Rising indie-folk songstress Alicia Blue calls on personal affairs and self actualization in her poignant new EP, Inner Child Work, Pt. 2. Following the release of Inner Child Work, Pt. 1 which was released last summer, the collection of songs that makes up both EPs shines with raw honesty and gorgeously reflective storytelling. This new body of work closes the Inner Child Work chapter, bringing forth a cathartic sense of closure and possibility of what is to come for Alicia Blue.
Collaborating with established musicians Lincoln Parish (Cage the Elephant) and John Paul White (The Civil Wars) on production and co-writing, this second installment reflects a wide range of musical possibilities and calls on Alicia’s poetic capabilities and instincts to filter emotion through songwriting. Moving between sounds of folk, Americana and indie that shaped her debut album, 2020’s Bravebird, and the more alt-pop ideations of her latest release, Alicia’s versatility ebbs and flows in a natural progression that feels incredibly felicitous and true to her roots. In the tracks that constitute this release, Blue pulls from her wide array of inspirations and takes an introspective look at her life experiences thus far. The spirited “I Want It Faster” provides an elated outcry of urgency and self-proclamation, while the stunningly intricate “Picasso’s Blue” paints a portrait of honest revelations that holds the power to change one’s course.
Offering a sense of resolution and optimism in a lyrical conversation about mental health and the power dynamics of relationships, there is both a maturity and a youthful quality to the tracks that revolve around an emotional spectrum. Alicia’s music encourages each emotion to be felt, embraced, and used as a tool to heal, much like her own narrative accomplishes through songwriting. With emotional purging and vivid accounts that feel like a listener’s own therapy, Alicia’s sentiments are echoed through the course of the EP, percolating until a final resolve.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Alicia Blue ahead of the release of Inner Child Work, Pt. 2. Candid and beautifully open, Alicia shares with us the process of creating these EPs, finding inspiration and companionship in the music of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and reflects on the amplitude of music in a way that will deeply resonate with anyone who is reading this. Our conversation can be read below. Note that it has been edited for clarity.
M/E: Congrats on the upcoming release of your EP Inner Child Work, Pt. 2. Also you were recently named by American Songwriter as one of their “16 Artists to Watch in 2023”. What does recognition like that mean to you? Does it impact the way you write at all, add pressure, relieve pressure?
Thank you! The writing thing, no, it doesn’t change the way I write. I would definitely say it adds and relieves pressure all at once. Because you’re like wow, okay I’m doing something that is working obviously. But then it’s like okay watch Alicia Blue, so I better really stay the course, especially this year. And then also, the third thing, it really doesn’t change things in other ways at all.
M/E: That’s great! You moved from LA to Nashville about a year ago. What is your favorite thing about being there full time now? Has the different atmosphere impacted your creativity and your music?
You know that saying everywhere you go, there you are? I’m from LA and I waited so long to move, I didn’t do the college thing and go away somewhere— I went to school in LA. And I, for whatever reason, who I am now, as the person who moved to Nashville a year ago, I am in my creative sweet spot. So, how has it impacted me? It has been insanely amazing. It is so nurturing here.
M/E: When you wrote your previous EP, last year’s Inner Child Work, Pt. 1, was that completed when you were still in L.A?
So a lot of the concepts— I start with lyrics usually, that’s how my brain works. I love poetry. — and so a lot of it was birthed in LA, then I came and did some co-writing here throughout the pandemic. So, both places, if that makes sense.
M/E: Inner Child Work, Pt. 1 was such a beautiful body of work and the new Pt. 2 comes out soon. Was your writing process any different from Part 1? Did they come together at the same time? Or was Part 2 more of a continuation later on as you continued to grow?
Yeah, I feel like the whole body I wrote over the two years in what we would call the pandemic. So it wasn’t like I thought I’m gonna make this, then make that. I had all these songs and then we decided to split it because it felt like the songs on 1 had a little more of a turbulence, and then the songs on 2 there is kind of an arch and there’s a resolve in them. The dust settles.
M/E: What does inner child work mean to you? It’s something that has become more widely talked about over the past year or so. Online, especially a lot of people are starting to dive into that concept. The conversation around mental health in general is evolving and it’s great to see people, and songwriters, aren’t shying away from discussing these things. How did the topic come to you?
