RR LogoAlice Wallace - Memories, Music & Pride  - Country Star in the Making

Alice Wallace Four“Poor Cleopatra,” the second song on Orange County, California singer, songwriter and guitarist Alice Wallace’s third and best album yet, Memories, Music & Pride sends a strong signal that the affable young woman who grew up in Florida has definitely arrived on the Country music scene. Not since artists like the Judds, Reba and Janie Fricke arrived on the scene decades ago has a female Country artist appeared with such impeccable vocals that remain true to the classic Country sound and who also possesses tremendous gifts as a songwriter. Did we happen to mention that she is also an incredible yodeler? We will have more about that later.

Alice Wallace is signed to California Country Records a new record label founded by two superb singers and songwriters and multiple music award winners Manda Mosher and Kirsten Proffit, who comprise two-thirds of CALICO the band. Memories, Music & Pride was co-produced by Proffit and Steve Berns (who also mixed the album), with Eric Craig acting as the Executive Producer. Alice Wallace has a wealth of talented and experienced people behind her who are also very savvy about the business side of music and this should enable her to realize her full potential as one of the best Country music artists to come our way in this millennium.

As for the song “Poor Cleopatra,” Wallace says, “There are two storylines that are meant to be one and the same. The town Jerome, Arizona is a copper mining town and the mine kept catching fire. At one point it was burning for about twenty years. They couldn’t put the fire out, so everyone abandoned the town and it became a ghost town. I wanted to write a song about the town and the mine fire that couldn’t be extinguished. To me it was this incredible idea that you would go into the mine to get the copper out and then it would start a fire that you can’t put out for twenty years. At the same time I didn’t want it to be just a song about a town and the fire in the mine. When we played Jerome (I went to) a history museum that talks about the mine fire and how Jerome was named the wickedest town in the west in the late 1800s. Then there was also this brothel. There was the mine, the mine fire, the saloon and the brothel and it also happens that Jerome is on Cleopatra Hill. I said okay this is going to be a song about Cleopatra and she has a fire that burns, but it is for an entirely different reason and then drawing the parallels between being stuck in a brothel and this mountain being ravaged by the miners. That is what the song is about and it took me a long time to get it the way that I wanted it to be. When I write a song usually it takes me a month at the most and this one was off and on for about a year. I was developing this song and trying to get it to say the things that I wanted it to say, so it could be about the woman or it could be about the town.”

The song “Cleopatra,” has good guitar rhythms courtesy of Tom Bremer, some excellent pedal steel by Jeremy Long, Joshua Tate Huppert’s steady drumming and Robert Bowman lays down a strong foundation for the song with his upright bass. Alice Wallace is very solid as she accompanies herself on acoustic guitar. 

The first time that Alice Wallace met Manda Mosher and Kirsten Proffit was when she opened for CALICO the band at an Orange County concert almost two years ago. After Mosher and Proffit heard Wallace perform a few times with her full band, she was asked if she would like to sign with California Country Records.

“Up to that point in time I hadn’t found anybody in L.A. that I felt I could partner up with and collaborate with, so I was really excited when they approached me. I love their music and they are so talented. They are hard working women in the music industry and they are out there touring as much as they can. They have been doing it a lot longer than I have too and they have many more contacts than me.  I am honored that they heard something in my music and they wanted to help me. That is basically what the partnership with this label has been, because they are artists and they understand what it is like to be an artist. They are just trying to help connect me with the right people and to get this album out to the world. It is really great to work with them,” she says.

With all due respect to Patsy Montana who wrote and recorded “I Want To Be A Cowboy Sweetheart,” which was the first song by a female Country music artist to sell more than one million copies, we have listened to the original recording and we have listened to Alice Wallace’s rendition and at the risk irking some traditionalists we are going to suggest that Wallace’s vocals are better on this song than those of Patsy Montana. We realize that Patsy Montana did not have the studio advantages that today’s artists enjoy and we took that into consideration, but it is the quality of Alice Wallace’s vocals that make this song soar. “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” also gives Alice Wallace an opportunity to demonstrate her yodeling skills and she does a fine job of it.

She says, “I taught myself to yodel in college. I was a huge fan of Jewel when I was in high school when she was going through her ‘90s heyday and somebody in college sent me a recording of her yodeling. She is just a phenomenal yodeler. She grew up in Alaska and her dad was a yodeler. That was something she learned early on.  I heard her yodel and I said I want to do that. I can’t believe that I didn’t know there are still people that yodeled.  I just got the bug and I spent the whole summer, three months, when I was away from college just listening to yodeling non-stop and trying to figure out how to do it. Now I have been doing it for ten plus years and I have refined it over time.

