By JT Ellison
Alissa Moreno‘s voice will break your heart and put it back together again. I’m not kidding. I first saw her play at a Nashville East Side Storytellin’ event, and sat entranced through her set. Of course, I had to introduce myself (something I NEVER do to celebrities), and we struck up a lovely friendship. She’s now part of my tribe, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I think she’s one of the most talented songwriters in Nashville. A lot of other people do, too. She’s also a yoga-loving, clean-eating freak like me, so we’re having a lot of fun sampling Nashville’s finest wares. It’s so incredible for me to see a completely different side of writing creativity—songwriting and performing are similar but so very different from books. I know you’re going to love her as much as I do.
Take it away, Alissa!
Set your music to Shuffle and hit Play. What’s the first song that comes up?
Well, embarrassingly, the first song that came up was my song “Get Back U”‘ but that is because I didn’t actually turn Shuffle on correctly the first time, and I was sending files off for mastering earlier today. So . . . once I overcame my computer challenges and correctly turned Shuffle on, “Still Sane” by Lorde started playing. She’s outrageously talented.
Oh, this is so fun! Rascal Flatts just came on—it’s their version of my song “Every Day” which I haven’t heard in years! Okay, I don’t focus well when I’m listening to music, so I’m going to come back to you when this song is done. Damn . . . Gary can sing!
Ha!! You crack me up! Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?
Today (Friday) is a wild card day for me (my Fridays always are), which means I don’t have a consistent co-writing session. The focus today was on Easter and all the outrageous colors and art we can come up with for our Easter egg dyeing this year. I spent my day toting my adorable three-year-old son around, and I asked him if he wanted to hear my new song I wrote yesterday. He’s a great A&R guy, and he loves a pretty small percentage of what I write and record. I trust him. His reaction to this new song was so good, I called my co-writer/producer and gave her my edit ideas straight away.
You just released a new album called GETAWAY CAR. Congrats! What’s it about?
Thanks! Getaway Car is mostly about overcoming. And a little bit of straight-up surviving. It’s a more mature reflection on love and loss than my first album, In Your Wake, and it’s interesting to see the changes in perspective the last eight years have brought me.
Where do you write, and what tools do you use?
I write everywhere. I write in studios and publishing offices around Nashville with grand pianos and a plethora of cool guitars. I write in airplanes with my MacBook and terrible tiny little headphones to a track a producer sends me. I write in my bed at three in the morning with my voice and my iPhone. The really fun writes are on boats and in exotic getaways designed by our publishers, labels, and management to keep us inspired. IT WORKS! Last summer I was in South Beach working on a project, and we discovered that we had a certain magic in one specific hotel room at the W, and another magic entirely on a tiny private island a few miles away.
What was the first album that struck a chord with you? (pun completely intended)
The Cure’s “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me”. Something about Robert Smith’s vulnerability when he sings, paired with guitar and synth sounds that were so unique. Then add the melancholic and sometimes even tragic sentiment to the mix with catchy, intelligent melodies and hooky musical interludes . . . I can go on and on . . . . . .
What’s your secret talent?
Identifying people’s ayurvedic prakrutis (genetic make-up) and vikrutis (imbalances)
Which album or artists have been pumping through your headphones lately?
I have been on a listening fast—I do this from time to time to “clear out” and let my mind follow new paths to its own melodies, and to let the muse send in fresh ideas and concepts. The neat thing about this exercise is that it lends itself to my theory that there is a creative consciousness that many artists tap into. It’s as if we tune in to the same “station”, so to speak, because when I come up for air, there is usually a song out in my songwriting community or even on radio that is eerily similar.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
At about age 5. For the next 12 years, I vacillated back and forth between actor and musician, but music came very easily, and it seemed more immediate. I pictured myself reciting monologues at parties, and then I pictured myself playing guitar and singing around a campfire. Music won. I’ve always felt that actors face SUCH a challenge in finding the right script, getting through casting, having a great director, having chemistry with their fellow actors . . . the list goes on. But I can sing and share the gift of music ANYTIME I want. Anywhere. I’m grateful for that.
Who is your music idol? Have you met him/her? If so, did you completely nerd out or keep your cool?
That’s a hard one! I have quite a few. Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, Sheryl Crow, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Ani DiFranco. I had the great pleasure of attending the U2 concert in Nashville a few summers ago and I got to meet The Edge backstage. He kissed my cheek and congratulated me on my song, and my life felt as if it had circled around and come back to me in a matter of seconds. It was bizarre and settling all at once. I was at the show with Bob Ezrin, a wonderful mentor and friend whose album, The Wall, defined my 7th grade experience. It was the soundtrack to my life, and it walked me through a lot. It was very surreal to think I was in the company of such amazing, accomplished, incredible musicians and human beings. We were backstage because of the friendship Bob and Edge have formed in creating their charity, Music Rising
What’s your favorite bit of performing advice?
Spend time getting to know your venue and the crowd before you go on, if at all possible.
What do you do if your creative juices aren’t flowing?
Write a song anyway.
Are you creatively satisfied?
This week? Extremely.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being kind. Making people feel better. Fragmented sentences.
Alright, now for the really important questions:
- Beach or mountains? Beach.
- Coffee or tea? Lately, tea. High Garden Tea to be specific!
- Skydive or bungee jump? Skydive!
- Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla.
- Winter or summer? Summer.
- Cake or pie? Cake.
- Cats or dogs? Dogs.
- Pens or pencils? Pencils.
- Truth or dare? Dare.
- Mp3’s or vinyl? Vinyl.
Alissa Moreno was born on a small Navajo reservation then grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She co-wrote the Grammy-nominated hit “Every Day” for Rascal Flatts; her song “Far From Here” was the show ID for the Lifetime series Army Wives; and she co-wrote/co- performed ABC’s Hope and Faith theme song. Her music is featured in television and film with numerous songs licensed to The Vineyard, The Hills, Laguna Beach, How I Met Your Mother, Guiding Light, Will and Grace and many others, including the film Paul Blart: Mall Cop. She was the vocal coach to Ben Affleck for his award-winning role in Hollywoodland. Alissa currently lives in Nashville, and has written with and been recorded by artists such as Colbie Caillat, Alex Da Kid, Kina Grannis, Street Runner, JoJo, Chuck Wicks, Mallary Hope, Kate Voegelle, Javier Colon, Nikola Rachelle Bedingfield, Fast Ball, Big Al Anderson, Vince Gill and Vertical Horizon.
You can find Alissa’s music on:
Via: JT Ellison