Well, I got my first therapist in 2019. That person, they’re kind of like a teacher to me, but it’s not like they ever used that phrase to me. They never said like, “We’re gonna do inner child work today!” But the work we were doing was causing me to hang out with these orphan parts of myself. And a lot of them were really young, that were frozen from whatever happened. We all have that, all humans have it. We have all these parts and usually they’re young, because the developed parts of us are the ones who can do whatever they want to do in this if they’re ready. But it’s all of these young parts that sort of run amuck inside of us.
M/E: Yes, absolutely, and I do think this concept is more prevalent now coming out of a“post-Covid” world per se, that people have had the time to sit back and reflect on things. Things happen so fast, yet life keeps moving. Now we can sit back and say okay, I can process things now. And music helps that!
Yes, one hundred percent.
M/E: In your music, there is a strong theme of coming home to yourself. You’ve talked about how abandoning yourself won’t get you anywhere. How do you avoid this and find your way back to your true self, or your inner child?
Gosh, that’s such a great question. I think practice, like you do it enough times and then it doesn’t feel lost. You know, abandoning yourself can be so many things. It can be big and dramatic, but it can be small. Like a small moment of people pleasing, it’s maybe meaningless in the spectrum of life, but you feel it in your body. That’s what I’ve learned, you feel it in your gut, so listening to my body when something doesn’t feel right. You’ve got to slow down the mind, because the mind moves so fast. I mean, I was the queen of like rapid whatever was going on up here [laughs] and that’s super helpful for certain things creatively, but it’s not helpful for really building a sustainable anything. And I’m all about sustainability.
M/E: Recognizing these things, and going to therapy, and putting pen to paper helps guide this process. So then, would you say these two EPs are your truest work yet?
Absolutely! You know, I’m working on of course the next record, but yeah a hundred percent. And there’s certain songs on there like “Young” and “Picasso Blue” which will be the feature of Part 2… I don’t think there’s any artist that started because it sounded cool to write songs. I think everyone starts because you need to, you go through a change. If the music isn’t changing you, then there’s no desire to do it.
M/E: Your song “DTMTS (Don’t Tell Me To Smile)” kicks off the opening of Part 1. It’s very honest and raw emotionally, showing that it’s okay to not be okay. How is this idea continued in Part 2? I’m assuming it’s a conscious choice to kick off a release with the opening song being both thought provoking and having central themes to the EP tied in.
Yeah, what’s interesting is that it totally evolves and almost does a 180. So like with “Don’t Tell Me To Smile,” if I’m feeling like shit, please let me feel the feelings and don’t tell me to change, right. But then you have “Picasso Blue,” which is like “I don’t want to live in Picasso’s blue anymore” where I don’t want to sit in this anymore. Like, I’m tired of hanging out in this really blue place that’s sad. So it’s continued in the sense that it completely evolves. It is the reverse, but it’s not contrary. I think that’s the goal as a human, to like have some healthy existence, is to let everything just pass through you. But to respect it while it’s doing it.
M/E: Absolutely, and that’s reflected very well in your music. It provides a deep comfort when you’re listening to it. It feels very empathetic and vulnerable, while also being inviting. That’s the sense I get— it invites all emotions in, to be felt and not totally shied away from. So writing music like that, was this a healing process for you? Were there ever moments you thought you couldn’t fully open up or you didn’t want to allow certain emotions in while you were writing?
I think that’s kind of my secret to letting them out, is writing songs. It’s whatever I’m not able to access in regular life, I get to let it out in a song, and then evolve myself.
M/E: “I don’t want to live in Picasso’s blue anymore” is such a great lyric. I’ve noticed you reference art or artists in your lyrics here and there. Has art through songwriting helped you become more in touch with yourself during this process of inner child work? What has it allowed you to learn about yourself?
Yeah, kind of along what we were already saying, music is therapy. It’s cliché, but it’s true and I think, ya know, in the household I grew up, people like these artists that I name or talk about or sing about, they were like friends in the room. They get you through whatever it is, when your infrastructure isn’t doing that. When I was a kid, I thought that Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, they were like gods to me. I was like ‘What are they doing, woah!’ And now, I know of course they’re just people- very special ones though! [Laughs] So yeah, they’re like friends in the room and of course when you’re young, there is this kind of safety they bring to you, and maybe emotional or mental security. The idea of they get me, or they get it, or they get life, or how difficult this is, or they see this thing most people don’t see around me. They see it, so I’m not alone. And that’s the best.
