- Words Lee Phillips
Judging by her discography, Bay area singer Alycia Bella is technically a new artist. Unlike other artists though, Bella boasts collaborations with Justin Timberlake, NE-YO, Frank Ocean, Dream, Ty Dolla $ign, and will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas.
Alycia Bella’s latest single is less of an introduction and more of a rebirth.
Lucky for us, Bella has emerged from a long musical silence caused by a few bad record deals and a whole lot of necessary personal growth. Now, with “Bloom,” Bella returns to what has made her great, writing about love and vulnerability, and offers us an insight into a professional and personal journey that has recently taken her back to her roots. With a music video directed by Zhamak Fullad and shot on location where she grew up, Bella is at once creating a new artistic identity and honouring her past.
The low-fi and gritty visuals may seem off-brand for a fabulous girl like Alycia, but what it and the song do is offer us a kaleidoscope view into the complex and ever-changing life of a girl raised by The Bay and defined by her music. For the first time, read on to get a glimpse.
Lee Phillips: There seems to be like a large time jump since you last put out music. What’s up with that?
Alycia Bella: Well, I’ve been in some pretty awful record deals.
LP: Every time I interview a musician they always say that. It’s like …damn.
AB: I think it’s just part of it. I think the common thread between all this and why [the deals were] supposed to all fall apart is cause I didn’t have a narrative. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know my sound. Those years were just a lot of soul searching. Even all the stuff you see online like Girl Interrupted. My friend leaked that. He had good intentions, though
LP: Were you upset? Or was it a “did what I couldn’t” kind of thing?
AB: Yea, I really have a habit of overthinking. Just like I’m sure you and so many creatives have. I just overthink until I’m stagnant, so that’s why there’s a minimal amount of music out. I have hundreds of songs.
LP: You worked with Justin Timberlake. How did that come about?
AB: Yea, that was a random situation when I was signed to a guy under Sony and he was A&R’ing Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds at the time. Justin would always be in the studio with us and one day he was working on a song. He needed a girl so he asked me to sing the hook. And mind you I was like a super amateur at the time, so I was so nervous. But then he was like “oh my god you sound like Janet Jackson.”
LP: It seems like “Bloom,” is part of a new artistic identity. What has that journey been like?
AB: I kind of just had to bring it back to the basics and remember what and why I was doing it for. Along the way, I lost a lot of drive. To be honest, there was noo…what’s the word for drive?
LP: There was no fire under you?
AB: None at all. I was way too comfortable and I was slowly giving up, to be honest.
LP: On music or everything?
AB: On myself. I went through a really bad depression because for one the music wasn’t going the way I planned. It was a lot of broken promises, you know what I mean. This project is geared toward stories about love. I was talking and writing more about my love life. It has brought me back to myself. It has back to being fearless, back to vulnerability. And just thinking straight from my experiences. Unafraid to have a voice.
LP: Can you talk about what “Bloom” means to you, and why you decided to release it on your dad’s birthday?
AB: One of the things, I discovered in the journey of figuring out what I did it for brought me back to my family. They’re a big support system on this journey. My dad has spent so much money and has supported me for so long. I just felt like it’s kind of like an ode to him to release it on his birthday.
Also, the concept of “Bloom” is losing love and letting go. You know that saying “if a flower blooms and you love it do you pick it or just let it grow?” It’s kind of like that saying. Also, forgiving yourself and forgiving others. And just still seeing the beauty in the journey.
LP: The lyrics are so relatable. You’re talking about how some people won’t be ready to love you if they don’t love themselves and you just have to recognize that, forgive them for not being ready and then take your energy somewhere else. Have you had to do that a lot?
AB: It is definitely a pattern. It’s a part of being young because when you’re young you’re evolving. Sometimes two souls meet and it’s just not the right time, you guys are evolving at different paces. And I’m a very empathetic person. I’ll stick around and try to just wait until somebody gets it together. I find that that is completely the opposite of loving yourself. So I’m trying to learn how to be an empathic person but also put myself first.
LP: The video that you made. How did you and Zhamak Fullad pick the location?
AB: Basically, if you go to my Instagram it’s all fashion. I’m living my best life, I’m on islands. It’s the only way you see me and it’s rather unrelatable. It’s aspirational but unrelatable. When people meet me they’re like “Oh wow I actually thought you were gonna be this pretentious snob but you’re actually really down to earth. Why don’t I get that on your social media?” I thought about it. I want to approach my art by just being. Simplicity is the most organic and genuine way to connect to people.
So I went back home. I was raised in the bay area. I’ve been in LA since 2007 and I go back home every now and then but I wanted to really go back home. My parents live in the suburbs so I filmed some of it there. Then we drove to Oakland where we would go, when we were young people looking for action. It was so funny because none of the crew or my manager had ever been to Oakland and I kept telling them stories. Like “Yo, when I was growing up we had sideshows, everybody was outside, we would meet up at gas stations…” You know the culture was just so rich back then but we couldn’t find any of it when we went to film the video. It was all gentrified.
LP: You try to go home, but your home is gone.
AB: Home is gone. Home has been gentrified. So we went to a liquor store and I saw a random guy drinking Hennessy in the driver seat of his van. I was like “Yo, where are the people at?” and he’s like “It’s different now.” I asked him if he could do some doughnuts in the street and he’s like “Oh, my homie got a party going on around the corner let’s go over there.” We went and it was exactly how I remember it. Everybody was so inviting. Everybody was down to be in the video.