The Independent Artist: Alicia Witt
May 18, 2012
You might know Alicia Witt from her body of work as an actor on shows including "Friday Night Lights." "Law & Order," "The Sopranos," "Cybill" and from the films "88 Minutes," "Two Weeks Notice," "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Vanilla Sky," to name just a few.
But Alicia is also a classically trained pianist and accomplished singer/songwriter. For the last three years, she's been performing her original songs at venues across the country such as Hotel Cafe and Universal Citywalk in Los Angeles, and Joe's Cafe and The Living Room in New York. Her self-titled first EP is out and available on iTunes, and Alicia's first music video, for the single "Anyway," was played on MTVu and VH1.com. She has also appeared as musical guest on the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and is currently working on her next album.
If you've been a reader of the newsletter for awhile, you know that one of the things I like to do is talk to independent artists who are making new music, and playing it live for audiences all over the country.
I heard Alicia's songs (thank you to Harvey Leeds!), was impressed, and wanted to talk to her. She made the time between doing her music and acting to do so.
Q. First of all, thank you for taking time out of what appears to be a busy schedule between creating and performing your music, and your acting. To start with, have you always wanted to pursue a career in music, and if so, how long have you actually been at it?
AW: I have wanted to do this for my whole life. I've been playing piano since I was seven, which is also when I did my first movie, so both have been a huge part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.
I always pictured myself writing songs, performing them, and sharing them with people. But up until about four-and-a-half years ago, I hadn't really done that much to make it happen. I had been writing songs sporadically since I was about 18, but I never played them for anyone but my close friends, and I never wrote consistently enough to get to the point where the songs start to really gel.
But then a long relationship ended about five years ago and suddenly I couldn't stop writing. It was like a new beginning. One night I played a few new tunes for my best friend in my living room, and she looked at me and said, "You have to play these somewhere other than in your living room."
That was really the beginning of this new phase. Now I can't imagine my life without this; writing and performing music is as much a part of my soul as acting has always been, and I'm so grateful that I finally let it come to the surface.
Q. After listening to your songs, I was struck by the emotional impact in several .. .but then the best songs are always drawn from our deepest emotions. Tell us about your songwriting inspirations and how something sparks the beginnings of a song.
AW: Literally anything and everything can inspire an idea for me. It doesn't always mean they're going to be good, or turn into a song that I'm going to play on a regular basis, but right now I have no less than 50 unfinished songs that I've jotted down in my Blackberry, on my computer, or on a napkin.
I can be inspired by something someone said, a sudden memory, or a feeling. My song "Blind," on my first EP, was one of the very first songs I wrote after the aforementioned relationship ended. It's about the feeling that despite someone being just as awesome and beautiful as they were when you first met them, and nothing finite having gone wrong, you've simply just fallen out of love with them, or gone blind to them. That's what I felt and I wrote it the night he moved out.
"Anyway" was written after a toxic relationship ended, and it's about how diminished you can make yourself feel when you try and force something to work, and how empowering it is to realize you don't have to do that any more. "I Hope It's Me" (which is off the new "Live at Rockwood" album) was written about loving someone when they're not quite ready to be loved that way yet.
Q. Where did you come up with the idea to do that jazzy version of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al"?
AW: You know, that song has always been one of my favorites. Whenever it was brought it up in conversation and we discussed how profound the verse lyrics are, I realized no one actually knew what the song was about, or that he had written it in apartheid South Africa at a time of personal upheaval. The verses are so magically dark and haunted, but the memory most people had of the tune was of the sort of cheery, goofy chorus because of the video with Paul Simon beating the congas with Chevy Chase. So I thought I'd really turn it on its head and make it about a lost soul, trying to find itself with all the dissonant, messed-up chords. I purposely only used the original 1 4 5 chords on the final chorus after the word "hallelujah", as though one has finally found salvation. I'm so thrilled when people point out that song and enjoy it. I knew it would be a love or hate thing when I came up with that idea and it means a lot to me when people dig it.
Q: When you play live, is just you and the piano, or do you play with a band? Or do you do both?
AW: I do both! On my upcoming album release tour for "Live At Rockwood," which starts next week in Chicago on May 24th (Editor's note: You can check out Alicia's schedule on her website here: http://tinyurl.com/7f4om77 ) I will be playing/traveling with my band at the bigger venues but then driving to several others and playing acoustic shows. At some of the shows, I'm on the same bill with bands that I am friends with, so they will accompany me on some of my tunes. In Nashville I'll be playing a songwriter set with several other amazing singer/songwriters (Jeff Cohen, James Slater and Maile Misajon), so we will all take turns playing our songs.