My first album has a song that I wrote about teaching myself how to yodel.  I have been looking for other songs that have yodeling in them, because I pretty well have one or two songs that have yodeling songs in every set. 

I was playing a set in L.A. a year and one-half ago and I did a yodeling song and one of the gentlemen there was Skip Heller. He is one of the most knowledgeable musicians that I have met and he knows the history of every Country and Blues artist. We talked and talked about all of this history and it was really cool to hang out with him. As soon as he heard me yodel he asked, have you ever done any Patsy Montana? I went no, I didn’t even know about Patsy Montana and I was embarrassed to admit it, so I went home and I listened to “I Want to be a Cowboy Sweetheart.” I was like we are adding this to the set list. We started doing it immediately and it became one of our favorite songs to play. I had never put a cover song on one of my original albums before, but I really wanted to put this one on there. It came out so well between the pedal steel player playing to the old time and the guitar player ripping up the chicken picking stuff. I love how it came out on the album.”  Alice Wallace Photo Two

Alice Wallace takes a few minutes to talk about the history and technique of yodeling, “A lot of it came from Germany, Switzerland and the Alps region with the shepherds, as they would yodel across the Alps to call to each other. You hear it in Middle Eastern music and Indian music and even Asian music. With yodeling it is getting the throat to crack when it goes between the chest voice and the head voice. It is really more prevalent than you think and it is a way to showcase a unique vocal technique in music. I feel there should be more of it and I am not sure why it died out as a popular thing to do in music. We try to throw it in wherever we can, because it is fun and we catch people off-guard. They are not expecting it at shows these days. We have a lot of fun with it.

They (the audience) love it when I yodel. There has only been one show that I played at a coffee house in Costa Mesa when I first moved out here that I yodeled and I felt like I did not get a reaction.  People were looking at me like I was strange. I would say that every other show I have ever played people loved it. They started smiling instantly.  You don’t want to do it too much, because I feel like you can over yodel very easily.  We save it for one song in the middle and maybe one grand finale at the end.  I usually do my song about teaching myself how to yodel and it just goes faster and faster. People go crazy and it is a great way to end the show and leave people with something memorable to take home with them. (She starts to laugh) Other than that one isolated experience, I have never got a bad reaction to yodeling.”

Alice Wallace started her life in Los Angeles, before her family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida when she was two years old and then when she was five years old her family moved to St. Cloud, Florida, just outside of Orlando. She was the eldest of three children. Her father had a band and toured regionally, “before he had kids and he settled down.” Between her two parents she was exposed to a variety of music including, Alternative Country, Folk music, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt.

“I would definitely say that (the music of) Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris was the soundtrack of my childhood, because that was the stuff that (my parents) sang and played the most.

I was always in band (at school), so I started playing saxophone in the Jazz band, when I was in middle school. I was always inclined to play music and I did get the musical training there and even when I went to the University of Florida, I was in the marching band.

In my teenage years I had always heard my dad and my mom sitting around playing guitar and when we went on camping trips with my parents everyone was playing around the campfire and I just really wanted to join in. I always wanted to play guitar, so I picked it up and I started looking at songbooks and I learned some chords on my own.  Then I wanted to write my own songs, so I started writing them in high school and I slowly built from there.

I never took vocal lessons. I took like three in college. I thought I should take voice lessons, but it didn’t really resonate with me. After a few lessons I quit. The vocal part has always been a slow progression for me. We have videos of me when I was five years old singing at the camera. I pretty much always sang, but I didn’t have much confidence in my voice, so I never joined chorus and those kinds of things, because I didn’t think that I was good enough. I stuck with just playing an instrument when I was in school.  When I picked up the guitar I said I am going to sing whether I am good at it or not.  I started singing and I feel that is what developed my voice was singing so much all of the time and slowly figuring out the right way to do it. Now I sing pretty well every day and the more that I sing the more that my voice stays in shape. I never feel that I am straining it or that I am doing any damage to it,” says Wallace.

Alice Wallace says that she started thinking about a career in music, “Pretty much from the time that I picked up the guitar and I started writing songs.  It was my favorite thing to do right off of the bat and it is what I wanted to always do. I went to college and I was too subconscious and too worried to major in music, because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to hack it, so I majored in journalism. I worked as a newspaper reporter for a while after college. I just didn’t have the courage to do music and I was too worried about failing.

