Alice Brightsky’s amazing album “Box of Me” rocked my socks last week and so we asked if Alice could answer some questions about releasing an album, making sure your end product is of the right quality without suffering analysis paralysis and what she’d put in her own box of Alice:
Box of Me is finally out there – how do you feel now it’s in peoples hands?
I’m happy. There were many moments when I thought (as I’ve thought of so many other recordings gone by…) it’s just not good enough. So when I see reviews on iTunes or Amazon that give the album 5 stars or when I hear from a fan or friend who bought the album, that they were blown away, it really affirms to me that it IS good enough.
It’s a great piece of work – did the end result turn out exactly how you expected or did it change whilst making it?
Thank you. I had zero expectations… The producer (Paolo DeGregorio) and I met via a song contest I was in and he offered to produce “Pry Me Away” for free to see if we could work together on a whole album. So I came into his home studio and recorded voice and guitar. A few weeks later he handed me the fully produced track the way you hear it on the record pretty much. I was psyched. He had added all these interesting ambient elements. I was open to as much experimentation as possible with the tracks and Paolo had the right aesthetic for the job. So, I really had no idea at the inception of recording each track, how it would turn out in the end. Each was a unique process of trial and error. We would brainstorm on what kind of vibe we’d like to give the tune and then I’d come in with parts and Paolo would have parts he’d worked on and the song would just evolve. It was a fun and totally new experience for me.
There is some exceptional brass and string work on the album. How did you go about incorporating those instruments?
Again, it was just through brainstorming really. Paolo came to the table with some great ideas and I started thinking more and more like him through the process. I also knew a lot of pro players so we just tried a bunch of stuff and most of it really worked. Also, there were a lot of programmed instruments that Paolo created. For instance, the horns on Canopy.. all programmed.
Your voice and the guitar the album throughout and a personal favourite of mine is “Tie and Untie” feels so mature and delicate. Please tell us a bit about the track and your motives behind it.
Thank you, that’s a favourite of mine too. I’m a fan of Jose Gonzales and I think that track was sort of inspired by him. I was experimenting with different finger picking styles and listening to his first album.. thinking about the stuff that preoccupied me at the time.. commitment, love, truth. This song is about how we become tangled up in relationships and with people before we really truly know and understand them and what we are really seeking from them. So life becomes duplicitous. Every action and event becomes a veiled attempt to detangle the mess.
Also for “Girl You Hold Onto” the vocal collage you build is impressive. How did you get that laid down? It must have been very difficult!
Thanks again. Well, I don’t remember it being difficult but if you asked Paolo he may remember it differently! I usually write songs with multiple vocal parts in mind. So for that song, I had already come up with a lot of the call and response ideas and the lower harmony but Paolo suggested the Ooos in the background which I really think was a brilliant idea.
As a start up musician with a new album out, what would you say to other new artists thinking of doing the same thing?
There is a LOT of advice out there for musicians and I am not sure industry gurus would agree with me but…. I’m going to say, don’t settle for a sub-par product. If it’s not right, stop. Figure out the problem and make true art. Don’t just release stuff to have it out there. The market is so saturated already. I think a lot of people would say just get a product, get it out there.. so you can sell at gigs, online etc. But that’s a business perspective. I’m not the right person to ask about how to be successful monetarily. I still think art should be done for it’s own sake and only the best of what you can do should make it out the gate. Therefore the notion of “an album a year” seems a bit absurd to me. However long it takes to make the music as good as it can be, that’s just how long it takes.
Are there any pitfalls or things you’d recommend doing or not doing when recording your first album?
Sort of following from the last question.. while you shouldn’t settle you also shouldn’t become a victim of paralysis by analysis. Some little issues really don’t need fixing and some amount of “abandoning” is always going to be required of you with respect to your art. It is very easy to overanalyze every track.. try 1000 mixes, fiddle with the vocals, do and redo various parts. While some experimenting and reworking is inevitable and expected, there’s a balance that you need to strike between getting it as good as possible and becoming neurotic. It’s not easy to find that balance after weeks, months or (in my case) years of recording and listening. If you can hear a fly yawn, then you know where of I speak.
How it’s out what are you next plans? Any live shows coming up?
I just had a baby boy in May so my summer has been devoted to coming up the steep new parent learning curve and also doing what I can to promote the album online. The songs will be making the college radio rounds this fall and some regional shows will, baby permitting, follow soon thereafter.
If you could instantly learn instrument over night what would it be and why?
Drums or piano.. umm.. drums. I have a kit and I dabble. I have about 5 or 6 beats up my sleeve.. but I’m no drummer. If I could wake up tomorrow and be a kick ass drummer that would be the bomb.
Lastly – if you did put three things to describe yourself in a box which was uncovered a thousand years later, what would we find?
I’m going to give you three things.. other than the obvious, like my music..
1. The book “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko
2. Nick Drake’s Pink Moon album
3. A picture of my family
Amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Higher Plain Music and best of luck Alice!