Texas-native and Nashville-based pop singer/songwriter Alicia Beale embodies an incredible power and range and emotes absolute raw soulfulness in her music. With her talent, she has fronted hundreds of shows where she has captivated crowds all over Music City and North America.
I got the chance to talk with her about how she first got into making and performing music, her musical influences, her new single “Love Letters” and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
As cliche as it may sound, I have been singing ever since I can remember. It was what made me feel alive, even as a child. However, I was also a latchkey child; as a four year old (yes, you read that right – four), I would get off the bus from kindergarten and would be alone for hours before my parents got home. What did I do to entertain myself in a room with vaulted ceilings with excellent reverberation, you ask? I would sing – for hours, every single day, for years – which allowed me to play around with my vocal capabilities. This was the very, very early 90s, so at the time, I was obsessed with country artists such as Lorrie Morgan, Martina McBride, and eventually LeAnn Rimes. [I was also obsessed with] the artists from my grandparents record collection, which was loaded with icons like Tammy Wynette, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Otis Redding, Fats Domino. Also, being on the border of Louisiana, we listened to an old AM radio station on Sundays with nothing but Zydeco.
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
My mom had a huge influence on my music choices. She loved bands like Pink Floyd, Foreigner, Heart, Queen, and Prince, which are all very nostalgic for me to listen to as I lost her to Breast Cancer in 2001. I have one very vivid memory of traveling to Fiesta, Texas with no AC in my mom’s car, listening to a Foreigner tape with the windows down, which did not help in the Texas heat. As miserable as we were in the heat, that is still one of my favorite memories to date.
I loved music (I mean, I still do); it made/makes my world go round. So, I had asked my parents for a multi-disc CD player/stereo in 2nd grade, but they made me save up and purchase it myself with my earnings from doing chores. So for a year, I saved my money until I had close to $400 to purchase this five-disc stereo system. But y’all remember how much CD’s were back then? A lot. So I didn’t have any money to buy a CD. I wanted the new LeAnn Rimes Blue album, but my mom bought the album Falling Into You from this new artist, Celine Dion. I was NOT happy about it, and pitched a fit! (What a brat!!) But, I listened to the CD in the car, and learned all the songs before they ever hit radio. I will attribute much of my vocal abilities and ear training to this particular album (and my mom’s genius), as I listened to it over and over and over again until I could hit every lick just like Celine. If I messed up, I rewound it and practiced again. I was literally obsessed.
But, my mom would take me to events where there would be bands and she would ask the band if I could sing with them, which I did not want to do. (Remember, I sang when I was by myself, not in front of anyone. So, to my knowledge, I didn’t know anyone really knew I could sing.) The first memory I have playing with a band, I was at a benefit and sang “Unchained Melody”; it was so weird as a child when a crowd came up to me. And then one other time, when we had those “make a record” in the mall-type stores, I remember doing “Unchained Melody”. I came out of the booth and there was a crowd of people around. I asked my mom why there were so many people crowded around and that’s when she told me the speakers were directed into the mall, so they all came to see who was singing. I was incredibly shy at the time and was afraid to come out of the booth into the crowd of people, but I knew at that moment, I could actually sing.
And lastly, in 2005-2006, I sang in a band I met while I was hosting at Pappdeaux in Beaumont, TX, called JAG, which stood for Just Another Group. Donald Jackson and Deatrick Bilal (also, notably, the sons of the first African American Mayor of Kountze, Texas, and first American Muslim to be elected to a US municipality), helped shape my love of music even further. We did classic hits, but working with them helped me dive deep into a culture of music, of which I had only previously scratched the surface. To work with people that believed in me so much was a major factor in my solo move to Nashville. I haven’t seen or spoken to them in a long time, so Donald and Dietrick, if you’re reading this — I love and miss you guys!!!
Those were probably the three most pivotal moments that truly made me want to pursue music as a career.
You are currently based out of Nashville, which is growing and expanding beyond country music to include music of all genres. What has your experience creating music there been like? How has being surrounded by so much diverse music impacted the music you’re creating?