When my parents were moving out here to California about seven years ago they were laying people off at the newspaper left and right, so I thought okay I am going to California. I came out here with the intention of focusing on music, but I got a job (at first), because I thought, well I still have to make money. I found that as long as I was working at a full-time job it was just impossible to put enough time into my music to make it go anywhere. I spent almost five years out here working at various jobs, while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in music, but not putting everything into it. Finally, I had this big breakup with a boyfriend and I felt like I was in transition and I said hey mom and dad can I move back home? I quit my job and I saved up for a while then I said I am going to make a real go at music. I had wanted to do that for ten years. I finally took the plunge. Without the support of my parents I wouldn’t be able to do this, especially with as expensive as it is out here and trying to tour fulltime. I feel really lucky that they are giving me this opportunity to have a place to stay, while I pursue my dream.  This has always been my real passion and I just reached this point where (I thought) I don’t want to have regrets about not giving this my all and seeing where it can take me,” she says.  

In 2014 Alice Wallace performed more than 200 gigs and in 2015 when she was not in the studio recording she was continually performing as well. Alice Wallace photo three

“The energy from the crowds and the people that I meet are the things that keep me going.  This last year touring has been a huge learning experience for me. A lot of the time I tour solo, but I got to take my band to Texas with me and that was fun to have the guys on the road. The majority of the touring the past couple of years has just been me and a guitar and getting on a plane or getting in a car. It has been learning to be alone a lot. Sometimes you show up in a city where you don’t know anybody and you are playing in a room full of strangers and at the end of the night you go to your room by yourself. It has been a terribly lonely experience and it has been an incredible weight,” she says.

For Alice Wallace as lonely as touring on the road can sometimes be there are also quite a few rewarding experiences and she talks about those, “It may be a room full of strangers, but they are reciprocating energy. You go to a town where you don’t know anybody and to have that kind of response where people come up to you afterwards and they remember lines from your songs. They specifically ask which CD was this song on? It is amazing. Especially, my one song, “A Traveling Song,” that is on my new album and people say they started crying during the song.  I go I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to make you cry, but it is so touching that my music can reach them in that kind of a way and in such a short amount of time. I go up and I start to play and they have never met me or heard any of my music. If I didn’t get those kinds of reactions from people I wouldn’t be able to keep going.  I wouldn’t be able to get into the car, drive for eight hours and immediately get on stage and to play for three or four hours. It is a pretty hard existence sometimes, but it is so rewarding at the same time and that is why I keep doing it.”  

Memories, Music & Pride is Alice Wallace’s third album. In 2011 she recorded Sweet Madness, a CD that took its title from a song of the same name that was written about a time when she was still closer to the beginning of her career and struggling as an artist. She says she now rarely plays the song. Sweet Madness was followed by the release of A Thousand Miles From Home in 2013.

“I started to tour a little bit when I put A Thousand Miles From Home out. I was still working, but I would use all of my vacation time and I would take long weekends and I would do these small tours trying to experiment and to figure out how to build tours and how to build contacts. A lot of this album is about those fledgling days as a touring artist and it is about a really bad breakup that I went through. It was just a mess and I wrote a lot of material about it. That is pretty much the thread running through that album is coming out of that breakup and dealing with the repercussions of it. Relationships are probably something that inspires the most emotions out of people and so they lend themselves naturally to writing songs. Most of my songs are about breakups, because you are going through so much and if you are able to capture that in a song everyone can relate to it. We can all relate to that, because we have all been there and it is a universal theme that will always capture an audience if it is written the right way.

(I was also) starting to learn about myself and starting to learn about how to become an artist. I wrote (the song) “A Thousand Miles From Home,” after my longest tour when I had driven to Wyoming and back. When I got home from that tour it was the first time that it felt a little strange to be back at home and I felt like I should be on the road. I felt more comfortable driving and getting ready for the next gig. I got home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had found what I was supposed to be doing. It is about finding that little spark in life that makes you realize that you are doing the right thing with your time,” she says.

As you listen to Alice Wallace’s new album Memories, Music & Pride on California Country Records it is very apparent that this is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who definitely is doing the right thing with her time. The song “I Just Don’t Care Anymore,” opens the album and it features two scintillating solos, the first by Jeremy Long on keyboards and the second by Tom Bremer on electric guitar. The pace is lively and beckons the listener to the dance floor to do a quick two-step. Once this song finishes you and your dance partner will be asking, is there more?

Some emerging artists have a chance to be good, it is rare that a singer, songwriter and musician has the opportunity to be great, but Alice Wallace is one of those few artists who has a date with destiny and it is spelled out in capital letters, Country Music Star.

Please visit the website for Alice Wallace, where you can also listen to some of the songs from her new album.  You can follow Alice Wallace on her official Facebook page.                 Return to our Front Page

Top Photo by Devin McMasters, protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved.

This interview  by Joe Montague  published January 2, 2016 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved.  Top Photo by Devin McMasters, protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. Middle Photo and cover art courtesy of Alice Wallace and California Country Records protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved