If there’s one thing to say about Nashville-based singer/songwriter Alanna Royale, it’s that she’s full of soul. Her songs radiate a delightful amalgamation of 1960s and 1990s iterations of the genre, making for some true, modern classics. And her efforts as an outspoken advocate for queer and trans equality come from the most passionate parts of her own soul. Suffice to say, her latest release, Trouble Is (released 6th October via Trash Casual x Soul Step Records), is a must-listen. I had the pleasure of asking Alanna a few questions about the record, and her journey as an artist and activist. Read on below.
[TJ]: Alanna, thanks so much for chatting with me! Your new album, Trouble Is, has been out for a little over a week now. How does it feel to finally unleash this on the world and how has the response been? [AR]: This album release feels especially huge considering I started it before the pandemic and it’s just now getting into people’s hands. Truly the wildest ride and the most obstacles I’ve ever faced to get something out into the world.
[TJ]: As a songwriter myself, I always love to know about other folks’ processes, especially in different genres. Take me through a typical song for you, from inception to final product. [AR]: In my life as an artist, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into a song the same way twice. I feel like I am so out of control of the process and it just kind of happens to me. One of the only constants is that it usually takes me forever to finish lyrics. Every piece can be in its right place but still, the lyrics will hold the process up. I’ve written entire songs on this record based on random voice notes, snippets of piano parts sent to me by my producer, and late night drum break jams. It comes from everywhere and I just ride it from there.
[TJ]: Being from Nashville, obviously that’s such a storied place for musicians. What was the experience like for you writing and recording in a city that just churns out constant hits? [AR]: My first few weeks in Nashville were eye opening to say the least. The emphasis on songwriting was something I never had seen to that capacity and it has since pushed me through some really uncomfortable places. It’s never easy realizing your own shortcomings but there is such a sense of community here and I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with people who genuinely want to see all ships rise. I am so much better for my time here but it was not easy!
[TJ]: Talk to me about the musical community down there – I’ve sadly never been but I hear it’s just music, music, music 24/7. Do you find it to be more competitive, uber-supportive, or somewhere in the middle? [AR]: You should come! Like every community we’ve got the competitive or exclusionary side of things but I’ve always swerved those folks. I go where I feel the support and love, always. Sometimes the music, music, music is a tad overwhelming and it can play tricks on you from time to time but otherwise, what an amazing place to live where so many people understand your way of life and you can reach out for resources practically everywhere.
[TJ]: Speaking of Nashville, the wonderful Bernie Sanders had you speak at an event of his there earlier this year? I have to know the story behind this! [AR]: CRAZZYYYYY!!!! I try to maintain a certain level of political, social, and civic engagement and that’s something that many people know about me. This rally was Senator Sanders’ tour to bring awareness to raising the minimum wage. I was brought on to speak on my own experiences with low wage jobs and how that has impacted my life. An alarming percentage of Americans are one paycheck away from financial ruin and this should disturb people across our country but sadly, it is not a priority for those in a position of power. From where I’m sitting, I can not see another side to this argument – it’s pretty black and white if you ask me.
[TJ]: As an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, how do you incorporate the more sociological – dare I say, political – themes into your music? [AR]: I am definitely an advocate for the community and believe in queer and trans liberation full stop. I don’t know if I’ve ever really expressed my political opinions outright in my music but I do put it into my everyday existence and really try to walk the walk. I don’t think there’s anyone in my orbit, whether it’s a casual listener or a die hard fan, who does not understand my commitment to equality for LGBTQ+ people. I participate in fundraisers, share information, volunteer my time, put my dollars into queer and trans-owned businesses and will do pretty much anything to show up where my voice/presence is needed. I incorporate these beliefs into my everyday life and encourage others to do the same.
[TJ]: The sound of this record honestly feels like it goes hand-in-hand with this sort of… “speaking truth to power” – it’s incredibly soulful and harkens back to that Summer of Soul vibe from the late ’60s, early ’70s. I’m curious who you’d pinpoint as your biggest influences? [AR]: Thank you! What a beautiful (and extremely flattering) comparison. There is absolutely no doubt that the soul and r&b greats of the ’60’s and ’70’s have influenced me in virtually every part of my musical production whether it’s the arranging process, recording to tape, tracking without a click, or the absence of AutoTune but I would say the result of making a truthful and honest record really came to fruition when I felt confident to bring in the undeniable influence of so many other genres and their changes through the decades. I’m a ’90’s r&b kid, through and through, and I want to be Minnie Ripperton and Mary J. Blige. Marrying these different parts of myself was the most honest thing I could do as an artist and for some reason I didn’t think folks would get it. Well, I was wrong. They LOVE it. My power is in my authenticity – on and off the mic. I really leaned into that and it really paid off.
[TJ]: Last but not least, you’re on a pretty extensive US tour right now – what are your favorite and least favorite things about being on the road?
[AR]: Excellent question! First and foremost, I love being on the road and hitting the stage night after night meeting new people and seeing repeat fans come back to the shows. This is something I hope I never get tired of or take for granted. The road is HARD though. Wow, it is tough. Mostly I am tired alllll the time and constantly searching for food. I’m vegan which means putting a little more effort into every meal. I can’t always just hit a spot a few blocks away from the venue or pick up something quick when we stop in the middle of nowhere. It’s maddening and this body doesn’t run on apples alone. I hope I can get to a spot one day where there is a delicious vegan spread waiting for me everywhere I go. DREAMS!
[TJ]: Thanks so much again for answering some questions, and congratulations on an incredible record! [AR]: THANK YOU! Very grateful for your time and coverage.
Alanna’s new record is out now on all major streaming platforms. Pick your favourite HERE.