M/E: Right, and when it’s universal feelings or anything you can relate to, that’s what can make people feel not so alone and draw them into the music even more. You mention artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, or Joni Mitchell— lyrically, they draw from poetry, and I know that’s something you’re interested in. Do you write poems? Do poems turn into song lyrics, or do you prefer to keep things separate?
Yeah! When I write, I usually keep them separate. Once in a while there will be something that I really want to make a song, but I just can’t, and it has to stay a poem.
M/E: You wrote a lovely piece about the queen Joni Mitchell for LA Weekly and discussed your love for her. I see you have a framed picture of her behind you too!
Yes, we’re in good company right now!
M/E: Also, with your name being Alicia Blue, there’s some synchronicity in that.
Yeah, and I chose that name because there was already someone with my real name. It was floating on the Internet, and that’s a problem, so I had to find a name that was not used. So, there was no Blue. The reason, of course, was all of my favorite records. So Joni, and then Miles Davis “Kind of Blue,” and there’s also this old blues singer Bobby Blue Bland who is one of my favorites. So yeah, it was kind of like an amalgamation, a mashups of all these things that were quite sentimental to me.
M/E: In the piece you wrote, you discuss For the Roses, which is such a gorgeous, yet under-appreciated album. As a songwriter, what is it about Joni and that album specifically that pulls you in? Are there any songs you wish you had written?
Oh yeah! There’s a lot there- all of them! [Laughs] But I would say.. With Blue, there is a lot of her inner chaos, like “All I Want” and all of them. They’re so intense, especially the track “Blue”. For the Roses is like a dust settling, observational thing. I mean she’s still talking about her life, but there’s so much detachment on that record. Particularity that song “Electricity,” that’s my favorite, I wish I wrote that song. She’s just like describing a dance between a man and a woman, and creates this huge metaphor of electricity between them, and the sparks clashing or not. There’s such a soothing quality. The album feels like medicine to me. It’s crazy. Whereas Blue gets me riled up. That’s why I love For the Roses so much, because it just calms me down, if I’m chaotic inside, it’s hypnotic. And then “You Turn Me on I’m a Radio” is just adorable and light hearted and fun.
M/E: In your essay, I absolutely love how you said that “Music is like medicine… Music that calms and centers the nervous system is equally valuable and often under-appreciated.” I absolutely get that from your music as well, which is really cool because, you draw from Joni obviously, but in your own way you are creating a stabilizing factor for yourself and those who listen to your music.
Well, thank you! I think that’s one of the most profound things an interviewer has ever said to me! That’s an honor. It’s amazing, when you’re on any artist before they break, and they’re trying to obviously get the world to listen to what they do, but you do it for yourself first. It’s like, even if no one is getting it, you’re still getting it, you’re getting healed from it. So, you’re not losing ya know.
M/E: Who are some of your other favorite songwriters that you get that same impression from? Who might you turn to if you’re gong through something, or you’re looking to take something from their songwriting?
Joni is definitely hard to beat from that personal level. I feel like in a more abstract way, someone like Leonard Cohen, he can really show up in that way for me. I feel like I’m talking about my friends that like show up for me! [Laughs] I think in modern writing, of course Phoebe Bridgers is really great at providing that really awesome space. And then on a maybe more like Leonard, a darker version of that, Lana Del Rey. She’s incredible, and what’s crazy is I only recently got into her like a year and a half ago. Not that I wasn’t a fan or anything, but I didn’t go in deep. Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters, like get outta town! That’s pure poetry.
M/E: Yes! Lana recently discussed too how, being a woman in music I’m sure you could relate to this, how the waters weren’t always so warm for woman to say exactly what’s on their mind and be vulnerable. Is that something you’ve had to think about as well with your writing? How it might be interpreted, if people have wanted to change it, anything along those lines.
