Alison Albrecht elegantly transforms past lessons into future growth.
The Ann Arbor pop-soul-folk singer-songwriter deeply reveals her personal metamorphosis on “I Say,” an authentic, fearless anthem about taking charge of one’s life.
“It encapsulates exactly how this last year has gone for me. It’s just been a huge transformation in realizing if you can let go of the ‘supposed tos’ and the ‘shoulds’ and just live more boldly with conviction and confidence life opens up so much more,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht carries her courageous mindset forward as beating electronic drums, delicate cymbals, mellow bass, contemplative piano and tranquil synths provide internal strength. She soulfully sings, “Silence the voices/Chin up/Look into the mirror/Lock eyes with the face/And finally the fog begins to clear/Biting my nails down/But alone/Nowhere to hide/I breathe the same air/With a fresh new pair of eyes.”
“I’ve been diving into passion projects rather than thinking, ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that.’ I’m finally having the confidence of living in every moment and being present. This time, I say I’m not going to listen to those outside voices like I had been for a long time,” said Albrecht, who’s inspired by Sara Bareilles.
Albrecht teamed up with younger brother Andrew Albrecht to co-write and produce “I Say” in their home studio. Andrew provided the thoughtful piano instrumental while Albrecht penned the personal lyrics during a brief, torrential downpour.
“Two seconds later, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun beautifully shined. I was like, ‘That is such a metaphor for the song, and I need this right now.’ I tried to harness that sort of energy, and we wrote the song real quickly. It’s definitely one of my favorites,” she said.
The Albrechts sent the finished track to Jim Kissling at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studio for mastering. Once the single was released in March, the siblings started developing a concept for the upcoming “I Say” video, which will drop later this summer.
“We’re so lucky to live in an era where we can do things ourselves. I’m all about authenticity and trying to know exactly who I am and who we are. I think capturing video and audio in spaces where we feel comfortable gives the audience great insight into who we are,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht also shares her personal insights on “Right Thing, Wrong Time,” a spellbinding, optimistic ode to uncertainty and unexpected situations. Rhythmic finger snaps, vulnerable piano, emotive bass, serene electronic drums and soft electric guitars remind listeners to embrace the present.
She shares, “Four walls knocked down/Can finally feel the wind/I ride it for a little bit/Goes nowhere that I’ve been/You whisper secrets/Brush hair from my face/We’d be locked down/But we’re stuck here in this place/Oh dark air and dark mind/Not now, I know why/Let’s just soak up this space.”
“I wrote about a situation that was pre-quarantine, but it just sums up what happened to everyone in COVID. So many beautiful things were scheduled during that period, and it just wasn’t the right time. Everyone had to throw in the towel and be like, ‘We don’t have control over this,’” said Albrecht, who collaborated with Andrew on her 2020 single.
“I think a lot of us want to have control and plan every last little detail, but we can’t. Sometimes you have to live slightly on the edge, make decisions on the fly and go with the moment. It’s really hard to let go and kind of embrace uncertainty, but that’s one of the hallmarks of resilience.”
Edge of Fifteen
Albrecht started demonstrating her musical resilience at age nine while growing up in Novi. At the time, she became inspired while watching E! True Hollywood Stories about Selena, Carrie Underwood and other artists. That same year, Albrecht received her first guitar and played weekly gigs at Caribou Coffee.
“My parents were really supportive, and I started going down to Nashville and playing open mics. I got booked at The Commodore and a couple of other places, but realized I need to get more plugged into Detroit,” she said.
Over the next few years, Albrecht booked a series of live gigs at local restaurants and music festivals, including Arts, Beats & Eats. In 2014, she won the Michigan State Fair Superstar Contest and snagged the top prize of recording an EP with renowned producers Chuck Alkazian and Nadir Omowale at Pearl Sound Studios.
A year later, Albrecht, then 15, released her poignant self-titled debut EP, which features a brilliant, acoustic-fueled cover of Stevie Nicks’ 1981 Bella Donna smash, “Edge of Seventeen,” and the reflective, curative closing track, “Not Alone.”
“Chuck had such a creative vision, and he helped shape my work while pushing me out of my comfort zone. Nadir helped me learn about writing a narrative and taught me some great skills from there. We started recording demos, and from start to finish, the whole thing took a year,” Albrecht said.
In 2016, Albrecht collaborated with Alkazian and Omowale again on her second striking EP, Start Again. That next studio stint allowed Albrecht to follow her own musical path and select tracks from a growing bank of songs.
“It captures a snapshot of a young person, and it’s fun to look back on. I learned a lot about working in the studio and developing what I wanted for the album itself while working with a team of creatives. I thought about what I wanted it to sound like and inserted some of my own creative vision sonically and production-wise,” she said.
Music on the Brain
Albrecht continued to write and perform throughout high school and applied to the University of Michigan to study neuroscience. During her freshman year, she put music aside and tackled several challenging science courses, including organic chemistry and intensive, four-hour labs.
“At that point, I realized, ‘Oh, I need music,’ and that’s what I wanted to do. I have all these other interests because I love studying the brain and working with people and communities. I wondered how I could combine all of those things with this inevitable fact that I wanted to be a musician,” she said.
Coincidentally, the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportune time for Albrecht to revisit music. After moving back home and taking classes online, Albrecht built a studio with Andrew and started writing and recording new material. Those home sessions led to the creation of “Right Thing, Wrong Time.”
“We’d wake up first thing in the morning and work until the sun went down. At first, our music was OK, but then it started getting better, and it finally got to the point where we felt comfortable releasing something. That’s been one of my favorite things I’ve done because no one knows me like my family,” Albrecht said.
Now a senior at U-M, Albrecht is majoring in biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience while minoring in community action, social change, performing arts management and entrepreneurship. She ultimately sees music as the common linkage between science, creativity and mental health.
“I really think opening up these conversations about expressing yourself and the way that you feel and talking about relationships in the music space is really intertwined with the mental health field. I want to combine my scientific background, research and evidence-based knowledge with my work in communities and creative pursuits,” said Albrecht, who will graduate from U-M in 2022.
Ann Arbor Summerfest and Beyond
With the pandemic winding down, Albrecht has recently returned to the in-person live stage, including an opening slot at Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park with Dixon’s Violin in May.
This Thursday and Friday, she will perform as part of Ann Arbor Summerfest’s Tiny Top of the Park series, which includes eight private 20-minute outdoor live sets at local residences. All of her live shows are now sold out.
“I love house concerts because they’re my favorite shows to play. You get to really meet the audience, tailor the show to their needs and laugh together and bond. It’s a great experience for me as an artist, and all the listeners always love it, too,” said Albrecht, who will perform a mix of originals and covers.
Albrecht also will return to her home studio this summer with Andrew to work on her third EP. The siblings are ready to revisit their “quarantine grind” for writing and recording new material.
“I think getting a collection out there that tells a bit of a story as a piece of art would be really cool. I’d like to get music out as soon as possible, and that’s why a three- or four-song EP would be a great compromise,” she said.