As a music fan, I can be somewhat stuck in my ways. I know what I like and I often have weird hesitations about “wasting” time trying things outside of my very specific tastes. However, every now and then I come across an artist whose lyrics, hooks, and style are so good that I connect with them despite their significant departure from my comfort zone of well trodden heavy musical territory. Alissa Lindemann is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
Lindemann is an independent singer/songwriter who has gone from acoustic open mics in college to developing a sonically-full style all her own. Each release has built on the last and continued to expand stylistically. She was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about her music and experiences in her home base of Nashville, TN.
In some ways due to how accessible it is, music is becoming more and more niche and subgenre–laden. Still, of course, artists want to reach as many people as possible. How would you describe your music to another musician and how would you describe it to a potential new fan who is completely outside of the industry?
LINDEMANN: I’ve always had trouble placing my music into genres, but usually land on “indie pop” to describe what I’m creating now. Weirdly enough, when I released “Good & Well” it was getting placed in a lot of rock playlists, which I didn’t expect at all. I guess if I was describing my current music to other music industry professionals, I would still call it “indie pop” with a mix of real and software instruments and heavily influenced by 80s synth sounds. For new fans, I’m going to say “indie pop” and then let them make their own decision from there. I think a lot of those niche genres are pioneered by fans and social media.
Your latest single, “Good & Well”, has an amazing music video. What is the process of doing a DIY music video like?
It takes a lot of planning. I was lucky enough to work with the same writer/director (Jamie La Porte) that did my first music video several years ago. She and I have similar creative visions, so it was easy for us to merge our ideas and bring the concepts to life. DIY music videos can range anywhere from videos shot on iPhone to mid-level productions like ours. We wanted to do this as professionally as we could with my budget, and I think we achieved that. A music video looks different for every independent artist, but I think the most important thing is finding people to work with that share your vision and are equally as excited about the project as you (the artist) are.
How do you feel that music videos or using video to promote music is changing in the age of Tik Tok, Reels, and YouTube Shorts?
Tik Tok especially has been heavily influencing the music industry for the last two years. Whatever’s trending on TT ends up at the top of the Billboard charts. This makes short-form video marketing an almost-essential part of artist branding. It’s both easier and harder for artists to get noticed too. Some of it is strategy and a lot of it is pure luck bestowed by the algorithm gods. Shorts have not eliminated the demand for full-length music videos on platforms like YouTube, but creative directors have to be thinking about short-form vertical videos while doing storyboards and pre-production planning.
You collaborate a lot with Michael Kelly of Gentle Organisms, he’s a fantastic producer. What is it like being an audio engineer yourself while working on your own music?
I made the decision a while ago that I didn’t want to record or mix my own music anymore. It was causing me a lot of stress and making the creative process less enjoyable overall. I’ve been collaborating with Michael for years now and we have a pretty solid production process at this point. My background knowledge as an audio engineer does guide some of my creative decision making. It helps that I can communicate with producers, mixers, and mastering engineers in technical language, so we’re all on the same page.
Were there any things that you learned during the process of making “Good & Well” that stood out to you?
One takeaway is to not be afraid to make a big creative change at any point in the process. Near the end of production for “Good & Well,” Michael and I decided to replace the entire main riff, which was originally on guitar, to be a different melody played on synth. We ended up being really happy with this change. The original version would’ve still been great but being open to try something new made the song even better.
As a songwriter, what is the beginning of your process? Do you envision what the final product will sound like? Or do you just start wanting to write about a certain topic or theme?
I don’t have one answer. Sometimes a whole song is built around a title and concept, like “Good & Well.” Other times, I start with a melody or a certain lyric. Both “Past Lives” and “Good & Well” were written in entirety while driving on i40, so… I guess that’s a process.
Your friends and fans know that you’re not only a songwriter and audio engineer, but a writer in general. Is there much difference for you between writing a song and writing a book or something non-musical?
My erratic writing process is actually similar. I don’t outline anything. Regardless of whether I’m sitting down to work on my fantasy novels or writing poetry, I’m still just making it up as I go along. I remember asking one of my writing professors how to go about writing a novel before I started and she kind of just said, “I don’t know. Every writer is different.” So, I landed on the most chaotic method possible.
What is the Nashville music scene like for an indie musician like yourself? Has it felt any different as your sound evolved?
Indie-pop as a genre seems to have gotten more popular in Nashville over the years. At the same time, this city has become so oversaturated that it’s difficult to establish a fanbase or have the motivation to play shows when nothing really comes of it. If we’re being honest, I think Nashvillians are bored of music. It’s only a novelty to the transplants and tourists at this point, and that might be the city’s downfall. I also feel like we still have a lot of work to do in diversifying the local music scene.
Where do you see your style and art going next? Or do you prefer not to plan it out too much?
You might have noticed that I’m not a big planner when it comes to creative works. I’m focusing on my non-musical writing projects at the moment. But I have a handful of songs that would be next in line for release when and if the time comes.
Thank you for your time and thoughtful answers, one last question. If and when people listen to you and enjoy your music, who else should they seek out to continue the vibes? Peers and influences alike!