- Words Notion Staff
- Photography Parker Love Bowling
Fresh from releasing her debut album, Alaska Reid takes us through her musical firsts, from early singing recitals to the first time she felt starstruck.
An undulating landscape of emotional states, on Alaska Reid’s debut album, the pivotal vocalist takes us through her highs and lows. ‘Disenchanter’ was recorded live between Montana, the singer-songwriter’s hometown, and California, where she now resides and embraces the state’s star-studded musical history. Finding magic in everyday moments, the autobiographical project develops a star quality of her own, as she switches between gritty guitar work and desolate dreamscapes.
Coining the term “mountain pop” to describe her innovative sound, Alaska remains inspired by the songwriting characteristics of country music. Much like the genre, she embraces regional writing and lets her surroundings influence what puts pen to paper. Immersing herself in Joni Mitchell’s timeless and vivid storytelling, the gifted artist utilises the pop-country inclinations of her heroes, pairing them with equally compelling genres like grunge and indie.
Nowhere is this more evident than on “Palomino”; the propulsive upbeat single that sees Alaska singing from the perspective of her mum. Jangly guitar work, fuzzy reverb and the singer’s idiosyncratic vocal range encapsulate Southern California’s laidback vibe and the gripping stories she looks to tell.
To celebrate the release of ‘Disenchanter’, we asked Alaska about her musical firsts, from early singing recitals to following your parents’ words of wisdom. Dive in.
First song you ever made?
Oddly enough, because I’m such a guitar head, the first song I ever wrote was on a piano. I wrote all the music first. It was called “58 Candles” and it was about this older woman that I’d sing in recitals with, who wanted to be a famous singer. We were taught by Marcia McCarry who was the only vocal coach in town. Meeting Marcia informed my life and it was her generosity and love of teaching that threw all these random people together for performances. She always told me to never be musically boring and I’ve never forgotten that.
First CD or record you owned?
I didn’t really own CDs or records until I was way older and less in a wow phase. However, I remember my dad would drive me to school in this old Ford, which we nicknamed “The Exploder” because it would always break down. That’s where I really remember holding these CDs, staring at the album covers and getting my mind blown. I fell in love with Dinosaur Jr.; we had their ‘Where you Been’ CD. ‘Last Splash’ by The Breeders was another big one for me. There was also an assortment of country CDs we’d cycle through, like Doc Watson and Loretta Lynn.
First time you realised you wanted to do music full time?
I never had that moment. I just started doing it and never stopped. Nowadays, I look back and think, well damn I can’t do anything else.
First gig and first festival you went to?
The first live music I saw was a bluegrass band for my school square dance, when I was 10. I also saw The Red Elvises, who tour heavily in Montana, at Pine Creek.
First time you faced an obstacle in your career?
Probably the first time I stepped onstage or into a guitar shop and got spoken to like I was nothing by a sound or guitar dude. I remember this horrible meeting I had at Warner Music when I was a teenager where the guy emailed my manager after and said, “Very cute. Very pitchy.” I can’t complain too much because it made me tough.
First instrument you owned?
A big Yamaha acoustic and a dulcimer I made out of cardboard.
First time you felt like giving up?
I didn’t think that way when I was younger. My parents didn’t let me. In my life now I sometimes do the “what if?” game, but I’ll be damned if I gave up on something I’ve been doing for over 10 years.
First time you felt starstruck?
I saw Jason Isbell at SXSJ during SXSW in 2013 and I told him that I loved his music. He was so kind and relaxed, a truly sweet person and an incredible songwriter.
First time you realised you’d made it?
I haven’t had that moment yet and I also don’t believe in it. I think for me I realise I would have been shocked when I was younger to have been played on Sirius XMU or BBC Radio 1. I guess it’s those little things that make you realise the length of your journey. Most people I know, no matter how successful they are, are always trying to get to that moment.