Ali Isabella, fresh off of an appearance at the Mercury Lounge in New York opening for Kelley James, [read the LOAR Kelley James interview here], is overflowing with sweet talent and young ambition. Just 18 and out of high school, Ali Isabella’s single “New York City Country Girl” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Sales Chart, and spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Country Hot Singles chart in the UK. She’s toured with Camplified and was the youngest performer at London’s Webley Arena where she opened for superstars Reba McEntire and Lonestar.
Via telephone, Ali and I spoke on December 20, 2013, while she was in the midst of her holiday campaign to raise money for the Variety the Children’s Charity of New York with song she wrote “A Little Love This Christmas.” With a heart and a voice as sweet as molasses, Ali says her dream collaboration is with John Mayer and opens up about graduating high school and following her passion, (hence song “Taking My Own Sweet Time”), on a path she’s paving as she goes.
A true music fan and ready to push through walls, Ali embraces her youth and says she is taking a gap year to “see where I want to go with my life first.” She’s the only one of her friends who did not head off to college and shares, “It’s a little weird, all of my friends are at school and I’m actually out in the real world doing a job. It’s been really fun and I really like it a lot. It’s my passion. I hope this is something I can do for the rest of my life.”
Ali’s song “Crazy Beautiful Life” contains honest lyrics that say, “I come with insecurities.” I asked her how acknowledging her weaknesses helps her overcome fears. “With my song ‘Crazy Beautiful Life’ I wrote that about something I went through at school a couple of years ago. I had a friend group and it kind of fell apart. For me, writing that song helped me stay strong. Music is really the way I get my words across to other people. Sometimes in conversation I will be a little shy but in my music I can say anything I want and feel comfortable sharing that with people.”
I mention her similarity to Taylor Swift with story like honest lyrics and a country pop crossover sound and Ali lets out a modest giggle saying, “I get that a lot.” I ask her if she ever holds back when she’s songwriting and Ali replies, “Whenever I write a song there’s never anything I’m scared to write about. I really just write about anything I feel; music is my way of getting my words across to other people. That’s pretty much what I use it for.”
On opening for Reba McEntire and Lonestar, Ali says she only remembers getting on and off the stage and that, “everything in between was such a blur.” She adds, “I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. It was really crazy but I had a lot of fun.”
Her childhood was filled with Frank Sinatra music which she listened to with her dad and as she grows as an artist she is incorporating influences from influences of rock, blues, jazz and soul into her songs. Says Ali, “I like to pull a lot of things together to create my own sound.” That she is certainly doing…creating the sound of a rising star.
WE ASKED ALI ISABELLA
Who is your rock star crush?
Ali: (laughs) “I’m not gonna lie. I’m probably gonna say One Direction. I think they’re pretty cute.”
Is there one in particular?
Ali: (more laughter) “I really like Harry Styles.”
Favorite flavor of ice cream?
Ali: “Cookie dough.”
Favorite store to shop in?
Ali: “Free People. I always wear that to all of my performances. Free People.”
All time favorite book?
Ali: “I really loved the Harry Potter series.”
All time favorite movie?
Ali: “My favorite movie, I think just because I watched it so many times when I was little is The Sound of Music. I really love that.”
Last album you purchased?
Ali: Hunter Hayes
If you had to choose one song title to describe your personality, what would it be?
Ali: “My song, ‘So Free’ because I love wide open spaces. I love that feeling of freedom and being out in the countryside.”
ALI ISABELLA AND CHARITY
Over the holiday season Ali donated 100% of the proceeds from the downloads of her holiday single, “A Little Love This Christmas,” to Variety the Children’s Charity of New York. The charity’s mission “to support grassroots non-profit organizations in the Tri-State area whose programs use the arts as a catalyst to transform the lives of under-served children” is being helped by Ali Isabella this holiday season.
Music review and interview by Nicole Hanratty
Posted January 5, 2014