When you hear of the word “PASSION”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Check out this article and I can guarantee that ALICIA MARIE will be the first name you think of when you hear that most powerful word “PASSION.”
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from the Chicago area. I was born in Hinsdale, IL.
When did you start performing music?
I started performing music on the guitar around the age of ten or eleven, I believe. I can’t quite recall what the first gig was in that regard, but my first gig as a singer and guitarist was when I was thirteen at a local street festival.
Which instruments do you play?
I just play the guitar.
Describe your music interests and abilities.
“I AM A BLUES GUITARIST FIRST AND FOREMOST.”
I have always been attracted to old school artists, ranging from Charlie Christian to Little Milton, so I try to approach music from that standpoint. I like playing with a minimalist sensibility and I like playing the guitar clean, with just a little reverb, and with no distortion or pedals or other effects. I have a lot of respect for the older artists. Their sounds appeal the most to my ear, so I try to strive for the same kind of musical sensibility and aesthetic that they had, while also putting my own spin on it.
“NO MATTER WHAT I PLAY, THE BLUES WILL BE AT THE HEART OF IT.”
In addition to blues and swing, I really enjoy exploring jazz, funk, gospel, world, and folk music as well. By exploring, I mean that I’ll listen to these genres a lot, but I also put these records on and jam to them as well. One, I find that I just simply like a lot of different genres, but two, I also find that delving into these various genres helps me expand my musical vocabulary.
“IT’S A GENRE I WILL ALWAYS BE VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT.”
I would have to say I’ve always approached music from an improvisational standpoint. Even when I only had been playing for a year and could barely play, it was important for me to develop my own solos rather than learning things note for note. I was just never (and am still not) interested in copying anyone else. I always practice to various types of backing tracks or records, doing my own solos, rhythm fills, etc.
“IT KEEPS MY LICKS FRESH AND EVOLVING, WHICH I LIKE.”
I like doing my own creative thing, and I find that jamming to tracks is one of the best ways to explore that. I also just really enjoy being able to play in many different musical situations. Ultimately, I would like to be able to play in any genre/on top of any chord progression/ over any time signature that is thrown at me. It’s just fun and I like expanding my musical ability that way.
“IT IS FAIR TO SAY I AM ALWAYS IMPROVISING TO SOMETHING.”
What famous musicians inspire you?
Oh, wow, there’s so many, but I will try to narrow it down a little bit. From BB King to Buddy Guy and many a legend in-between.
What are some of your best musical memories?
I remember the first time I got an electric guitar. Ah! I was like eleven years old. The guitar was a cheap, blue Peavey Raptor. I was mesmerized by the thing. I don’t think I even plugged it in at the store before I bought it, so, when I got home, I spent like five hours being fascinated by the fact I could make the guitar sound “cool” through my little Line 6 amp. I just remember it was seriously one of the most euphoric experiences ever.
Marty “Big Dog” Mercer, my blues brother from Joliet, let me jam with him at a place in Crest Hill, IL in 2009. I had met Big Dog on Myspace, so this was my first time seeing him in person. He must have let me play thirty tunes with the band that evening. I had a ball! I played many different songs with Big Dog, and local favorites like Twist Ferguson and Pauline York. Twist and Big Dog were cheering for me when I took solos. It was my first jam session ever and I really enjoyed myself.
“I REMEMBER TWIST FERGUSON TELLING MY PARENTS, “I’M GONNA STEAL HER!” HA! TOO FUNNY!”
In eighth grade, I was jamming in the choir room during lunch break shortly after school started in September. I had my Gretsch with me and I had spent that summer learning bunch of Brian Setzer tunes. So, I blasted a Rockabilly backing track over the choir room speakers and cranked my Gretsch. I thought it was so darn cool; big speakers, big room! Then, the high school band director comes in. I was thinking, uh oh! I thought maybe I was playing too loud, so I was kind of surprised when he walked in! He actually came in and asked me to be the guitarist for the high school jazz band. Ah, jeez, that just floored me because I was the first eighth grader in the school’s history to be a member of the high school jazz band. I will always remember that day and then next, when I had to get up at 5:30 am for jazz band rehearsals which took place at 6:30 am!
Eighth grade was a tremendous year. I also met Chicago bluesman Fernando Jones. He came to my school for a blues in the schools workshop. He ended up liking my playing so much that he invited me to play later that evening at his show. Oh my goodness, I was so nervous, but so excited! It was my first time playing with a live blues band and I remember frantically practicing my guitar on the bed before I went there. I was just so excited! Once the show started, he started playing then he invited me up and let me take a solo on a couple of tunes. But, when he let me solo, I just couldn’t stop playing. I just kept going and going on these solos.
“I DIDN’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP.” “HAHA!”
Looking back on it now, it is hard not to smile. Professor Jones even gave me the nickname of ‘BLUES BABY’ during the show. I think that moment was a turning point. I was really into blues before that, but that moment really solidified in my mind that I loved performing the genre and that I really wanted to pursue it even further.
I played at the 2009 Idlewild, MI Music Festival with Professor Fernando Jones and he invited me to play a few songs. First, I was just excited to be in “IDLEWILD” to begin with. It’s a place filled with rich, cultural history. In its heyday, it was referred to as the “BLACK EDEN.” Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong played there, among others, and it was mecca for blues and jazz from the ‘10s to the ‘60s. Secondly, once Fernando let me take a few solos, I realized that the audience really loved what I was doing. What an honor that was, especially in such a historic place. I took my solo and then I looked at the crowd; a whole sea of people was clapping for me. I can still picture it.
“WOW!” I WALKED AWAY WITH A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT.’
RJ Spangler’s Kansas City Six, a band that I am the guitarist for that pays tribute to the blues singers of the Southwest, did a show at Cliff Bell’s in Detroit, July of 2014. In addition to the fact that I was playing at a bonafide jazz club for the first time in my life, which was crazy in itself, RJ also invited bluesman and soul singer Charles Buddy Smith to sit in with us.
“HOLY COW!” “I HAVE SERIOUSLY NEVER PLAYED A COOLER BLUES THAN THAT.”
“IT WAS LIKE LITTLE MILTON WALKED IN AND SAT IN WITH US, Y’ALL.” VERY NEAT!
Lastly, the High School Jazz Band and I went to the Michigan State University Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Festival in my freshman, sophomore, and senior years. In my freshman year, we won best band! We were judged by a panel of well-known jazz musicians and all of us couldn’t believe we won. Even better yet, we got to play at the closing concert later that night! We opened for the professional jazz artists that came for the competition. Man, the energy we had on stage that day was really something. We got so much applause and we just played really well. Also, I will always remember this…. When I got done with one of my solos that night, I remember someone from the audience yelled out: “You go girl!” Ah, man, that just made me smile so much, you know?
What public events do you have coming up? Releases, showcases?
Sure, I have the following events coming up so far:
On May 12th, I am doing my first radio interview ever! I am so excited for this. I will be speaking on Abe Perlstein’s Tuesday Lunch Radio program at 4:30 pm EST on 97.3 KEBF, Estero Bay Community Radio in Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos, California. You can listen on the dial if you’re in the area or at: www.esterobayradio.org & www.live365.com/stations/973therock. In addition to the interview, Abe will be playing four or five of my tracks, some of which are originals of mine!
On July 9th, I will be playing with a band I am in, RJ Spangler’s Kansas City Six, at the Village Downtown in Grosse Pointe, MI at 7 pm.
On July 11th, I will be performing my own show at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room in Ann Arbor. The show starts at 8:30 pm. Some of my dear musician friends from the Ann Arbor area will be sitting in with me. This gig will be very special because it’s the last one I will do in Ann Arbor before I start graduate school in the fall. It’s like my swan song in a sense, so it’s going to mean a lot to me!
