Alyssa Jacey is the true definition of entrepreneur: from having never sung a note in her life before 2005, to now having written over 400 original songs, 8 self-released albums, and shows opening for artists such as Bruno Mars, Lisa Loeb, Shawn Colvin and more, she’s one of Nashville’s (and the industry’s) hardest working DIY independent artists. Self-taught on guitar and drums, Alyssa tours internationally, accompanying herself with a percussive and soulful style that’s all her own. As of 2015, she became a business owner, opened an office on Music Row and started Image Twelve28: an artist development, media coaching and booking agency, to help spread her knowledge to other up and coming singer/songwriters around the world. When she’s not managing her own career or others, she co-hosts several online Music TV shows (Balcony TV being one, which is in 70+ countries, TalentWatch being another, which is on Comcast and ATT U-Verse, soon to be on Dish Network), and tours the nation giving motivational talks to elementary, high school and college students in hopes of inspiring future generations.
Entertwine: Could you tell us a bit about your musical background? What led you to pursue a career in music?
I was born and raised in San Diego, California. I graduated from college with a communications degree and held a (number) of random jobs, including nannying, (working in) retail, sales, waitressing and bartending and teaching dance. Dance is what led me to music, and by complete accident: in 2003 I decided to take some time (away from) school to move to Los Angeles (which) I thought would be a better place for me dance industry-wise. While there, I held three jobs (cocktail waitress/hostess, talent scout, dance instructor) and one night the bar I was working at (on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica) decided to host karaoke. Some coworkers of mine had heard me singing to myself over the previous months and forced me on stage that night (to) sing. I had never written a song, sang in public, or played guitar (and had) absolutely zero interest in the music industry (yet) that night changed my life. I was instantly hooked and ended up singing karaoke at least once a week for the entire next year. I would hear the same comments each time I got off stage: “Where can we buy your CD? Where (and when is) your next show?”. (These comments) always baffled me, but when you hear something over and over you get it and you kind of have to listen to what the universe is telling you! I made a call in December 2004 to a producer I knew in Los Angeles (I met him and a female artist he was producing in an elevator on the way to an acting audition) and said, “I know you know me as Alyssa Jacey the dancer, but would you consider recording me?” He said, “Sure, do you have any songs?” I said “No, but I’ll get right on it!” I had moved back to San Diego a few months prior and was going to school full-time Monday through Thursday but decided I would drive up (each) Thursday afternoon and record through Sunday every week for a couple months until I released my first EP (“The Alyssa Jacey EP”). (The release of) that EP led to me performing at the local county fair (as well as) several venues and recording my second CD (a seven song LP).
You’ve released seven albums in the past ten years; how have you been able to write and release new material on such a consistent basis? Could you tell us a bit about each album?
In my opinion, I was a late bloomer. I think most people would agree that getting into the music business at 23 years old (having never sung in public, written a song or played an instrument before then) would be considered very late. I told myself I had to fast-forward the process as much as I could and in doing so, write as many songs as I could, and release as many albums/EPs as I could. All of my albums have been self-funded (I saved up from working all my different jobs) except my 2010 full-length album “Here’s To Change” (I was lucky to have my father’s help with that one). I also co-produced every single (release) and have written 100% of the music, melodies and lyrics for every song. The first release (“The Alyssa Jacey EP”) had three original songs on it and one cover. We started recording in January 2005 and released it that March. The three originals were ‘The Longest Kiss’, the first song I ever recorded professionally (to this day it is actually still one of my favorite original songs), ‘Believing In You’ and ‘You’re a Part of Me’ (a song about my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s). I believe it was about two months after that when the “Closed Eyes, Open Heart” LP was released, which (included) those same songs plus a couple other originals (‘Beer and Wine’, a song about drinking and driving, ‘What Went Wrong’, ‘A Song About a Boy’ and an acoustic version of ‘You’re a Part of Me’ (featuring) piano, strings and vocals. In 2006, I released “The Soul EP” comprised of all new material: ‘Integrity’, ‘Sunset Blue’, ‘Understand?’ and two versions of the first song I ever wrote on guitar (‘Prove Me Wrong’). Then in 2009, I re-recorded some of those (compositions as well as) a new song and released (my EP) “Turning Points” (‘What Went Wrong’ was re-recorded and re-titled as ‘Turning Points’). (This EP included) new versions of ‘Integrity’, ‘Sunset Blue’ and ‘Prove Me Wrong’ (as well as) a new acoustic song called ‘Goodbye Kiss’. RyMo (Ryan Moran) from Slightly Stoopid (recorded drums) on that album; I played guitar on each (song) except ‘What Went Wrong’ and ‘Turning Points’. In 2010, I released my very first full-length, fully-produced, shrink-wrapped, duplicated and bar-coded album with purposeful photography and meaning behind the front and back covers. “Here’s To Change” (was composed of) ten songs; I (chose the title) because it would be released in January 2010 (one month after my birthday), so I was celebrating it being not only a new year in general, but a new year of my life, and I was so ready to make several changes in my life, both personally and musically. (Visually), you’ll notice (that) there are champagne glasses scattered throughout the front, back, and inside (of the album). There are 28 to be specific (I had turned 28 on December 28th, so 2010 was to be my “golden year”, as they call it); key songs on this album (include) the title track, the single (‘Fall Out of Love’), ‘Feel Like This’ (which is probably my favorite song off that entire album), ‘Beautiful Night’ and ‘Someone Like You’. 