1. Tell us a little about your latest setlist / routine. What drove you to choose the particular pieces of music that make up your set for shows? How do you determine how to pair up your musical performance with your love of vintage apparel?
My latest set is a little risque compared to majority of music up until lately. I love making people laugh and showcasing my comedic writing. So, I decided to combine it all in my music. As for my love of vintage apparel, I wear it almost daily. Unless I am at my day job as a veterinary assistant where I have to wear scrubs. However, I am ALWAYS in vintage hair/makeup. I think having a brand as a musician is a huge thing. So, I always make sure to be vintage from head to toe for gigs.
2. What got you into singing jazz and playing the ukulele, and can you tell us about the moment you realize you wanted to be a performer? Building on that, is there a specific performer or act that guided your performances in the beginning?
When I was younger, my Grandfather listened to Sinatra and the Rat Pack all the time. I didn’t realize it was Jazz until I was in high school, when I discovered my admiration for Ella Fitzgerald. I fell head over heels for the Jazzy sounds from the 40’s and knew I wanted to sing it once I heard the tune "It’s Delovely" written by Cole Porter and sung by Ella. That genre really fills my heart and I don’t have much other joy singing other genres besides my originals. I started playing Ukulele five years ago. I had been singing for most of my life in choirs and with my band Fifth Avenue, but I wanted to play whatever songs I wanted! I needed accompaniment, tried piano and guitar… didn’t stick. A huge idol of mine has always been Marilyn Monroe, just like every other young pin up! My favorite film is Some Like It Hot, in which it features Marilyn playing the Uke. She heavily influenced my decision to play. Once I picked it up, I was bitten!! Couldn’t put the darn thing down!
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
I am influenced by the voices of the jazz eras, Ella, Billie, Peggy Lee. As well as, some modern jazz voices like, Diana Krall, Kat Edmunson. My recent writings, that I will be performing for the Burlesque Festival is influenced by Rusty Warren. A comedic musician from the 60’s and 70’s that was the first to speak of sex from the female perspective, publicly. She looked like a lady, red hair in a perfect beehive, glamorous gowns and stones. However, she let it roll! Singing songs like, "Bounce Your Boobies!" I own the majority of her records and many evenings are spent with a bottle of wine laughing my pants off! Rusty, even though she's from a time gone by, is my biggest idol. She motivates me to be, ME! Let my personality really shine in every way possible, even in my music.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a set or write songs with, who would it be, and why?
One collaborator would honestly be Magenta DeMure. We both come from a relationship with theatre, but she is a very creative writer. Which will be showcased at the festival. I think we could sit down write a dirty story and some saucy jokes that I could put to music and it would be gold.
5. How would you describe your musical / performance style to someone who’d never seen you perform before? What is one review from the media, an audience member, or a fan has made that made you cringe?
My musical performance is kitchy, modern vaudeville, a bit of comedy, bantar, music with vintage undertones. All done with a voice and Ukulele. I haven’t had many public reviews as of yet with my music. I believe the comment that will always make me cringe and question my musical abilities, is being told I’m flat… “You might as well be in the next room.” Was the comment that will always stick with me… I know I’m not perfect and I have off days, but god smite me if I am aimlessly flat all the time. What made this worse is that it was said to me by an older jazz cat in my local community. Though, you shouldn’t care about negative comments, deep down I wanted to impress this old man.
6. When it comes to the vintage component of your performance, is there a certain era or style that you gravitate to? What was the first vintage item you ever acquired? Do you still have it and if so, does it hold any specific sentimental value?
I wouldn’t say I gravitate to one era or the other. I suppose it depends on the show. If it’s straight Jazz I will be pointed to styles from the 40’s, the more elegant, old Hollywood looks. If it’s a fun festival gig, you bet your bottom I’m wearing a novelty swing skirt with a petticoat under and a top. Which would be more of a 50’s vibe. My first piece was a light blue one piece vintage 50’s swimsuit, given to me by my best friend in High School. Unfortunately, I lost this in a move I did a few years ago.
I suppose the biggest thing to know, would be that I haven’t always been this confident. I always get other women say, “You’re so confident up there, I wish I had half of that.” It took a long time to get here. Personally and musically. When I first started singing in front of people I would shake and shiver and I definitely couldn’t look at anyone. I went through a metamorphosis really. From being a quiet shy girl. Which most people expect you to be anyway. I have learned to embrace myself with open arms and I am focusing that in my performances as much as possible. There’s only one me, better let it shine. A lot of people think that with the way I dress or the music I sing that I’m stuck up. Especially at Jazz shows. This isn’t the case at all! I am super nice and welcome everyone!! I have gotten some people question the pin up style. On one side, that I want to actually live in the 50’s and have no rights. No. I dress this way because it is 100% flattering to my figure and it makes me feel amazing! The other side is that if I tell people I dress pin up, they will think I prance in lingerie? I am not sure how that comes across? I mean I do in private or a shoot or two, but hardly on the day to day.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a performer and who was it?
I went to see my favorite modern band. Lake Street Dive. Rachel Price, the lead singer, has the most spot on intonation it’s fuel to make you cry. She hits every note with ease as in her recordings. To hear it in person, had me starstruck for sure.
9. What is the best part of being a singer / songwriter? Conversely, what is the worst part? If you could no longer be a performer for whatever reason, what would be your other artistic outlet?
The best part is being able to share a part of myself with others that they can relate to. I try and write real songs, that come from my experiences or the experiences of those around me. I try to be honest in my writing and it’s quite relieving to get stuff off your chest in a creative way. With that brings the part I don’t like. I feel very harshly. My heart is on my sleeve and it’s tough not to write a song about all the feelings. If I was no longer a performer, I would probably paint a lot! I enjoy acrylics and canvas. I don’t get a lot of time to do it anymore, but I miss it. I suppose if I didn’t write music or perform, all of my efforts would go there.
10. What is one question you have always wanted someone to ask you as a performer – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?
A question I wish I were asked would be about my writing process. I don’t get to go into depth with the way I write or how I came into a song. The way I write is silly sometimes. I can gain inspiration from simple things, like a street sign or a joke that was said amongst friends. For my original, The Recipe of Love I will be performing at the Burlesque Festival, there was a fortune cookie that was opened that said, “Always remember, every exit is an entrance into something new.” well… You can get where that would go! A question I’m tired of answering is not so much a question, but a statement. That is “ Oh are you the singer?” When I'm loading in. Well, yes I am, however why is it that women are always instantly categorized as a singer in a band? I mean, I’m an instrumentalist as well!
11. Looking back over your musical career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?
One misstep in my musical career, hmm… had to think about this.. I think my biggest misstep in my music would be that I am classically trained. Now, on the other hand, I'm grateful for this as well. It pushed me to pay attention to my body, to project, to sick over colds and to have a better ear. However, when it comes to Jazz or the original tunes I don’t feel my voice is as free. I question certain things, even if they sound good, they aren’t “correct”. I pay attention to my voice way too much. If I’m not placed well or if I’m feeling tension where I shouldn’t, it distracts me a lot. Again, this was something I really had to dig for. It’s a bittersweet situation, because a part of me wonders if I had kept going with it if I would be even better now. Who knows?
12. What is one thing you still want to achieve in the performance world? At the end of the day, what contribution to the local music and performance scene do you hope you will be remembered for?
I would love to tour one day as an excuse to travel, maybe even Europe, if they would have me! At the end of the day, I want to be remembered for being genuine, authentic and encouraging to other women to be who they want to be and not be afraid to let it all out and cuss a little here and there!
ALFIE JEAN LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: