“When we finished the last day of recording we ended up getting a cheap, sketchy motel room and we sat in the parking lot listening to the almost finished product, so happy with what we had just created.”
Singer songwriter Alyssa Wettlaufer is one of the treasures of Detroit’s Americana music scene with her invigorating vocal range paired with beautiful instrumentals.
With her debut EP about to turn a year old, she just played Arts Beats and Eats in Royal Oak and is set to play Dally in the Alley in Midtown, Detroit this upcoming weekend.
Despite this being her first solo release, Wettlaufer is no stranger to the stage. She is the former vocalist of Detroit based alt rock band, The Pretty Okay. The young artist left the band shortly before releasing her solo work.
“It was honestly pretty scary,” she explains. “I had been performing as a solo artist before I joined a band but I got very used to having a team behind me on and off stage.”
“I’m really happy I made the move to focus on my own music,” Wettlaufer says. “I feel such a connection to my music and I have so much more creative control. My main goal with my solo music will always be to stay as transparent as possible.”
Wettlaufer and her boyfriend Sean Hazen, who is also a co-writer and guitar player for the band, drove down to Nashville together to record with Neilson Hubbard and Skinny Elephant Recording.
“Let me start by saying that usually I hate recording and I was so nervous to go work with a real Nashville producer,” Wettlaufer shares. “I can not explain how awesome Neilson Hubbard and Skinny Elephant Recording were. I had told Neilson I wanted to keep everything very natural and as close to live sounding as we could get and he completely saw my vision.”
Wettlaufer says that the EP was finished in three days, something she wasn’t expecting.
“I remember leaving the studio the first day, being in the car with Sean and him going ‘it’s only 5pm, this feels so strange,'” she reminisces. “We only did, at most, five takes of vocals and guitar in a live room together and then we’d take the best of the bunch No perfecting, no going note by note, we recorded what we could give as best as we could and that was it and it was so strange at first.”
“When we finished the last day of recording we ended up getting a cheap, sketchy motel room and we sat in the parking lot listening to the almost finished product, so happy with what we had just created,” she says.
“We look up in front of our car and there is this little bar across the lot called ‘Broken Spoke Saloon’ and a line in one of my songs is ‘broken spoke, but the wheel keeps turning twisting my hand through my window with a fifth of whiskey and a fist full of glass.'” she says. “It’s so corny when you talk about moments like this but it’s one that kind of reminds you to fully enjoy what you’re doing right then and there.”
The EP is very intimate and gives a feel of comfort. The combination of the slide guitar and finger picking really accentuates her voice and creates a mature, lovely sound.
Wettlaufer says that she draws most of her inspiration from her personal life.
“I am an extremely emotional human being so I typically have quite a few feelings floating around to write about,” she says. “Songwriting is still quite a process for me, I don’t typically have full songs flowing out of me so when it comes to knowing how to poetically explain all these crazy feelings I have started to try to pay attention to everything everywhere. When I hear a cool phrase I will try to write it down to possibly be used later (when I can remember.)
Wettlaufer notes that her song “Secondhand Smoke” has special meaning to her. In the chorus she sings “I can’t breathe anymore, I’m choking on your secondhand smoke”
“I think this feeling is one that a lot of people,” she explains. “Especially people pleasers such as myself can relate to. I always want to help people and listen to their problems but it can be so overwhelming taking on everyone else’s issues and it’s a touchy area to try and set boundaries. Learning to say ya know, I want to be there for you but I can’t always be and I need a break is so difficult but so important and I’m still learning how to do it.”
When it comes to sound she says that she has been very inspired by 90’s country – naming the Dixie Chicks as “goddesses” she hopes to be when she grows up.
“They are one of the main reasons I found a love for singing,” Wettlaufer says. “I mean, just listen to the Fly album. It’s honest, fun and heartbreaking wrapped up all into one. I think they are incredibly talented musicians and performers. I grew up listening to and belting Goodbye Earl in the car, it’s impossible not to feel something when you listen to that album or any of their songs for that matter.”
Wettlaufer will be performing solo this Saturday at Dally in the Alley on the Forest Stage at 2:30pm.
“[I perform] a lot of sad songs,” she tells those coming to her shows. “Really though, my songs aren’t cheery but I think whether I’m playing with a full band, just me and my guitar or somewhere in between I make the music and the meaning behind the songs the main focus. I’m not a huge talker, I typically make a few awkward comments here and there but really I want to spend as much playing music that I hope will make people feel something.”
More information on Dally in the Alley can be found here.