Folk, Rock, Pop, AAA, Adult Alternative
Beth Orton, Aimee Mann, Tori Amos, Ingrid Michaelson, Alanis Morissette
Something remarkable happened recently to Alice BrightSky. This accomplished and award-winning but, until recently, dormant artist got up onstage at an open mic and rekindled her passion for music and her drive to finish her album.
In 2009, Alice BrightSky, tired of the music biz grind and overwhelmed by creative and logistical roadblocks to completing her solo debut, quietly walked away from a promising career. But at that impromptu performance, where boisterous conversations and clanking glasses shifted to singing along and pounding tables in rhythm, Alice was reminded of the pure joy she once felt playing music. Uplifted and refreshed, she finished her album. She is now releasing the much overdue Box Of Me. It’s a revelatory record brimming with eloquent emotional candor and refined songcraft.
“When I think back at that moment, it almost makes me cry,” Alice says with a good-natured laugh. “I had been out of the scene for so long. Originally, it was just because I couldn’t finish my album, but that eventually morphed into self-doubt about the quality of my music and its ability to speak to people. But then, there was this crowd of total strangers, jamming out to my tunes as if they knew them by heart even though it was their first time hearing them and that just woke me up. At the end of my set I asked myself, ‘Why I am not playing music?’”
Alice BrightSky has performed both in bands and as a solo artist. But in all of her creative permutations, her vocals—expansively expressive—were always a standout feature. Java Music.com notes: “Alice’s unique voice will take your breath away. Her vocal range should cover at least three to four octaves with ease.” Ben Krieger of Jezebel Music describes her singing as “a neat combination of the ever-influential Jeff Buckley and Alanis Morrisette, showing off a lovely, fluctuating melody.” It’s no surprise various producers tried numerous times over the past decade to impose their vision on her gifts.
One such prior attempt early in her career yielded an epiphany for Alice that changed the path she would ultimately follow to this point. She was awarded an album deal for her first solo LP, but after a year of recording and encountering a slew of problems (conflicting interests, personalities and visions), the deal soured and Alice took a hard look at the project. When she peeled away the record’s glossy production, she realized the songs just didn’t hold up when performed just with voice and guitar. At that fateful moment, she decided to focus intently on songwriting. Since then, she’s earned many accolades for her craft. She made the semi-final round of the international songwriting competition twice; took 3rd place in the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition (in which Lana Del Rey was a finalist); and garnered an honorable mention for lyrics from American Songwriter Magazine. She has also performed live on radio (NYC’s Z100 and WBAI), was featured on Westchester’s, The Peak 107.1 as an emerging artist and has played extensively throughout the NYC tri-state area, including festivals in NJ and PA where she shared the stage with some great bands such as Ween and The Nields.
Alice BrightSky invites comparisons to Beth Orton, Jeff Buckley, Tori Amos, and Ani Difranco. Box Of Me is seductively introspective, mixing confessional lyrics with soulful vocals and wintry guitar playing. The stunning “Lover’s Fate,” which features her old pal from the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition 2006, Lana Del Rey, showcases the graceful honeyed flow of Alice’s singing woven in lattice with Lana Del Rey’s ethereal harmonies. The luminescence and pining inherent in the track is well-captured in its accompanying video. “Box Of Me” reveals her finesse with deep metaphorical connections. The song (and the album title) is a reference to all the little things we collect over time which are charged with our own emotions but don’t hold any real significance to anyone else. As Alice explains, “I’ve tricked listeners into caring about my trifles by taking them on an emotional journey as I open the ‘box’ and pour through its contents.”
Box Of Me’s most boldly autobiographical song is the hauntingly beautiful “I Am.” The song has a compelling minor key tonality and a purposeful groove with the refrain “I’m not as strong as you might think I am.” Alice explains: “I’m someone a lot of people lean on. I had sort of a tough family upbringing but I’ve always managed to keep it together. This album was written in a time when I was getting over a bad relationship, and this song is about me admitting that I, too, need to fall apart sometimes.”
She set out to make Box Of Me in late 2006, after placing 3rd out of 500 entrants and 150 live performers at the Williamsburg Live Songwriting Competition. Esteemed music biz vet Paolo DeGregorio (owner of the well known NYC indie magazine The Deli) was on the panel as a judge. He was so enamored with Alice’s music that he contacted her requesting to produce her album. His refined touch with ambience crafted from electronic elements adds an otherworldly dimension to Alice’s core soulful folk aesthetic. It’s a unique pairing of sensibilities that, at times, evokes the atmospheric transcendence of Björk, Portishead, and Mazzy Star.
The album hit a roadblock in 2009, however. Not happy with the production on “Up Up and Away,” Alice sought the help of friend Mike Savino (Tall Tall Trees) to strip the track bare and re-record it. Though the song was definitely going in the right direction, there was still a problem that Alice couldn’t put her finger on. Not knowing the solution, but also not wanting to release the album without the melodic R&B-flavored track, Alice shelved Box Of Me in late 2009 and took a hiatus from music in general. When she returned to it 2012, another friend Brandon Wilde (This Sway, Black Bunny, All Night Chemists, Niall Conolly) had the perfect approach to completing the track. They simply replaced some superfluous instrumental parts with more subtle electric and vocal elements that better complimented the otherwise restrained and moody production. The result is another uncompromising, standout track.
Box Of Me was a cathartic album for Alice, its origins were heartache and spiritual fatigue. Currently, she’s happily married with a newborn son, living in bucolic bliss in Westchester, New York, and artistically re-energized. “The songwriting for this album was a way of pulling out those emotions that I would otherwise have tucked away,” she says. “I dove into the box to deal with those things and I’m in a good place right now because of it. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”