Yeah, I definitely think that is so true. She [Lana] is such a trailblazer in that way. I mean Joni was totally doing that. Joni was considered a freak by all these dudes, and yet she was just right on track with herself. I feel really lucky. I feel like I have benefited from all these trailblazing women to say it. I also had a mentor, it’s how I got into music, it’s an old soul singer. But he would say to me, and this was before I had started writing songs, whatever you are most afraid to say, that is exactly what you are supposed to write about. It’s kind of like, if people are resistant or freaked out about it, half the time I don’t notice because I am like, following the order.
M/E: I love your cover of the Janes Addiction song, “Jane Says”. Folk is known for its storytelling and narrative qualities, maybe focusing more on lyrics than any other genre. What other genres do you listen to or find inspiration in? Here we obviously see you venture into rock by way of poetry.
Oh yeah, so many! I wanted to be a soul singer when I first started. It didn’t work, and I obviously figured myself out. So that was a big part of my first introduction to music, was old school soul music like Aretha, I could go on with the list of the greats. I love modern pop songwriting too, like with Taylor Swift’s songwriting, sign me up. Pop is such a spectrum. There’s a lot of poetry in pop music, and I’m totally here for it. I also feel like I’m not super well-versed, especially nowadays, in hip hop. I grew up with two older brothers, and they listened to a lot of old school hip hop, which is the best. And as a poet, and as a writer, rhyme I have learned a lot from rap. With internal rhyme, there is no one better than a rapper at that.
M/E: It sounds like you draw from a lot of different pots of inspiration! In your music, you don’t stay in one box either though. You touch on a variety of sounds from folk and Americana to indie rock, and maybe even a little psychedelic. Are there any sounds you haven’t experimented with that you would like to try?
I think the answer to that is really I have no idea of anything that I’d like to try. I think whatever happens and if it feels good, it’s gonna stay. Who knows what it could be, it could have more of a beat-driven flavor or it could even have more of an old school folk flavor, it could bring some of that nostalgia back. I feel like the band HAIM does that really well. Their 2020 record has like R&B, and folk, and rock, and it’s just the whole spectrum. Whatever feels good.
M/E: Your song “Dog Days In LA” off Inner Child Work, Pt. 1 is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time. It has an almost hypnotic quality to it. It grounds you right in the present moment. This year, you’ve put out singles “Young,” “Best Hands” and “I Want It Faster” all in which make you stop and be present, yet show different sides of you musically. On “Young,” it has a bit more of a folk-rock edge. You have lyrics that say “The childish side of me is waking up… change is coming, I don’t want to stay young”. Can you tell me more about that lyric? Especially compared to “I Want It Faster,” which really takes a sonic turn.
When John Paul [White] and I wrote that, I really wanted to flip the narrative that Bob Dylan set, which is “May you stay forever young”. We wanted to go in the other direction, not arbitrarily, but we feel like we live in a culture that celebrates not just youth and beauty… but we wanted to make a statement like no, it’s time to fucking grow up and take control of your life. I think we live in a culture that does not encourage that. Especially with consumerism, nobody is celebrating people doing that hard inner child work. Everyone wants to just like, present success. It’s kind of like no, I don’t want to stay in the dark. I don’t want to fall unconscious and get wasted at the bar every weekend and reminisce on my golden years which were in high school. Right, like that whole narrative. We just wanted to smash it.
M/E: You recently hung out with Jason Isbell and have been collaborating with Butch Walker. Can you tell me a bit about those experiences, getting to talk with two huge modern day songwriters and musicians?
Yeah, I had a small tour opening for The Districts, and my last show was at The Basement in Nashville. I had never spent time with Jason, but he had come to see us play and we got to spend a little bit over an hour after the show just taking all things of being a songwriter and performer. It was this surreal, sort of hit of awesomeness. Then yeah, I heard from Butch on the interwebs, and he said he was a fan of the music and I was like ‘What? Like, how? How did you find me?!’ But you don’t ask why, right [laughs].
M/E: At the present moment, what feelings does Inner Child Work, Pt. 2 invoke for you? Are there standout tracks for you?
Yes, I guess right now closure. “Picasso Blue” is what I’m most excited for. That was the first song I wrote for the album, which is crazy since it’s the last one to come out. I think there’s this closure and dust settling that I feel inside. I hope that can translate to the humans that listen.
Alicia Blue’s EP Inner Child Work, Pt. 2 will be released everywhere on March 17 via Magnetic Moon Records.
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