Q. What songwriters are you most fond of and why?
AW: There are so very many. Shawn Colvin was one of my first favorite female singer/songwriters because of her incredible vulnerability and amazing, truthful, effortless-seeming, yet devastatingly emotional storytelling. Listening to her when I first found her music 15 years ago made me ache to feel that I was good enough to even come close to doing what she did. Billy Joel and Elton John were two of the songwriters that I loved growing up. "She's Always A Woman" sounded like pretty much the perfect song to me and really still does. I also love a lot of songs from Sara Bareilles, Ben Folds, Scissor Sisters, Airborne Toxic Event, Pink, Ray Lamontagne, and so many more.
Q. Right now you just have the EP out, correct? Are you planning on doing an album, and if so, when will it be released?
AW: I have the EP and a single, "Me Or New York," out but my new album, which is my first full-length, is "Live At Rockwood" and it's going to be available for the first time at my Chicago show at Subterranean on May 24th. It was recorded at Rockwood Music Hall this past January, and it just felt like one of those magical shows where everything went right. Luckily, we were recording it. Then I realized, thanks to all the rewarding but ultra-low budget indie films I've been doing lately, now would be the perfect time to try a kickstarter campaign to try and raise money to produce it as an album.
I wrote a special kickstarter song and made what I humbly think might be the world's goofiest video for it, and amazingly we raised the entire amount I needed to make the live album in under 24 hours, which blew my mind. So, from that point on I've been working towards funding my next studio album, which I am just chomping at the bit to do. My kickstarter ends this Sunday night! (Editor's note: you can check out how Alicia's doing with her kickstarter here: http://tinyurl.com/7bh8w38
Q. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me today and best of luck with the new album and in Chicago!
AW. Thanks Steve!
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
ADD COUNTING CROWS TO THE LIST OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE THE INTERNET IS "THE NEW RADIO"
From Torrent Freak: "American rock band Counting Crows have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, but this success hasn't caused them to overlook the changing landscape of the music business. Today the band releases four tracks from their new album for free on BitTorrent. Talking to TorrentFreak, Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz says BitTorrent is the new and improved radio."
"I can dwell on the negatives, but I don't want to miss out on the fact that there's 150 million people who I can give songs to. You either treat it as just a money drain, like the record companies do. Or you can treat it as it actually is, which is a conduit, meaning it runs both ways. You can either cry about it or make use of it. File-sharing is no different from the rest of the Internet, it is a tool that connects the entire world. It is the cure for Babel," Durwitz says.
Read the whole article on Torrent Freak here: http://tinyurl.com/cwx6gkx
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
MORE INFO ON RISE OF INTERNET RADIO AMONG YOUNG LISTENERS
From Mashable, "A recent study has found that Internet radio listenership is on the rise -- and while digital device usage may have something to do with this increase, it's harder to pinpoint social media's role.
The study, commissioned by the digital audio advertising network TargetSpot, found that 42% of U.S. households with broadband Internet listen to Internet radio."
Read the rest here: http://tinyurl.com/cwpzo34
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
LEARN TO ORCHESTRATE AND WRITE MUSIC FOR FILM AND TV
Download Berkleemusic's New Orchestration Handbook, and get free orchestration, film scoring, game audio, and licensing tips and techniques from some of Berkleemusic's superstar faculty, including Ben Newhouse, Donald Wilkins, Jeanine Cowen, Brad Hatfield, Medhi Hassine and Scott Sellwood.
Download it here (It's free, but you have to put your name and info down to receive it): http://tinyurl.com/7eft7ew
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
44% OF PEOPLE WOULD "NEVER" CLICK ON A FACEBOOK AD
Thirty percent of people "strongly distrust" Facebook with their personal data, while 44% would "never" click on Facebook-sponsored ads, according to a new survey by digital marketing agency Greenlight.
Download the whole report here: http://tinyurl.com/7u33efe
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
NEXT iPHONE WILL HAVE BIGGER SCREEN
Look for the next iPhone to have a larger screen to help Apple retain its market share in the smartphone arena as competition from Samsung heats up. (Together, Apple and Samsung account for more than half of the world's smartphones. In the quarter through March, Samsung shipped 44.5 million smartphones to grab a 30.6% share of the global market, topping Apple's 24.1% share with 35.1 million iPhones, according to Strategy Analytics)
Read about it here on the Wall Street Journal: http://tinyurl.com/73yh5h4
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
TABLETS WILL SURPASS SMARTPHONE TRAFFIC ON THE WEB
The share of website traffic on tablets grew more than 300% in the past year, according to research released Tuesday. Tablets' share of website traffic will exceed smartphone traffic by early 2013, reaching 10% of total website traffic in 2014.
Read the rest here on MediaPost: http://tinyurl.com/caghfmq
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 8
YOUR TV MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK IT WILL BE IN THE FUTURE
The TV of the future may not be a giant flat-screen bezel, but instead smaller modular units that can become an ambient display wall, powered by a remote specially trained for custom service, according to top execs at Israel-based TV services provider NDS.
"Think of 6-inch to 8-inch bezel-less squares that you can buy individually and then mount to the wall next to one another, gradually growing the size of your display to fit your needs. These displays would automatically work together, making sure your Saturday night movie runs on all of them at once," writes Janko Roettgers.
Read the rest here: http://tinyurl.com/88j9uyr
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 9
IF YOU HAVE DISH SATELLITE TV, YOU'LL LOVE IT ... NETWORK EXECS SURE DON'T
The least popular thing on TV is Dish's new ad-skipping feature Auto Hop -- at least among network executives. But that doesn't mean viewers won't embrace it.
The question is whether they'll still like it if it leads to higher Dish bills. Or -- if things go completely wild -- less access to their favorite shows.
Read the rest here on TheWrap: http://tinyurl.com/6v6vuwe
THE 'A-SIDE' - BETWEEN THE GROOVES
BEFORE YOU JUMP IN ON THE FACEBOOK IPO, READ THIS ARTICLE
CNET takes you through one of the biggest initial public offerings in history -- explaining along the way why the average Joe might not want to get caught in the hype.
"IPOs are the textbook definition of an exclusive Wall Street club. Generally, the only investors who really make any money on IPOs are the current shareholders and investors with enough clout or connections to get in before the company actually goes public. These are typically large institutional investors or wealthy individuals who can 'flip' the shares once they go public, getting out with a quick profit. Average folks like us are shut out until after Facebook becomes public, after which it is almost always too late to get in on the stock at a reasonable price."
Read the article here: http://tinyurl.com/7fbcypf
THE 'A-SIDE' - BONUS TRACKS
* Do you own an iPod? If so, expect a letter or e-mail saying you can participate in a class action suit against Apple. Read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/7zx59kb
* To celebrate the May 21st remastered reissue of 1971's "Ram," the only album to be credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney, Rolling Stone is giving away a copy of the deluxe edition box set, a T-shirt and lithograph to one lucky reader. Five runners-up will win a copy of the standard edition remastered CD. Enter here: http://tinyurl.com/d7rv6r7
* Fans can now remix the track "Monkberry Moon Delight" from Paul and Linda's forthcoming reissue of "RAM," as well as "Band On The Run," "Let Me Roll It" and "Maybe I'm Amazed" here: http://tinyurl.com/72t84gq
* The Hollywood Reporter has the complete guide to the 2012-13 television season for the five broadcast networks, including which shows will return and which ones are dead -- and what's coming up. Read about it here: http://tinyurl.com/bnlfyey
* Without a good router, the rest of your gadgetry is hobbled. Get online fast and take advantage of your fancy computer's dazzling streaming capabilities with a cutting-edge networking device. http://tinyurl.com/6orsyww
Short News Items ...
TAYLOR SWIFT DONATES BIG TIME:
Taylor Swift has pledged to donate $4 million to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville,
BUH-BYE TO MP3:
MP3tunes.com locker service files for bankruptcy. Legal costs piled up over four years as the music service defended itself against a copyright suit from EMI that proved to be too much, says founder Michael Robertson.
E Online! is reporting J-Lo will be leaving "American Idol" next year because she's (allegedly) "too busy." (Editor's note: Or this is a negotiating tactic. If she is busy at all, it's only because she was on "Idol." The show "jumped the shark" when Simon Cowell left, and the ratings continue to decrease, so the real question is: does anyone care?)
X MARKS THE SPOT FOR BRITNEY AND DEMI:
Following months of speculation, Fox has finally announced that Britney Spears and Demi Lovato will be judging the second season of Simon Cowell's singing competition show, "X Factor."
MICK MINUS KEITH:
Keith Richards tells Rolling Stone he won't be joining Mick Jagger when the singer hosts the season finale of 'Saturday Night Live' this week.
PAUL & GEORGE REDUX:
Sir Paul McCartney may finish a recording by George Harrison. The Beatles legends could be reunited on a song almost 12 years after George's death from cancer in 2001, as his widow, Olivia, has launched a project to complete demos made before his passing. Olivia said: "There is some more material. There may be a minute of something he was writing and it will never be finished. I had an idea of giving unfinished songs to different people -- with one going to Paul."
SORKIN TO PEN JOBS:
Aaron Sorkin will adapt Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs for Sony, the studio announced on Tuesday. Sorkin's last film was the Oscar-nominated "Moneyball," which he adapted from Michael Lewis' best-selling novel after an initial draft by Steve Zalian. A year earlier, Sorkin won best adapted screenplay for "The Social Network."
Whitney Houston will be honored posthumously with the Billboard Millennium Award in a tribute performed by Jordin Sparks and John Legend at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 20th.
WARD WON'T DRUM FOR SABBATH:
Bad news for Black Sabbath fans: Bill Ward will not be playing drums at any of the group's three gigs scheduled this year. In a long message posted on his website, Ward explained that he was simply not able to come to terms with his bandmates.
RICKMAN SET FOR CBGB PIC:
Alan Rickman has signed on to play CBGB owner Hilly Kristal in a forthcoming move about the legendary punk rock club, Billboard reports.
LIL WAYNE COUGHS IT UP:
Lil Wayne has settled a lawsuit filed by producer David Kirkwood for $1.5 million, TMZ reports. Kirkwood filed the lawsuit against the rapper, Cash Money Records and Young Money Entertainment in 2011, claiming he was not paid royalties for the song "Love Me or Hate Me," which appears on Lil Wayne's 2008 blockbuster Tha Carter III.
"Bladerunner" scribe Hampton Fancher is in talks to reunite with the film's director, Ridley Scott, for a sequel to the 1982 cult classic.
Donna Summer, 63, the acknowledged "Queen of Disco," who cut such classic tracks with Giorgio Moroder as "Bad Girls" and "Last Dance," passed away after this week after a battle with lung cancer.
Legendary bassist and Booker T. and the MGs member Donald "Duck" Dunn died Sunday in Tokyo at the age of 70.By the early '70s, Dunn had established himself as a much in-demand session musician and would go on to back Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and many others. He was also a key member of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's Blues Brothers Band and appeared in John Landis' 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers."
Chuck Brown, a pioneer of Washington, D.C.'s Go-Go music scene, died today at the age of 75, reports WJLA. Brown had been sick for some time, and was hospitalized with pneumonia last week.
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
Quotes of the week
"Yes. We spent a little time together and talked about it. But, what little time we had, well, it was tense. She was in a bad state, God knows why. I think that the Adele thing had Amy freaked out. She liked her, but Adele's success was making Amy feel upset, competitive, restless. Anyway, we lost touch briefly. And before she and I could really start the process of beginning a new album, it was too late."
-- Producer Mark Ronson in a revealing picture of Amy Winehouse's state of mind in the months before her death in the Village Voice.
"ABC has something that the BBC will never have -- dental."
-- ABC's Jimmy Kimmel turning the network's 2012-13 upfront presentation to advertisers into a roast Wednesday, taking aim at ABC's lineup, the competition and his boss' reported offer to work for the BBC.
"The Crows haven't been with a major label since leaving Geffen Records in 2009. The record business was never all that great for bands. It was always a 99 percent failure rate for bands. Even if you did do well record labels took 80% of your revenue and locked up your rights. And they are completely incompetent."
-- Counting Rows Adam Durwitz, talking to Torrentfreak.
"I think that's also a possibility. One day that will come out. But we're not talking about it right now. As you know, there's very little that hasn't come out. I'd forgotten that one though. You just mentioned the one thing that hasn't come out."
-- Ringo Starr, talking to Rolling stone about The Beatles' 'Let It Be' film coming out eventually on DVD
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
'Game Of Thrones' Running Out Of Unkempt Old Men To Cast
LOS ANGELES-According to insider sources, the future of HBO's Game Of Thrones is currently in doubt, with the hit fantasy series facing a dire shortage of weather-beaten, bedraggled old men to cast.
Read the rest here and laugh: Click Here.
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"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon