Interview with Alicia Seymour
SBS: Alicia! First and foremost, let me extend a massive thank-you to you for your time with us here! I’ve had an absolute blast checking into your music and researching your adventures…and quite honestly, I’m seriously impressed. The songs that I’ve seen you cover aren’t just ‘songs’ per-se as they are absolute monuments to music itself…testaments to real songwriting with some of the biggest notes that singers can sing…and you NEVER shy away from these challenges! In fact, from what I’ve personally seen, heard & witnessed…you THRIVE in these massive-anthems…I’ve seen songs you’ve covered from Miley Cyrus, Adele, Whitney Houston & more…and you absolutely exceeded my every expectation. Honestly – you’ve got a tremendous voice and a real gift.
Tell us about what led to the confidence to go after the biggest songs ever written! Where did the switch occur for you that things moved from singing being something you ‘thought’ you could do to becoming something you were sure you could do?
Alicia: First, thank you so much for the unbelievable compliment. It is so amazing for someone to notice my singing in such depth and I truly am humbled.
Now to answer your question, my family truly was a big inspiration throughout my life. My mother has always been my number one fan. It was noticed that I carried a good tone when I was around three years old. There is a video of me singing to my Gram in her backyard. I started choir and musical theatre in school. I always thought I was good but never knew if I was good enough. I would push my voice to limits, singing things that were harder vocally. I wouldn’t sing them in front of people until I thought they were ready. It took me a very long time to sing Whitney Houston. I wanted, when I sang her, to be able to “do justice” to the song.
I think it was my junior year of high school that I truly thought I was sure to sing. It started as a dream to sing classical music. It changed a year later that I would go to a Christian university in Virginia and major in leading worship. It was family things that kept me here in Florida and not going into college. I then traveled through a long road of family and finding my way. Different ideas help with the molding of my voice it is today. I was part of a local theatre for one production. I auditioned for Disney to sing which I didn’t get but is the reason I have the job I still have today. I met some fun people who ended up helping form a band. Our name was Zodian and we didn’t make it too far as a band but my band members are still amazing to this day and living their dreams on their own.
All I ever knew was singing is the only thing that made me happy. It can open any door, invoke any emotion. It is so versatile and flexible. I knew it was what I wanted to do forever but was not sure how to go about it. I had one person interested in becoming my manager years ago but was pushy with a contract which scared me away. It was luck that Trackset found me. It was a simple idea that turned into something bigger, a dream if you will.
SBS: I’ll try not to dwell on the cover-tunes…I know you’ve got originals as well…but again, that list of names you see and the songs you’ve chosen is one that stood out to me. From the choices you’ve made alone, I knew I was either in for someone that had a few-screws loose and was tone-deaf…or that potentially, I’d be uncovering the ‘real-deal’ – and I’m proud to say you proved to be the latter of those scenarios. Do you feel pressure of any kind when taking on a song like Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” or Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” to like…you know…get it like, REALLY right? The internet is a cesspool of opinions and covering songs that are so entirely well-recognized the world over could go south for you if you didn’t get it right, didn’t cover it closely enough, changed it too much, etc, etc – you know how it can be out there and what people can be like I’m sure. Does that ever enter your mind when you’re recording a song? How do outside perspectives influence your music – or do they ever?
Alicia: I think about this every time I record anything. Cover songs I am super picky about. I do not like changing songs from the originals very often. I believe in the song living on its own and meaning something as it is. I will listen to different versions, toy with ideas for a long time before claiming the cover as my own. I like acoustic a lot but not all songs should be acoustic or slowed down. I feel like that is done way too often.
As for pressure, I don’t think it is pressure I feel when singing harder songs. The truth is, I won’t even sing the song unless I am completely satisfied with it and I know I can make it sound the way I want. I haven’t had much influence from the internet as of yet but I do have a good friend of mine that I like to get advice from. She has a good ear. I would say yes, outside perspectives influence my music but I am very conscious of the source.
SBS: Let’s take “Rolling In The Deep” and “Wrecking Ball” as our examples for this question…both again, I thought you knocked out of the park on your cover-versions incidentally. TOUGH songs to sing…yet here you are Alicia, pulling it all off effortlessly like you were BORN to do it…serious credit to you my friend, you ARE loaded with talent. Here’s an opportunity to help us all understand cover-tunes a bit more…and your motivation behind singing them… What would you say your intentions were in covering these two songs are and how that relates to your own music/career…and now that they’re out there and you’ve heard your own performance on these songs – what would YOU say that you ended up bringing to these songs that might not have been there before? What changed about these songs through your perspective and how did you make each performance become your ‘own thing?’
Alicia: “Rolling in the Deep” is a song that I have covered a few times at karaoke. When I first heard the song sang by another person, they struggled with the high parts in the chorus. This made me want to try it without the struggle. It came fairly easily for me and the words just happened to fit into my life perfectly at that time. This brought everything out in the song making it such a fun and powerful song. I didn’t change much of the song itself. It is perfect that way it is. I think what I brought to it was maybe a little more power.
“Wrecking Ball” is a different story. I never actually liked the song for a long time. I didn’t like that Miley made that song sound so angry but the video so sad and seductive. It has mixed signals and was never my favorite. I was doing my weekly YouTube scan for new ideas to sing and work up my voice (I can only sing old covers for so long. People are going to want newer songs). I like to search acoustic instrumentals. Let me tell you, there are some talented people out there. I stumbled across “Wrecking Ball” piano acoustic. I love piano! I wish I could play so bad. The track slowed the song down slightly and made it focus on one emotion. It was sad and when I sang it, the song changed. It was not angry anymore but full of heartbreak, something I can of course relate to. I felt the song for once in my life and now, love it. I brought a different feeling from such a powerful song.
SBS: Cover-songs vs. original-tunes…are you developing a preference over time? Seems like a healthy mix of both on your YouTube channel. What are the benefits of both singing and posting up cover-tunes? Ideally I suppose, it would lead to interest in the originals as well…do you find that crossover potential exists between your videos & music that way? Or does it somehow lead to another type of unseen pressure to write something just as strong if you’re going to post-up an original tune?
Alicia: I tend to try and stay away from a preference. I want to be able to sing anything thrown my way, why I challenge myself with so many different kinds of music. I like posting cover tunes because it gives people a chance to not only hear me, but sing along to me. It has always been a big dream to have someone sing along to me singing. One day, it will be to people singing MY songs.
I think there is always pressure to write something just as strong as something already out that we sing along to. Writing songs was never my strong suit. I always felt I had a good Weird Al side to me, but that is just changing an already made song into something you are currently involved with. I do it a lot actually, mostly having to do with work. They are actually very good if I don’t say so myself. I do not think that me singing the cover songs is what makes the pressure harder though. If anything, it helps with writing. You can mix ideas or take one thing and change it to something else. It keeps the vocal muscles working and ears listening for fun additions. I tend to hear myself creating fun harmonies with songs or listening to the background vocals. This helps with writing my own background vocals. It’s amazing, the different things I hear in a song, things my friends don’t pay attention to or never notice. I am constantly hearing new things in songs that I have heard for years.
SBS: Regardless of hit-counts or play-counts…original song-wise…what would you personally say is the strongest tune you’ve written to-date? What makes it stick-out & makes it memorable or special – or both to you? What’s in the writing of this particular song that you feel helps set you apart from the rest of the singer/songwriters out there and puts your best on display?
Alicia: None of my original songs have been released yet so no need to worry about play counts or hit counts. That being said, I do have a few that are written and a few that are in the works. Out of the songs that I have completed, I think “Stay” would be my favorite. I wrote this song completely on my own. It is a song to an ex-boyfriend and holds so much of my personal feelings. It simple but the message is there. I think anytime emotions are involved in writing or performing a song, you get so much more out of the song. It doesn’t always have to be sad though. I am generally a happy person and I love to make people laugh and smile. I think those emotions are the best to display from a song.
SBS: Is there anything specific you can think of in music that you haven’t tried yet that you’d like to looking to answer some random questions – know what I mean? So what’s got you pumped-up, excited and spreading the word about your music right in the here & now? Something coming up in the near future or anything exciting happening we should know about?
Alicia: I am very very new in the music industry. That being said, I have a great team working with me to attempt in the future.
SBS: What avenues have you yet to explore that you think your voice and talent could potentially be a fit for and…well…hey, what’s stoppin’ ya?
Alicia: So I am not a rapper by any means. I do, however, like to listen to Black Eyed Peas and love to “rap” the Fergie parts. Now, I know this is not rapping but it’s different and I’m interested to see how I can make it sound. This then turned into an interest in Iggy Azelea. I want to learn her rap part in the song “Bang Bang”. One day….
SBS: You’re also a ferocious karaoke competitor…not sure if everyone knows that about you yet so I figured I’d bring it up! You’re welcome! Hehehe – take a moment help us wrap our minds around the concept of it all…are you just going in for easy victories? I’ve seen the evidence and you SLAY it out there! What separates the good karaoke-singers out there from the not-so-good ones and overall – would you say that your intense training in the fine-art of karaoke has sufficiently prepared you for a potential lifetime & music-career onstage? I’ve never done it personally or ever been to see it…is it something you recommend everyone tries out at some point in their life or what? Am I missing out?
Alicia: Before getting involved with the studio, karaoke was really my only chance to let out all the singing I had held up inside. I take is fairly serious. Sometimes I will throw in an easy one to have a little fun but I would say 90% of the time, my songs are pre-planned. I definitely do not go for easy victories. I do have show stoppers. Those are my top dogs, the big guns for when I want to get a crowd going. Usually I use the karaoke opportunities to try out some new songs. If I am looking to impress the crowd, I try to feel out what they are looking for. Not all karaoke crowds are the same. You can’t sing “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” in a country bar and expect to get the same reaction as “Blue” from Leann Rimes. I like to appeal to them. I like the crowd to be singing along and slapping my hands as I leave the stage. It’s a fabulous feeling.
As for separating the good karaoke singers from the bad, I do my best to not judge people the best I can. That being said, I am human and of course judge. I encourage anyone to sing. Good, bad, do it. Enjoy yourself. I do like to listen to the good singers. I like to check out their techniques, scope songs to try for next time, and of course, learn things I don’t like so I can avoid them. I do love to cheer on a good singer though especially the boys. Sometimes they just don’t have a clue how good they are.
SBS: I’ll leave this question as wide-open as I can for you – what’s the best advice you would have for someone out there, some singer/songwriter such as yourself, that’s truly looking to ‘find their voice.’ How would you suggest they discover that strong connection to their own signature vocal sound?
Alicia: Don’t stick with comfortable!! You can do what you are comfortable with forever and one day get it perfect, but then you have one song and one sound. Expand your voice! Do karaoke, sing in the car, try new things, sings songs you don’t know. Learn new ones. We have the internet at our fingertips. DO not stick to one singer to look up to. A good example of this is Kelly Clarkson. She is my favorite singer. I love her music, her personality, that she is a chubby girl singing her music. I have loved her since the beginning. That being said, I don’t sing her songs very often. Not as covers or karaoke. It not what my voice is made for. That is ok! I sing Mariah Carey a lot but was never a die-hard fan like a really good friend of mine. Turns out there are a lot more of her songs that I didn’t even know existed. Experiment, play, and try not to get discouraged when you listen to yourself. That took me the longest to get over. I am my worst judge on myself. It’s a blessing and a curse.
SBS: Alright…hypothetical for ya. What I personally love about the realities of music in our world today is that it’s not like it used to be when it comes to cover songs…as a result of the decrease in recording costs and increased value in our everyday tools – we get a lot more of them as a result as well. I like that people embrace their favorite tunes and give it their best shot out there…I think it’s a rad way to tribute the artist & also a great way to get your own sound out into the world. All this being said – one of the coolest things about the ‘old-days’ where things were massively expensive…was that recording a cover-song was extremely RARE…and the choices as to which tune to cover had to be carefully selected as a result of the opportunity coming up so infrequently. I have a question in here somewhere Alicia, I’m positive… I suppose what I want to know is…if you kept it old-school on say, an upcoming record and limited it to just two cover-songs and ten originals…what might you select as the definitive two to record on an album and what would be the criteria you used to select them? Imagine the opportunity DIDN’T exist every day like it does in the present…you only get two songs from anywhere in music’s timeline to cover…what would they be & why?
Alicia: If I could only choose two, I would choose “You’ve Changed” and “I’ll Be There”. “You’ve Changed” is an old standard that I truly fell in love with a few years ago. I heard a cover of it on American Idol and from then, searched until I found the track that I needed. It’s sad and sultry at the same time. So old fashioned but powerful especially in the ending. “I’ll be there” is my show stopper. I like to do the Mariah Carey Version which in fact is a cover ironically but this is a hypothetical question so I am changing the rules a little. This song is an all in one package deal. Everyone knows the song, it’s powerful, and its message is strong. It’s a song everyone can relate to. It is a duet, however. I love duets! I would have to have a strong male singer to help me bring that song to life.
SBS: If it WASN’T an election-year Alicia…I promise you I’d have tried harder to keep politics out of it…BUT…it IS, and here we are, days away from the US election. You live in Florida…a state we all know plays an important role in the overall structure of how voting works in the US. We’re a long way away from you here in Canada…so…Alicia, tell us…what is it like to be alive in a time like this in the US? Do you feel like the future is an optimistic one based on how you think the election will play out? Will it have any effect whatsoever on the music you make, play, write or record – or are politics & music two completely separate entities for you personally? More importantly – do you feel that it’s important to BE on one side of the fence or the other in this election and that people lay that info on the table?<3333
Alicia: I would have to say music and politics are two completely different entities in my personality. I tend to look optimistically on most things. I am pleased with some decisions that have come to turn recently including same sex marriages. Such a long battle that has finally been won. Full supporter of the LGBT community.
I think it is important to have opinions and to voice those opinions. I think it is important to fight for things you believe in or don’t believe in. I do, however, think people get out of hand too often. I don’t think there truly is a fence to be on sides of. Yes, there were two main candidates but there is so much more than that. Politics are something I tend to keep private. It’s not worth losing supporters or friends because of a tiny disagreement. Religion is the same way for me.
SBS: Alicia I sincerely want to say thank you for doing this interview with us. Everything I’ve seen, read & heard shows you truly embody the inspiration and freedom of music…and combined with your courageous ways of going after the biggest notes that can possibly be sung – you’ve got a strong future ahead of you I’m sure. So again – thank-you, it’s truly been an honor and a privilege.
We have a long-standing tradition of offering our guests the ‘SBS Open Floor’ at the end of our interviews and let you mention, say or talk about anything else you wanted to or that we didn’t cover this time around in the interview – anything at all…all up to you! All the best to you Alicia – cheers!
Alicia: I want to thank you for such lovely complements and for taking the time to interview me. It is truly an honor. I do not have anything to add except it is beautiful up there, cold in July in the evenings, Tim Hortons coffee is the best, and Poutine is the best invention ever. I look forward to visiting your beautiful country again. Hopefully, we can do this again 😉
Find out more about Alicia Seymour at her official site at: http://awashi02.wixsite.com/aliciaseymour