Photo courtesy of Alli Walker.
Alli Walker made it to Top Country’s list of “Top Female Artists of 2019.” She moved from Prince Edward Island to Toronto to pursue her dream of becoming a successful country music artist at the age of 19. After a decade-long commitment to producing, writing, and performing on stage, she launched her first album, The Basement Sessions: What I’ve Learned So Far, which landed on iTunes Top 10 country chart. Elixuer had the chance to chat with Walker about The Basement Sessions and about her new single “Country Music.”
You have described your debut album The Basement Sessions as “mindful music.” Please expand on this phrase and tell us what are some key takeaways for your listeners?
My first album is called The Basement Sessions: What I’ve Learned So Far because it really was what I’d learned so far, and I coined the terms “mindful music” and “conscious country” because I was talking about terms like mental health and bullying, and just discovering myself through my twenties. Being in your twenties and trying to figure out your path in life is difficult on it’s own, but also being in the music industry and playing the comparison game, wondering if you’re good enough, or just working towards something that is very difficult and never a guarantee, really paid a toll on my mental health. I was just writing songs for myself to use as therapy and a release. Then I was like, “Let’s just put these songs out and see if anybody else might need these types of songs, to maybe help them feel heard or less alone in what they’re going through.”
So, I ended up just putting them out. [My husband and I] recorded them in our basement, literally, and the response was awesome. I think the cool thing is it really opened the conversation with my audience and my fans to a level where we’re almost friends, and we can just be more open and honest with each other.
How would you say your new single “Country Music” has set a new direction for your music?
“Country Music” was written with Dustin Bird and Brian John Harwood during the pandemic. They came over, and they helped me really create and cultivate this whole next chapter and new album. We were writing a bunch of songs, and I had come up with the concept about writing a song based on the songs that we were influenced by and grew up on.
We put 13 country music references, song titles, and some of our favorite names in the country world weaved into the storyline of the song. So, it’s kind of like a treasure hunt of references while you’re listening to the song. If you did grow up on country music, it will make you have that nostalgic feeling of maybe what you felt when you heard these songs for the first time growing up. And if you don’t know country music, it’s almost like an introduction to country music.
“Country Music” makes references to some of your favourite singers. How does the song connect to the history of country music in North America?
“Country Music”] is more [about] our songs that we grew up on. I put the song on TikTok, and I didn’t expect it to do anything because it was just a demo and I didn’t really have any followers yet. But it ended up blowing up overnight. We weren’t actually going to record this song, but because people loved it so much and engaged with it and really related with it, we ended up going into the studio the next day and putting it on the album. I think country music fans are really relating to it because those are the songs that they grew up on, and it’s making them feel nostalgic. Most of my TikTok and music audience is actually in the USA, then Canada next, but it’s also awesome to see that there are fans in New Zealand, Australia, China, Mexico, and all around the world that are listening to these songs [as] I can see on my analytics. You might think that it’s just “the south” and America that loves country music and that grew up on country music, but [for] us in Canada — I grew up on country music as well and obviously [so did others] in lots of other countries [too]!
As an artist, would you say that the creative process involves sharing the innermost parts of your being to the world?
Absolutely. I spent a lot of years just writing songs that I thought would do well on radio or that people would like, and I don’t think that was very productive because you were kind of just writing about what everybody else has already written about. So, it wasn’t until I started writing what was actually going on in my life and what I needed to release from my soul that it actually hit home with a lot of people. So that’s been my motto ever since: to really just exude what’s going on in my life, or what I’ve learned about myself, or what I’m struggling with, in song form.
What are the biggest sources of inspiration for you as a songwriter?
Lately, I get inspiration from songs more than I get obsessed with a single artist. I love a great song. I love a song that has like a beginning, middle, and [an] end, and it’s a full storyline and takes you on a journey. When I was younger, I would listen to Canadians like Avril Lavigne and Sum 41 and bands in the rock world. Then I’d listen to country like Keith Urban, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, and then Taylor Swift came out and I absolutely was obsessed with [her]. She definitely gave me the inspiration and push to do this for a career. I also loved the pop world — Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, and Justin Bieber. I can get inspiration from literally anywhere.
Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer