Having already secured critical acclaim thanks to her previous releases, singer-songwriter Alma is gearing up for the release of her next collection The Travel Size EP which is due out next year.
Inspired and influenced by the likes of Ingrid Michaelson and Emily King among others, she uses her life experiences, together with her faith and beliefs to create music she feels truly passionate about, and such heart is evident in each and every one of her songs, including her latest track "Oh, K."
Currently enjoying a weekly residency at a cafe in Los Angeles, Alma kindly agreed to this interview with our staff writer Rebecca.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Alma: Hello! I'm Alma, a singer-songwriter currently based in Los Angeles.
PW: How would you describe your sound and style?
A: My genre is pop-soul. I'm in love with feel-good bass lines, contagious percussion, and beautiful horn arrangements—however, on my upcoming project, The Travel Size EP, I took a little detour from that live soul vibe and decided to create an indie pop project.
PW: Who are your key influences and have they changed as you've gotten older?
A: Oh, my tastes and influences have changed so much! When I first started song-writing in middle school, I was a huge fan of quirky singer-songwriters like Regina Spektor and Ingrid Michaelson. I still respect them, but once I discovered neo-soul music in college, it was game over. My biggest influences right now are Emily King and Amel Larrieux.
PW: Was there ever one artist or band that made you think 'Yeah, I want to do that?'
A: Actually, no! I think all the key moments in my formation as a musician happened in a collaborative setting—like the poetry slams and open mics I went to as a teenager. There are so many talented poets in my home-town, partly because we have a college program that essentially lets you major in spoken word…and it was amazing to see how art could bring so many people together. Moments like that were what sold me on the power of music.
PW: Is there one band or artist you think you're similar to, or are you more your own individual artist?
A: I'm not sure anyone is so "individual" that they're above comparison. We sound like what we listen to, you know? The most common comparisons I get are to Corinne Bailey Rae, Emily King, and Norah Jones, and I think they're pretty accurate.
PW: How did studying vocal performance at Columbia College Chicago help your musical ambitions?
A: I'm most grateful for the relationships I built at Columbia. It was such a privilege to be surrounded by other creatives—observing their styles, methods, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. I expect that some of those relationships will last a lifetime and will spur me on in my craft.
PW: How does your faith influence and impact what you write about?
The fingerprints of my faith can be found all over everything I create. I believe that good art speaks the truth—and as a Christian, I believe that the truth basically boils down to two principles: first, humans are broken and flawed but secondly, we have access to redemption. A "true" song might lean more into one of those principles than the other, but I hope that my body of work, when taken as whole, communicates them both.
PW: You released your debut EP Pass It On in 2012. How do you think your song-writing has evolved since then?
A: There's no doubt that when someone's tastes and influences change, their song-writing style goes along for the ride! Incorporating the new jazz- and R&B-influenced grooves I was listening to definitely switched my style up. And learning to write songs on ukulele instead of piano also changed everything, breaking me out of stylistic habits I'd defaulted to before. As a whole, my music is more up-tempo and groove-based now.
PW: 2014's Tactics earned you attention from multiple outlets, but how important is critical acclaim and support to you?
A: Critical acclaim and support is only important insofar as it means more people are being challenged and edified by the art. Everyone likes attention—so of course I love being featured on blogs and podcasts—but I have to realize that desiring attention for its own sake is destructive and will ultimately lead to disappointment. The hunger for applause is insatiable, so I try to fill myself up with the understanding that I am already unconditionally loved by those who matter.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and would you agree that artists today need to be socially interactive to maintain and grow an audience?
A: Man…social media is such a game. I think it's important to go where your audience is, but I don't think it's necessarily a make-or-break rule that you need to be up in people's faces all the time. I don't enjoy social media at all and put way more work into it than I would like to, but there are alternatives; for instance, my friend Marcus Broderick, who is featured on the final track of The Travel Size EP, has plans to make his online presence more authentic and perhaps more long-form than what "hashtag culture" currently encourages.
PW: What's the story behind your latest single "Oh, K"?
A: "Oh, K" is about a friendship with someone who's only interested in you for what you can do for them. It's about someone who very blatantly wants to use you…and then you being like, "Nope! Not today."
PW: What can you tell me about your new project, The Travel Size EP, due out next year?
A: The Travel Size EP
is a small collection of songs that were all composed while traveling or about traveling. If you listen carefully to the lyrics, though, you'll learn that I'm actually a huge homebody at heart, but regardless, I've had many opportunities to travel—whether for my day job, for music festivals, for long distance relationships or for church involvement—and I'm grateful for the ways I've grown through it. The Travel Size EP reflects that growth.
PW: What are your upcoming touring and performance plans?
A: I've got a weekly residency at a great café here in Los Angeles! It's called Republic of Pie, and I'm there every Monday at 7:30. 'll be on a hiatus from December 14th to February 1st, but after that I should be starting right back up again. As for touring, I don't have anything on the books yet.
PW: Could you pick the best show you've played to date?
A: So far, my favorite show has been Lifest 2014, a faith-based music festival in Wisconsin. I pulled together a very random group of friends to help me out as a band—and between the camaraderie and the fact that we pulled it off very well, it's been a hard one to top!
PW: If you could play in any venue, anywhere in the world, with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, where would it be and who would you choose?
A: Don't make me choose! I'd probably opt for a medium-sized space like Lincoln Hall in Chicago, and I'd want to do acoustic sets "in the rounds" - where all the artists are on-stage, taking turns sharing songs and stories. On the bill would be Emily King, Lauryn Hill, and Justin Bieber - don't laugh until you've heard his acoustic album - it’s so good!
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition? Where do you want to see yourself three years from now?
A: I've got a few tricks up my sleeve that I'm not able to share quite yet! But let's just say that I plan on being surrounded by talented, motivated, spiritually sound individuals, and we're going to help one another create the best art that we possibly can.