Well, as you know, my music is not country, but I came here to be a country music star. However, when I was working with Garth Fundis, who was the chair of the Grammy Board at the time, and he shopped my duo Autumn Roses record around to labels, he was told we were “too country for country radio”. Well that is an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. At the time, bro country was the new ‘it’ thing in Nashville, and I refused to make a record that was bro/pop country; I said if I was going to be a pop anything, I was going to make a real pop record where I was allowed to break rules instead of being placed in a box or be limited by my gender, which was a thing (and still is for the most part). But the ladies are making headway. Like Miley Cyrus stated on her new album – she is coming.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound would typically be classified as pop, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Hmmm. A mixture of emotional turmoil built up over years with an explosion of girl empowerment anthems? [laughs] I don’t know. I love a darker sound. The bubblegum stuff is a little out of my comfort zone, but I am in such a positive place mentally now that it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I just want to have fun making music that is relatable, empowering, and fun to perform live.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Oh lawd. My musical influences are so very eclectic that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint. I grew up listening to powerhouse vocalists (probably my biggest influences), rock bands, oldies; I can’t even name all the music that helped shape who I am. I would say that Celine and LeAnn Rimes were early contributors, however, the more current influencers are artists like Bebe Rexha, Lizzo, Imogen Heap.
It’s been a couple of years since you’ve released new music. What made now the right time to release new material? What did you learn about yourself, both personally and as an artist, in that time?
It has been a while since I’ve released any music. Part of that was I felt so paralyzed by what was going on inside my head. As you know, I was in a toxic relationship and I truly lost who I was; I wanted to give up in every way. I’ve been writing and talking with friends, got a job outside of the music industry that has helped me gain back my confidence and having a need to share my story through music. Clawing my way out has given me a purpose and a platform to speak up and for others that have been in my shoes.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Love Letters”. What’s the story behind this song?
“Love Letters” is highly personal. Sometimes the people closest to us say they’ll never hurt us, and yet, they’re the ones who hurt us the most. I knew at multiple stages of that relationship that I needed to extract this person from my life and move on, but I was paralyzed because I didn’t believe in myself. I had been broken down so badly that I wanted to give up because I didn’t think I was good enough because I couldn’t do anything right. Multiple friends had interventions with me to get out, but I was so freaking scared that I continued to postpone something I knew had to be inevitable. And then, I finally did.
I wanted this song to be a PSA and a point of encouragement and empowerment for other women who have experienced the very thing I went through. We are the captains of our own ships, and we’re the only ones who can cut the toxicity out of our lives.
We can be ‘selfish’ and take care of ourselves and work toward mental, physical, and emotional health, and a positive self-image. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel; even if we have to claw our way to it, it is there.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song.
The process for me changes on what I’m feeling. Sometimes, I’ll pick up voice recordings and share them in a writing session, and sometimes, we’re just writing to a beat or track my producer and I have created. For “Love Letters”, I sat down in my living room with my friends Reggie Williams (R.LUM.R) and Mike Gossip, who had previously produced my last record, and we started writing on this title that, ironically, came from the ex. However, we did a 180 on the topic.
Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “Love Letters” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?
My previous record was very bubblegum and didn’t have a lot of personal experience other than the song “Erase” or “Beautiful,” which [made me] cry the first time I heard it because it hit me, and that feeling was something I had tried to hide for a long time. I wanted to write something with gravitas, and a bit more personal.
Were there any major changes made to “Love Letters” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
It evolved so much. Initially, we wrote it more like a country song and it sounds nothing like the original version. I started recording it with my friend, Nate Head, who produced the first version, which was much more pop than the original. Then, Nate signed a record deal and moved to LA, and I just sat on the song for about a year before I was introduced to my producer, Andrew Gomez. Andrew and I sat in his studio, talked about what emotions I wanted to evoke, and played around with sounds for a few hours. He really brought the character of the song out and to another level; he’s incredible to work with.
What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
My confidence has grown so much and I am a completely different person. Fear is something that has held me back in the past, and I’m not allowing it to hinder my success anymore. I’m all in and going for what I set out to do when I first moved to Nashville, and that is to be a top selling/streaming artist and create real music people can connect with.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
Other than nerding out on music, I started doing aerial acrobatics in 2015 as an escape. I sometimes nerd out and get lost in the abyss of Instagram or Pinterest watching tricks and how people, who are way better than me, get into different wraps and drops. I also love a good meme.