While some artists kick off their career by playing Jägermeister-drenched dingy rock clubs, Nashville’s alt-folk pop chanteuse Alicia Blue instead started her career in a Los Angeles Thai restaurant, singing in Thai phonetically. “I legit would youtube the songs and there would be English phonetic subtitles for pronunciation. That’s all I needed,” she confesses.
While her career singing in that restaurant in Los Angeles’ Thai Town didn’t quite pan out celebrity status in the area (“We ultimately ended up fired and replaced by this older, kind of sexy Thai woman who definitely did a better job than me singing in Thai,” she laughs), it did introduce her to one of her mentors, a woman named Nong, who helped her hone her musical creativity… which led her to this point in her career.
Alicia Blue may not sport the third line / 36 pt. font size on a Bonnaroo or Newport Folk Fest marquee that Brandi Carlile or Laura Marling commands, but if I were a betting man, I’d nudge you to place all your chips on her. Her new gorgeously lush EP Inner Child Work Part 1 wields the punch of Lissie, Sharon Etten and Angel Olsen with a sharper indie edge. She wades through dark indie creeks with her song “Saline Waters,” which bottles the melancholy of early Tears for Fears with the sexy noir of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” She gets really poppy and melodic too on “DTMTS (Don’t Tell Me To Smile)” which sticks like a pickaxe to the skull. Having cowriting partners in Lincoln Parish of Cage the Elephant and John Paul White of Civil Wars doesn’t hurt either.
But definitely keep an eye on this one. While you may not see her while eating spring rolls, you might be seeing “Alicia Blue” in 36 pt. on a marquee very soon.
According to your bio, the legendary soul singer Malcolm Clark Hayes, Jr. helped you discover that you can actually sing.
I spent about three years learning about music from him [she was his caregiver while he recovered from a stroke]. I learned reverence for musical authorities, in terms of artistry, and who I should listen to. He would say things like, ‘If you want to be the best, you have to listen to the best.’
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Did he hear you humming and say, “Girl, you need to sing” or did he pull out a latent talent in you that you didn’t even know you had?
It was 100% a dormant dream. Almost like I was begging for him to show up in my life… and there he was. It was like music knocked on my door. No… It was more like music banged on my door, broke in, and walked me out with our arms linked.
Then after Malcolm’s tutelage, you then started performing in a Thai restaurant… singing songs in Thai?! Did you even speak the language?
[laughs] I very much sang in Thai and had no idea what I was saying or singing. We ultimately ended up getting fired from this restaurant in Thai Town and replaced by this older, kind of sexy Thai woman who definitely did a better job than me singing in Thai. Ha! It was clear that she was upset that the restaurant had let Nong [a Thai guitarist/singer who taught her performance basics] bring me on in the first place! I think we might have been taking her crown a bit. Ha.
While that first albumBravebird (2020) was a solid record, Inner Child Work feels more confident and more fully realized… like you’re finding out who “Alicia Blue” really is.
I appreciate your directness! Bravebird was my first go at a studio album with a full band and producer all working as a team. There were many avenues there to explore, and we did. On Inner Child Work, however, the vision is more streamlined and has a deeper penetrating directness toward my inner energy. I wasn’t afraid to go to anywhere dark or intense on the EP. And I think the singularity shows, not just vocally and lyrically, but also in the music itself. The rock n roll woman inside this folk singer got to breathe out on these EPs.
Apparently this “rock n’ roll woman inside” is responsible for your recent cover of Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says.”
’Jane Says’ is one of those songs that I’ve held onto since I was a kid. Once I was a teenager, I realized what Perry Farrell was singing about and was almost afraid to grow up and be just like the girl in his story.