Full of moxie and empathy, sitting down with Alicia Michilli was like taking a breath of fresh air from the smog of popular music today. This is a girl with class and style who lives in the footprints of the greats before her that initiated her love for music.
“I live by the classic motto of never leaving the house looking like poo,” she laughed when I commented on her retro style. “I’m like the old church goers but I feel like if you look good, you feel good.”
“Music has always been a part of my life and nothing else ever mattered as much,” Alicia explained. “I have magnificent, supportive parents who took me to all of the lessons all the time,” she laughed. “I practiced piano and guitar for a while, even flute and especially vocals. They always stood behind me.”
“Being from Detroit definitely shaped my stylization,” she responded to how much of an influence her city was on her music. “I grew up with lots of Motown; Michael (Jackson), Etta (James), Sam (Cooke) and Billie (Holiday). My Dad was really into old country and Elvis, while my Mom loved M.J. I also gotta get Bob (Seger) in there,” she teased. “I just always thought soul music was super authentic.”
That’s exactly the vibe that this Nashville transplant gives off. She’s real to the core with her own sense of identity and unique personality.
“When I first decided to move to Nashville I just needed a change of pace. I was part of NSAI back in Detroit and one of the head guys was making trips back and forth to Nashville. I came down with him once and it was like this beacon of light. I wanted to surround myself with better, more talented people to really kick my ass. It immediately felt like home.
“I didn’t have any expectations, so there were none to meet. When I got to write with Bob Seger’s guitarist I definitely knew I was in the right place.”
Although I was sure I could’ve predicted the first part of her answer to the next question, the second was thoughtfully put. I pray Billie Holiday was listening somewhere.
Alicia pondered the idea of which artist she would want to sit down to dinner with and the one thing she would say to them. She broke off pieces of her cookie in between the thought bubbles you could almost see rising from her mind and exclaimed a small “woof!” before saying…
“Maybe Bille. Yeah, Billie. I have so much to say to her, but if I had to pick something it would be ‘you’re incredibly beautiful and so is your voice. Your presence as a human being was far more profound than you realize and you left some pretty big footprints behind. Take care of yourself, because you come first.’ She was a pretty bright light in this dark world – I just wish she knew that.”
“I have had lots of beautiful moments in my career,” Alicia expressed when I asked what she thought the pinnacle might be. “I try to take them as they come and be fully present and aware of each moment. Even the little stuff seems big that way. Probably the moments I performed with Keb’ Mo’ though; those were surreal! I was honestly like ‘what the shit is my life right now,'” she joked.
“I had written on my bucket list like a week before that I wanted to meet or work with Keb’ Mo’ and a week later he walked into the deli I was working at in Green Hills. We weren’t supposed to go up to artists or approach them but I said look boss man, this is important to me. We started talking and exchanged emails and this beautiful sequence of performances at the Fontanel came about. It was so crazy.”
They say good things happen to good people, so it’s not surprising to me that Alicia has had so many amazing experience during her past four years in Nashville.
“I’m at ACME on Broadway every Thursday night with a band called The Topper and then of course perform with my own band as well. The opportunities down here seem endless and everybody wants to lift each other up.”
Alicia put out a self-titled EP in February and is expected to release a new album very soon. Her catchy, vibrant songs such as “Heartbeat” expose the true songwriter in her and showcase her vocal abilities.
“My album will be significantly different than my first EP. My EP is very 60’s, Motown, while the album will be a lot more edgy with a little bit of ‘tude. The first single I’ll soon release off of it is very Amy Winehouse inspired. It’s bluesy with some rock n’ roll and revolves around a really broken, toxic relationship,” we teased that we’ll dub the nameless guy ‘Jimmy.’ “It was very cathartic to write and I like to be authentic with my songs. Generally if something big happens, I write about it.”
We expanded a bit more on the writing process for Alicia and what it takes for her to churn out the hits that she does.
“I sometimes get those random ‘OMG’ moments where I have to write something down immediately. Just last week I wrote a song to the beat of my windshield wipers,” she confessed. “Most of the time though I just need a quiet space. I got a taste of co-writing at NSAI, but there’s so much of that down here and I love it because someone can serve as a sounding board for you and you can bounce ideas off of them.”
We lastly talked about musical reality shows, which we could’ve done all night. Agreeing on the value of the exposure they give to an artist, but also on the terrible length some of these shows go to achieve ratings, i.e. exposing people’s lives just for a “story.”
“I was always strong-minded when it came to America’s Got Talent and I knew what to expect. I was very aware the entire process and had to make it clear I didn’t have a sob story for them to expand on. I got the exposure and gigs that I needed from it, but I’m happy with the extent to which I made it.”
Alicia is going to continue to “make it” with her drive and talent. She’s refreshing to talk to, with her feet on the ground and head in the clouds, she’s not afraid to speak how she feels or sing it either. If you haven’t been exposed to her music yet, I personally apologize for the delay, but there’s no better time than today – so let’s seize the moment, shall we?