This interview took place prior to the release of Allison Leah’s EP “The Weight of my Heart” which you can listen too here.
Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Allison Leah! Together we discussed food in New York, growing up in music, their creative process, and their EP “The Weight of My Heart”.
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
I’m great, I’m so excited to be at the Music Shelf! Thank you for having me, Mustard 🙂
2. You were born in New York. Is it true what they say about New York’s pizza and bagels being the best? Do you have a favorite New York hero?
Absolutely – New York pizza and bagels are my absolute favorite and I make sure to get them every time I visit. I think New Yorkers are very resilient and it’s hard to pick a favorite so I think I’m going to take the emotional route and say my parents (no matter how sappy). They are the two hardest workers that I know and it’s really wonderful to look up to them.
3. Additionally, you began working as a jingle-singer at 8 years old. Including such classics as the “Hess Truck” commercial. What was it like being exposed to the music industry at such a young age? Is there a company or brand you would love to do a jingle for now?
Being exposed at such a young age was awesome. It allowed me to be around professionals and learn about the recording studio – plus it was surreal hearing my voice on the radio and in TV commercials when I was that young. It really inspired me and solidified my love for music. I’d love to do a jingle for a brand now – that would be so cool!
Additionally, my dad is a recording engineer and this showed me another side of the music industry. I often joke that while other kids were going to their parents’ offices for “take your kid to work day”, I went to the studio, and my reward for behaving during a session was that I could sing in the recording booth afterward.
Both of these scenarios showed me from a very young age that having a career in music is possible and looks different for everyone.
4. What song or album impacted you growing up? Was it this album or song that inspired you to become a musician?
I was always very inspired by singer-songwriters. As I just mentioned, my dad is a recording engineer so when I was growing up I heard a lot of demos from artists he was working on in my house. Artists like Trevor Hall, Rachael Yamagata, John Mayer really inspired me. Now, my favorite artists consist of Maisie Peters, Noah Kahan, and Gracie Abrams – my list is always changing but my one constant is that I love artists who write and tell their own stories.
However, something really specific actually inspired me to go all in as a musician. In 2015, I went to a music festival with my dad and I saw an artist that I wasn’t familiar with playing under a small tent. I was confused, and asked my dad “Who is that?” He responded by saying he’s probably a smaller artist who had the opportunity to play this festival – maybe he’s on a label or management company. I looked at him, and said “Well if that’s an option, I want to do that”. Even with all my exposure to the music industry growing up, I still had a preconceived notion that when it comes to being an artist, you’re either unknown or an A-list celebrity. It was at that moment I learned there is an in between.
Now that I’ve played music festivals this year, this moment has come full circle for me – if only I could tell my younger self what she’s been up to 🙂
5. Who (or what) influences you?
My influences are constantly changing, but I’m always inspired by love, time passing, friends, and my own situations. A secret of mine is that I have released many songs told from my perspective that are actually about someone else’s lived experience. I love putting myself in other people’s shoes – it really allows you to see the big picture of a scenario. Let me know if you can guess which songs were inspired by the stories of others!
6. What is your songwriting process?
My songwriting process happens differently every time! Starting out, I learned to write on guitar or piano and typically came up with the melody first. I would mumble the melody until I found words that fit and a song would start to take shape. Now, I love to write and create using tracks – this means a producer will start creating a track and soundscape and we write to a loop. “sorry for myself”, “what im missing”, and “better off numb” all started by building the track first and letting the music and lyrics come after!
7. Some humans are afraid to allow themselves to be vulnerable. You though are not as it shows within your songwriting. Is songwriting your form of therapy? What advice would you give to humans who have trouble opening up?
I think that details are universal and sometimes the more vulnerable you can get in a song, the more people are able to feel connected. Songwriting definitely started as a form of therapy for me when I was 12-13 years old and I think parts of that are still true in my writing today, especially in songs like “what i’m missing” and “24 years down”. As for advice, I think opening up is powerful, and finding trusted people that you can open up to is a very special thing. I hope everyone has a person or outlet they can confide in.
8. In 2018 you released your first EP “Fly Home” that featured singles such as “Black and White” and “A Love Song.” Could you share what it was like putting this EP together? How did it feel to have it released out into the human world? Did you “fly home” to create this EP or is the act of flying home a metaphor?
Putting together that EP was wonderful. There is such a beauty in a first release because your time is unlimited and you’re unintentionally defining your starting point for the rest of your music career. The “Fly Home” EP was a collection of my favorite songs from my first three years of disciplined writing. I probably wrote 300 songs before we chose the 6 that made the cut. The wildest part of this EP release was seeing which songs resonated and stuck around. A song called “Colorado”, which wasn’t even a single on the record, is still one of my most popular songs on Spotify, and the reaction to this song was just incredible. It really ended up shaping the way I write moving forward.
It’s so funny that you mention “flying home” to create this EP because this wasn’t my intention with the title. The title actually refers to Track 6 on the album, which is the story of somebody struggling to come out to their family, and beyond that to find people that will love them no matter what, so the act of “flying home” in this metaphor was about being true to yourself. But honestly, I did spend most of my senior year of college traveling to and from college in upstate NY to NYC to record this EP so I do think there’s an unintentional literal meaning in there as well.
9. How have social media platforms such as TikTok helped you as an artist?
Social media has been super important as an artist. I personally love using social media to share behind-the-scenes moments, sneak peeks and even tour vlogs. Social media really allows you to “take people with you” in the sense that you can show people what you’re creating as it’s happening.
Furthermore, social media has allowed me to connect with folks that I might not ever have in real life. Especially during the 2020 Covid Lockdowns – I met so many incredible people on Instagram that I was able to make a music video solely from their videos! I feel similarly about Tik Tok – it’s such a great platform to test new music material and reach new people. I had a mini-viral moment with Taylor Swift cooking videos last year and this actually helped me reach a lot of people who enjoyed my music! I think social media has opened up the world to limitless possibilities and collaborations.
10. We are in the midst of your second EP which comes out on November 4th. What can fans expect from this EP? How have you evolved as an artist since “Fly Home?”
This project was written from 2020 through 2021, a time of major personal growth and reflection as most of it was spent in isolation. It’s my first commercially pop record and the songs feel like an extension of myself.
Fly Home (2018) discussed themes of coming-of-age: first heartbreak, first time moving away, first love, and this is a natural step past that. Now the stakes are higher: climactic moments are bigger and the quiet moments are more reflective.
There are moments of folk, moments of pop, and they are true and autobiographical. Each song has its own musical personality and I think that’s what I’m most excited for. Since the album was created in isolation, no risk was too big and the sonic possibilities seemed endless.
I am most proud of the lyrics on this record, there are tons of hidden lyrical parallels that hint at each other and even answer questions posed in other songs. Writing this EP allowed me to get to know myself better, and in the best case, I hope it helps you get to know yourself better too.
11. “I gave you my number” is your next upcoming single off your EP. What was the inspiration behind this single? Do humans often give out their phone numbers?
Hahaha, I think it depends on how daring you are. I wrote this song on a guitar on my bedroom floor. At first, I thought of the chorus melody and was trying to find words that fit the melody – I kept singing “I gave you my number” as a placeholder and was trying to fit in different lyrics until I realized how cool of a song concept this would be. That’s when I started thinking about the excitement at the start of a relationship and how simple it all can start with giving someone your number. There are many songs about partying, bars, etc, but I wanted to show a different side of this concept – a side where spontaneity can turn into a real, valid relationship.
12. You are currently on tour. How is the tour going? Can you describe what an Allison Leah show looks like?
The tour has been SO much fun! I love traveling to play live music and getting to do it this fall was extra special since it was my first time touring since the pandemic. I will never take live music for granted again! As I’m writing this, I’m currently up in Connecticut playing the Black Bear Music Festival which has been incredible, what a dream festival. I had the chance to play two sets there! My favorite part of touring is getting to meet people in person and trying delicious food. Local food constantly makes appearances in my Tour Vlogs haha.
An Allison Leah show can look a few different ways – mainly solo/acoustic or with a band! Playing with just a guitar is special because I get to play my songs stripped-down, the way I wrote them. But since moving to Nashville in 2020, I’ve found an incredible band that I love playing with. Those are super fun and exciting shows!
Whether you catch my show solo-acoustic or with my band, I always share the stories behind the songs, and I love a good sing-along 😉
13. What’s next for Allison Leah?
The EP!! I CANNOT wait to release this EP and finish this fall tour out strong! “the weight of my heart” EP has been a culmination of 2 years of work and writing and I am so proud of it.
14. Where can readers listen to your music?
My music is available on all streaming platforms: Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and more if you type in Allison Leah.
And if you’d like to connect on social media, I’m @allisonleahmusic on Insta, Tik Tok, Facebook, and more!
In the ever-changing world of social media, I encourage anyone that wants to stay up-to-date with me to join my email list (on allisonleahmusic.com) for my new music updates and surprises!