On July 19th, RJ’s Kansas City Six will be playing at the Michigan Jazz Festival. Our show starts at 7:30 pm.
On July 22nd, I will be performing a duet with guitarist Fremont John Ashton at the Mitten Bar in downtown Ludington! We start jamming at 7.
What would you say to beginners to the industry, who are nervous?
I guess the best advice I would have for anyone is always be you. Don’t try to be a carbon copy of someone else. You can have influences and pay your respects to artists you admire, etc., but do your own thing! That’s what music is about, at least to me anyway.
How do you balance your music with your family and friends?
Most of my friends and family support me musically, so it’s easy. They understand how important music is to me. Most of them attend my shows too or are sometimes even musicians themselves!
Should we be expecting anything new to be released?
I will be releasing a CD sometime in the future… I just don’t know when! “HAHA!” In the meantime, I always try to post something on Facebook or YouTube that I am working on. So, if you are interested, please be on the lookout for that kind of thing!
Where can we follow your career at?
You can listen to my music or check out what I am up to at the following links:
Do you get nervous before a performance?
It’d be a fallacy to say I’ve never been nervous, but it is rare for me to feel that way. Most of the time, I am actually more comfortable on stage playing or singing than conversing with someone one on one, so I look forward to the times I am on stage. I am probably more frantically excited than nervous before a performance.
Do you attend jam sessions? What makes a good session?
Yeah, I attend them on occasion. On the whole, I enjoy them. It’s fun to jam with different musicians, especially if they’re great players.
I guess my answer to the second half of this question would have to take two forms because I think there’s two types of jam sessions: ones that occur at somebody’s house/rehearsal space and ones that occur at a jam night at a club/bar/festival. They’re totally separate experiences in my view.
So, as far as jams that occur at somebody’s house/rehearsal space, I think a good session is defined by looseness. If everyone feels like they can open up, it’ll be a fun jam. When everyone’s just vibing off one another and there’s no pretentiousness, that’s fun, you know?
In terms of jams that occur on a jam night at a bar or what-have-you, I would have to say a good jam consists of people who play with reasonable volume levels, people who don’t step on other people’s toes, people who respect everyone, especially the musician being featured i.e. play rhythm guitar for him that’s not loud, or off-the-wall. Frankly, I think the best jams consist of house bands that have chops/versatility and respectful musicians.
Is your family musical?
Not really, if you mean “musical” in the sense of playing instruments. My parents don’t play any instruments. However, I still think we are a pretty musical family. We always have music playing in the house, in the car, when we go outside sometimes in the summer, etc. My parents and I have always loved music.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I usually just gloss over them and act like they didn’t happen. I’ve learned that that’s the best thing to do. Often times, the mistakes are worse to my ear than anybody else’s anyhow. Or, on rare occasions, I will make a joke out of my blunder, making some kind of corny quip about it, yelling “oh,” or acting like I “meant” to do it. However, that’s a very rare occurrence.
The only time I don’t ignore mistakes or I don’t make a joke out of them is when I really screw up or my ability is lacking in some sense. I will make a mental note of it, feel embarrassed, and then I will go home after the show and try to learn it properly.
What’s your favorite drink?
It’s a tie between an Orange Julius and a Vanilla Spice tea by Yogi.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Due to its close proximity to the university, I find myself eating at Panda Express once or twice a week. In general, I don’t eat out a whole lot, but I guess Panda has become my go-to place, “HAHA!”
“KUNG PAO CHICKEN IS MY THING!”
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy talking with friends. I like reading and writing. I spend hours walking around town. It is always fun going to concerts too. I enjoy playing basketball, despite my height, “HAHA!” I love listening to music, reading poetry aloud, and acting. I also enjoy shopping for vintage records or books.
About Johnny Naylor:
Johnny Naylor is the founder and owner of 1st Shot Music and a feature writer for Jammerzine. His work can also be found on 1st Shot Music and Naylor’s Notes. You can also get his latest updates on his facebook page.