I would be moving to Nashville, but coming here throughout the pandemic to write and make the record I spent almost two months here…[before that] I never left the city; I never left where I grew up. So coming here was the first time to do all this writing and recording, and I got an incredible perspective on my life.” “Dog Days in LA” shares this renewed perspective and also exhibits, “a lot of sympathy for the girl that was trying to figure it out there with not a ton of support in the beginning and a ton of support now,” says Blue.
“Saline Waters” is a song that beautifully contains both soft sadness and warm contentment. Blue relates a really intense year during the pandemic where she lost her grandmother, her uncle, and one of her best friends all in one year. “I’ve never been confronted with death like that before with people that I was so connected to. So, on New Year’s Day of 2021, my best friend and I took a trip to The Salton Sea in California, which is a dead sea; I had never been, and the sand is white and there is no life there, but there is something really glorious, and creepy, and beautiful all at once. We realized while we were walking on the sand that it wasn’t really a ton of sand, it was mostly fish bones that we were walking on that were crunching beneath our feet. So there was this weird giggle we had in this death lake valley sea while I was experiencing so much death, and I couldn’t help but feel this strange closeness with the mystery of it all, and as an anxious person, there was this moment of nonanxiety that was really relieving. “Saline Waters” effectively captures that recognition of our temporary nature while retaining the spirit of making the most of the time that we have.
Other tracks appearing on Inner Child Work when the EP makes its way to your favorite platform on July 15 include, “Fine,” which Blue notes “has an alternative 90’s lean, which is fun, and not intentional, but the song just lent itself that way.” Continuing, “I had the pleasure of writing that with Lera Lynn about a black leopard named ‘Spirit, you should YouTube it; it’s a fascinating story.” She laughs while describing ”Dirty Hippy” as “major overdue anger from my adolescence that never got out,” and “also a kind of fun summer bop.”
“‘DTMTS (Don’t Tell Me To Smile)’ is kind of everybody’s fav, but it’s also one of my favorites as well.” says Blue. “I would describe it as more like ‘Dog Days of LA’ but with more rock and punk underneath it. I wrote that with Bre Kennedy in about 30 minutes; she’s an incredible writer.” Blue shares with Alchemical how this was her last of 12 writing sessions over a 10-day period, and how, feeling drained by this point in her trip she wasn’t feeling quite up to the effort: “I didn’t know Bre, and I didn’t want to do the writing session because I was obliterated; I just wanted to lay in a dark hole and fall asleep for 48 hours. So, I was journaling before she got there and getting all my resentment out like, ‘I don’t fucking wanna do this session right now; I don’t have anything good to offer,’ nothing against her – I didn’t know her very well. It came to me in my journaling, ‘Don’t tell me to smile. I don’t want to pretend to want to do this right now; it’s just so draining to pretend.’” The song developed into an opportunity to transparently deal with the frustration any woman might feel when being told she’d look prettier and/or happier if she’d just smile.
With Inner Child Work releasing on July 15, this is a fantastic opportunity to become acquainted with the music and the story of Alicia Blue and her journey of healing and self-discovery. Hers is a story that reflects so much about human nature itself and about experiences that, while individually felt, happen to be shared across a variety of real and artificial boundaries. You can find “Dog Days in LA” and “Saline Waters” now on all major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. The music video for “Dog Days in LA” is also available now on YouTube.
Daniel Warren Hill is an American musician, writer, and motivational speaker. He is best known as the frontman for Washington DC area Alternative Rock band YellowTieGuy, as co-founder of Capitol Groove Collective, and increasing the exposure of artists on a global scale through his work with Alchemical Records.
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