Alyssa Trahan sings as sweet and pretty as she looks. But despite the tow-headed pulchritude and innocence, Trahan swings it hard and is gunning for the majors. And she's qualified, Jack. Already known in this region for her rockin' country, and ready to prove that the talent matches the determination, the 19-year-old musician is hopping a train south to Beulah Land, Music Row, Nashville.
Trahan is a thoughtful songwriter with insight beyond her years, and she's releasing her new five-song EP of her original material this month. Though she peppers her sets with pop (covers by artists like Miranda Lambert and Leonard Cohen as well as her won sugary compositions), she always comes back to the country. She stopped by City offices to explain why. An edited transcript follows.
City: Let's pretend we've never talked. Who are you? What are you?
Alyssa Trahan: I'm a country singer-songwriter originally from East Rochester. I'll be moving to Nashville later this year. I write all my own music, and I produce a lot of it, too. I play about 12 different instruments. I'm going to FLCC for audio recording.
And you're releasing a new EP?
Yes, "Wild & Crazy" comes out in a couple of days.
Being a multi-instrumentalist, what do you write with?
I usually write with guitar, sometimes piano.
If boys weren't so crummy, would you still have something to write about?
Yeah, I think so. I don't write about love all the time, but it's just so easy. Everyone can relate to it. Everyone knows that feeling. I write about my life. I see things changing around me. I see something happening with a family member or a friend – I like to write about real-life experiences.
What do you have in common with your audience?
I think we have a lot in common. People say, "I see where you're coming from with that song," or "That song describes my life perfectly." I love when that happens.
How do you get inspired to write a song?
This doesn't happen all the time, but what usually happens is, I'll get a melody or a hook or something stuck in my head that pops in there at the most inconvenient times – the middle of the night, in the middle of class, when I don't have an instrument near me.
Have you ever demo'd an idea by singing it into your cell phone?
Sometimes. It depends where I am. If I have to, I'll write it in my head. I've written whole songs on road trips in the back of the car without a guitar. It takes me half an hour to an hour to write a song. I just let the words come out and sing what I feel like, and hopefully it sounds good.
So you said you're considering a move to Nashville.
Yes, later this year. I'm excited, scared, and anxious.
You seem to be doing fine here. Is this change of address necessary?
Yes. I've wanted to go to Nashville since I was a little girl. I took a trip there a few years ago and just fell in love with the city and everything about it. Every time I've gone there since, I feel it welcome me, just pulling me there. I just feel I have to be there.
There are a lot of musicians with a guitar and a dream down there in Tennessee. Are you afraid of being swallowed up?
No, not really. I know there are a lot of musicians down there, but I'm not in this to win a competition or get rich or get famous. You hear a million "no's" before you hear one "yes." When I hear a "no," I hear it as a "not yet." I just want to make a living off my music. You can do it here. There are just so many more opportunities and connections in Nashville. In Rochester, to be a country singer doesn't make a lot of sense to people, because Rochester isn't considered a center for country music.
But your sound isn't purist country. There are pop elements, among other things, in there.
I do a lot of stuff that isn't country. I like every genre of music. Sometimes I'll post pop covers. But I always come back to country. It's about love, it's about life, it's about four chords and the truth.