As a fellow Yankee, I know the lack of Country Music lovers in the northeast. I've learned quickly that even though the passion for Country Music in the northeast may be scarce, the people who love it, love Country Music as much as anyone. As for Alison Elena, you can see her love for the genre and the time and effort she has put in to forge a career in Music City. As the young star is paving her own path, I'm excited to see what she has coming in the next few years. I sat down with Alison and talked about how her focus shifted from musical theater to Country Music, her time spent on American Idol and the two things she loves more than anything.
Get To Know Alison
"I am currently living in Nashville, Tennessee, but I'm from Beacon, New York which is a very small town just north of New York City. I started singing when I was three, so it's really all I've ever done. It was weird because I was just outside the city, but I’ve sung Country Music my entire life, which was not normal. For me, there wasn't really anywhere else to go besides Nashville. When I was 21, I made the move to Nashville."
Finding Her Sound
A lot goes into bringing a song to life and "Break a Cowboy" is a prime example of how magical a song can sound when all aspects are executed to perfection. When you intertwine the 90s/early 2000s country sound with Alison's electric vocals, you get a song that deserves to be on the radio. It’s a witty jam that touches on the perspective of falling in love or growing fond of someone and realizing that that person isn't ready to settle down. You almost have to tip your cap to them for living freely without looking back. I think we have all run into someone who we just couldn't get to settle down. We’ve crossed paths with them at the wrong time. Alison brings this story line to life in a fun way.
Inspiration Behind "Break a Cowboy"
Written By: Alison Elena, SJ McDonald & Brittany Moore, Produced By: Zach Manno
"I wrote "Break a Cowboy'' with SJ McDonald and Brittany Moore. It was our first write and people were like "really?" I had never even met them before. We went in and were throwing ideas around. Usually, when you first write with people, you give an idea and then be like "this is what I got, I know it's a stupid idea... I don't know, I'll throw it out there", and I did. I knew a guy that was a cowboy and obviously things didn't work out. You figure that out as you listen to the song. I said there was something so beautiful about someone being wild. But it's also sad, though you respect them for it, in a way. We were talking about the idea and I said "I have the title break a cowboy" and SJ and Brittany were like "oh, like break his heart". I replied with "no, like you can't break him". They liked it, so we ended up writing the song. The group wanted to capture the sadness, but also say good for him for being a wildflower. The write was awesome and so much fun. After the first chorus, we were like "okay, one of us has to cut this". We really loved the song. It came out exactly the way I wanted it to. I had Zach Manno produce it. He's just so good with taking what's in your brain and sonically getting it exactly how you want it. I told him Jo Dee Messina, early Carrie (Underwood). I'm super, super happy with Break A Cowboy.”
Q & A With Alison Elena
Q: What was your "lightbulb" moment where you knew you wanted to pursue music?
A: "Honestly, I think it was when I realized I didn't have to do musical theater. I was about 10 or 11. When you are so close to New York City and have Broadway, that's almost what you're expected to do. If you are a little kid and can sing, that's what you are expected to do. My entire life I performed in all these musical theater shows. I always listened to Country Music and loved it. I realized that I didn't have to tap dance while singing Country. That was when I knew I wanted to pursue Country Music. I grew up listening to Country Music - because of my mom. It's all I've ever wanted to do. I don't know if I really had a particular light bulb moment."
Q: Who were some of the first people you met in Nashville and how did they make an impact on you personally and musically?
A: "So, I actually was on American Idol in 2014. That's how I ended up in Nashville. When I met everyone during Hollywood Week, they were telling me I had to move there. At the time, I didn't know anything about Nashville. The people I met on the show almost recruited me to move. They said they would write with me and help me out, which was cool. I didn't move immediately and would travel back and forth for shows. I stayed on my brothers couch for 5 months out of the year so finally he was like "this is dumb, why don't you just move here?". I still had to go to school so I eventually came to Belmont. Everyone I met that week went to Belmont as well and told me I had to go there. Tyler Rayn, Cam Bedell and Piper Jones were so important and were a big inspiration. They were key to getting me to Nashville, along with my brother. He's been so supportive. He’d let me stay with him and feed me."
Q: What are some important experiences you've had so far in the music industry?
A: "I think that American Idol was a huge learning experience. One, you think that one can do this if you're good enough to do this. But I learned it's not always about being good, which everyone knows or needs to realize in entertainment. There are so many moving pieces that go into everything, which was helpful to learn early on. Something I learned that was super important with songwriting is that sometimes a good song is better than the exact truth. Like when I started, I would be "we can't say Wednesday it happened on a Thursday". I was so locked in on relaying the truth that I finally figured out it doesn't always have to be perfect. You have to go with what flows and works better. Learning that made me a better artist and songwriter all around."
Q: Favorite thing about Nashville?
A: "My favorite thing about Nashville is most definitely the food and beer, I love craft beer. I also just love the community here. I live in East Nashville and it's a step back from the music industry. It's so real and community driven. For instance, my dog ran out of my yard today and was playing in my neighbors yard. I went to get my dog and ended up meeting my neighbor and having a nice conversation with them on their front porch. People are so homey and down to earth here. I love how you can have a small town feel right next to a city."