Alicia Blue Fired From Thai Restaurant; Becomes Alt Folk Star


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.

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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.

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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 album Bravebird (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.

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Which then leads us to the song “Best Hands” which is on your upcoming EP [Inner Child Work Part 2 which comes out in November 2022]. You adopt this scrappy feminist attitude on there in which you won’t take shit from anyone (“I look within and get no answers”) while also knowing that they all want a part of you (“All my teachers are in love with me”).  With you on the beat, early Liz Phair better ‘fuck and run‘!

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Oh, that’s rad. And yes, I often write from a kind of heroic narrative when I’m at my most frustrated. Feeling powerless isn’t something society often likes to talk about. But, I love talking about those kinds of things. Then I can breathe, regain my confidence in a healthy way, and move forward.

Did you write the songs on your first album yourself or did get help from collaborators?

Throughout my short career, the number of times I would dive into a collaboration or partnership with someone and have it turn out poorly, because I wasn’t returning something romantic, is stunning. At some point you’re like: Where is the fucking sign on my forehead that says, “Will fuck for inspiration and growth”? You start wondering where your gift really lies. Doubt can inevitably creep in. But, luckily, I woke up! And that’s when I wrote the lyrics to “Best Hands”.

One thing I find interesting from the progression from your debut album to your new EP is that your newer music feels more like a confessional… like you’re pointing at the emotions on your sleeves and saying, “Hey look… here they are!”

Absolutely. I think there’s a romanticization of tragic artist and the sad girl thing happening right now.

On the song “Picasso Blue,” you put away the gruff “I can do this” persona and take on a more serious tone about mental health. The trope you chose – Picasso’s “Blue Period” – is a pretty powerful image since he painted lots of somber scenes with blues, greens and earth tones. Likewise, you use that as a metaphor about breaking out of depression.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but I suppose all clichés are truisms. Sitting in your blues can be fun because there’s company there… just you and your sorrow. It’s addictive. But most of all, it’s familiar. That’s the danger zone. So, of course there was that light bulb moment when I realized I’d outgrown the pattern, where I wanted to choose joy and beauty for my life’s mainline base. I also knew I needed joy and beauty, and especially peace, in order to be the best artist I could be.

Alicia Blue Gets Fired From Thai Restaurant... Becomes Alt Folk Star
Photo credit: Tammy Valer

How did you get connected with John Paul White of Cage The Elephant and Lincoln Parish of Civil Wars?   

My manager had sent some of my demos out to a few publishers and I was fortunate enough to have Lincoln and John Paul both react, completely separately, and want to meet up for writing sessions. My first taste of the awesome nature of Nashville.

You and John Paul wrote “Young” together that has an interesting take on ageism.

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Yeah, there’s an interesting perspective and twist in “Young”. I met John Paul White over Zoom for our first session and started telling him how I always felt like the youngest person in every room growing up, even as I got older. He said that was funny because he always felt like the oldest person in every room, even when he was much younger. We knew right then we were gonna write a great song. This one was shedding some overdue adolescent frustration, a hometown in the suburbs of LA where you can’t relate to anyone, where mindlessness is a cool thing and the high school “golden years” of jocks and prom queens are a thing of status. I mean, unconsciousness is death if you stay in it for too long. At least for me it was. “Young” is about getting the fuck out of there. Haha!

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“Faster” is a dance-y banger… It really needs a remix.  Who do you think should do that?

Oh gosh, how fun. I haven’t thought about that at all. I’m so not hip to the best DJ’s, but didn’t MUNA remix some cool stuff? Maybe MUNA!

So, what exactly is “inner child work” anyway?  It sounds heavy.

Inner Child Work as a concept (not an album title) is a kind of therapy work, like going back in and finding the frozen little parts that didn’t see the light of day when you were younger. Those parts can really run amuck when you’re older if not given the proper attention! And they will come for you, especially if you’re running from them. They’ll come even harder. And that can pretty well mess with you.

You’re pretty upfront and personal in your music. But who are you, Alicia Blue?!

Hmmm, I suppose much of what they could want to know can be found in a lot of my lyrics. I’m always looking for freedom in a song, but I’m a lover of reality and I write about my life.

What do you want to do with your music?

To be able to share that with someone listening is a big honor. That’s what health is to me. I’m not trying to be perceived as heady, but that happens from time to time and it’s out of my control. Heart is at the center of everything I do and hopefully I occasionally hit a nerve with some folks.

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So now that you got me hooked on your music, I want more… What’s next?

Writing for my next record is what I’m onto now and I’m really stoked with the people involved. I hear people call Nashville the next Laurel Canyon. Well, I wasn’t there (or alive) back then, but I do know that this place in 2022 feels elevated, unlike anywhere else I’ve been. Grateful to be here and doing what I’m doing.

For more information on Alicia Blue, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

  • Fletcher Christian

    Fletcher Christian lives in the East Village, NYC and spends most of his time trying to convince people who he meets that he isn’t a hipster by admitting readily that he knows every word to ABBA’s “Super Trouper” by heart.

    View all posts



Originally published at popwrapped.com

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