2014’s “On the Spot” featured me on drums on tracks five and eight plus two of the best songs I’ve ever written (‘Gush’ and ‘Down’). ‘Down’ is one of the most meaningful songs I’ve ever written about personal growth and recognizing where you are in life when you’ve hurt someone (and) shedding that past and entering a bright future. My Alyssa Jacey EPK on YouTube (has) a full explanation of every single song (from) “On The Spot”. Players on this album came from Taylor Swift’s band, The Band Perry and Counting Crows, among others. That brings us to last years (release) “Destined”. I truly believe in every single song on the (record) and finally felt like I had an entire album’s worth of really good songs. The most popular song, ‘Drowning Me’, is my favorite song to sing and perform live and (is) the most requested song from fans and the most downloaded on iTunes. Its story is not that of a break-up (which you might think of when hearing the darkness in the music and sadness in the lyrics) but rather about my relationship with my hometown. I felt like I would drown if I didn’t get out and make something more of myself. I wrote it the summer after moving to Nashville (in 2012) and I knew the minute I completed it that it was “my” song. Other favorites from “Destined” are ‘Time to Heal’ and ‘Two Seconds Away’ (which I played drums on), ‘You Think You Know Somebody’ and ‘Don’t Fight the Love’. Players on this album came from Sister Hazel and Hinder, among others.
What did it mean to win NBC San Diego’s The Voice back in 2011? How did this honor validate what you had been working towards?
I was in Hawaii when I got the call from NBC: “You’ve been nominated as one of “The Top Ten Voices of San Diego” and we need you in the studio tomorrow to be filmed for a live voting competition”. I froze. I (then) realized my plane would get in just in time for me to go straight from the airport to the NBC studio. I had been in the music scene for seven years (at that point) and had never been nominated for anything, so I was thrilled and equally confused! It was an honor to have been nominated and (I) couldn’t believe I won. It meant a lot and means a lot to this day!
Tell us about your new business, Image Twelve28? What is the significance of the company’s name? What do you hope to accomplish through the formation of this company?
I combined class and professionalism with a refreshing sense of relentless motivation and talent; (it is) a business that provides solid, upstanding, honest values and offers (the) “three major needs of any independent artist” (personal development, social media coaching and booking). When you think of the word “image”, your first instinct is to likely think of a representation of an external form of a person or object. While that is part of the puzzle, it is not (the) entirety of what my vision of the word entails. Image Twelve28 focuses on a multitude of imagery aspects, such as how an artist portrays himself or herself both on and off stage and through their social media status updates and comments. How do they appear to the public? How easy or difficult are they to work with? As an artist, your image is scrutinized through the judgmental eyes of the public on a daily basis, and it is my job to be sure every artist (I work with) is widely respected and well-liked on a personal level as well as a musical level. I have an extremely determined, merciless attitude for working hard, and I believe that in order to be successful you have to work nearly all the time. If you work 12 months a year, 28 days a month, you’ll be more than well on your way to achieving anything you set your mind to! The point is to put in maximum effort (to) see maximum results (which) is true of anything you do! What I hope to accomplish through the formation of this company is to prove you can do anything you want to do in this life with the right coaching and guidance. I am the perfect example of a DIY, independent artist and I want to show others that they, too, can be self-sustaining and (can) attain their goals.
You’ve shared stages with a number of well-known artists, including Bruno Mars, Lisa Loeb, Andy Grammer, Paula Cole, Pepper, Shawn Colvin, Joan Osborne, among many others; what can you tell us about these experiences? Are there any other exciting or interesting performances that stick out in your head?
I have two favorite on-stage memories that stand out beyond any others. The first was when I played ‘Down’ for the first time in front of a live audience at the Shawn Colvin show. I had never (received) a standing ovation before; you could hear a pin drop throughout my entire performance (and) then this massive wave of whistles and clapping erupted like a volcano. I couldn’t even thank the audience for nearly an entire minute because of all the cheering! My second favorite memory just (occurred) in April when I decided twenty minutes before going on stage to open for Lisa Loeb that I would make-up a song on the spot (during) the set. Search “Alyssa Jacey Improv” on YouTube and watch parts I and II. What a fun time!
Lately you’ve been speaking to students at schools around the country; what brought about this new opportunity? What do you hope to share with others through this platform?
I was contacted by the Jenna Druck Foundation back in 2009 (via) an email that read close to the effect of “We have been watching what you’ve been up to these last few years and feel you are an inspiration. We would love for you to come speak in front of 50+ young girls about the importance of following your dreams, and as a young lady yourself, what it has taken to get where you are today. We are looking at having either Alicia Keys or you. We’d love to have you both, but we only need one speaker/performer. We’ll get back to you after we hear from Alicia’s people”. Luckily, Alicia must have declined, because I got to create one of my favorite memories that day. I remember everything about it as if it happened yesterday (and) it was one of the most meaningful hours of my musical life. (In 2014 I spoke) at a middle school in San Diego where I’m from. You’ve heard of Ted and TedX events? This was formatted like those, but on a smaller scale. I (wrote) a speech between 18 and 23 minutes and hit certain key points along the way, which was fun and also difficult for me (since I’m more a fan of speaking off the cuff, as I did for the Jenna Druck Center, and for the three schools that I spoke at this past spring). The word just spread that I (wanted) to (speak more); many of these schools either have been avidly following my career, or I used to attend them. I can’t get enough of sharing my positive experiences and spreading the word about the full potential anyone (can have) to live out their dreams with the utmost intensity. I thrive off of these things, which is why I love mentoring so much! The main reason I started Image Twelve28 was so I could connect with independent singers and songwriters around the world on a deeper level and help them. I want to guide them in the right direction, and being someone who has either been in or is still in their shoes, I feel I am the perfect fit and qualified for such a thing.
What is your favorite social media platform? Why? Which platform do you believe is most valuable for an independent musician?
This is a toss-up between Facebook and Instagram. I’m such a communicator so I love using Facebook for the longer rants and raves and for a more personal connection with my fans. I am obsessed with the hashtagging system on Instagram, the fact that it’s all photo/video-based, and (the fact that) you have the ability to make your posts short or long as well. Both are equally valuable in my opinion.
What went into the making of the music video for your song ‘Fall Out Of Love’? Who did you work with to ensure this idea became a reality? Do you have any plans for new music videos?
I was (being) interviewed by NBC one day on the rooftop of a hotel. One of the cameramen approached me and said, “I’m Giorgio Daveed, I loved your stuff, I’d love to direct a music video for you and I’ll do the first one for free”. I am constantly being approached by people with similar promises, so while I took his card and politely thanked him for his interest, I left that conversation almost certain it wouldn’t happen. I wrote him a thank-you email regardless, and he responded with, “I was serious. Can we meet for coffee to discuss?”. Long story short, we got along (well and) he (already) had a little story drawn out with ideas (regarding) lighting and locations. I (enlisted) my friend (to play) my ex-boyfriend in the video and one of the best hair/makeup artists in town and we made a music video. Everything you hear in the lyrics and (nearly) everything you see in the video were/are all just a reenactment of what truly happened in my relationship.
Tell us about your upcoming album; what experiences and events inspired the writing and recording of this new album? Could you tell us about each of the featured songs? How will the album be recorded, and where?
‘Heart Breathe’ was the first song I wrote this year after my boyfriend (who I thought I was going to marry) and I broke up. (It’s about letting) your heart breathe and (giving) yourself time. One month later I wrote ‘Keep Around’ and reached out to my good friend Jeb Hart about co-producing an acoustic EP with me. He’s got an amazingly studio in town, and because we’re friends, he’s heard me several times and knew right away what my style/vibe and vision was. I want an all-positive, shed the past, look to the future, let everything go, it’s all going to be OK-themed EP. I carefully selected the songs and they have just turned out amazingly. I wrote ‘Keep Around’ from the perspective of a man to a woman about when you find a girl who possesses everything you could possibly ever want (you) keep her around! ‘The Sun Will Rise’ is similarly themed to ‘Heart Breathe’ but more anthemic and more thought-provoking, lyrically. ‘As It Should Be’ is a reminder that life is always as it should be. Just trust that you will receive what you need if you believe, relax, and just let go of the need to control because we cannot control anything but ourselves. ‘La Dat Da Da Bah Bah Bah’ is such a happy sing-along song, a true pop tune down to the very core! I can’t wait to release this (album) digitally on August 25th!
Do you have any upcoming performances? Why should people attending your performances wear blue?
(I just performed) at the Listening Room Café in Nashville (and I am there every 3-4 months). (I will be performing) July 9th at Silver Dollar Saloon for the Welcome To Nashville Showcase (this will be my third time playing this) and July 17th at Mayday Brewery in Murfreesboro (my second time playing there). On July 28th I’m doing an online concert via ConcertWindow.com so people all over the world can watch and on July 31st I’ll be at the Stem and Stein in Madison, Alabama. I will tour Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland between August 31st and October 5th. (This is) my first tour outside the United States (and my second time playing internationally, as I played the Hard Rock Café in Florence, Italy in January 2012)! Wear blue to my shows (because) it’s my immediate way of connecting with my fans. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s the year I started singing (and) I swore that if I ever made enough money to give back that that would be my charity. I have now been donating monthly to the Alzheimer’s Association for the last 3.5 years! Every time someone wears blue (to my shows) $1 from every ticket and/or CD sale gets donated.