Alysha Brilla, the acclaimed Tanzanian-Canadian ‘triple threat’ singer, songwriter and producer heads to the City for a show at Fratters May 8th.
Brilla, 25, is known for her incredibly unique roots-pop fusion music style – she’s been nominated for a Juno for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for her debut full-length album In My Head.
These days, she’s eager to hit the road and introduce audiences to tunes from In My Head, which was released last year. The project infuses sounds of jazz, African, pop, blues and her Swahili native tongue. Standouts include the bouncy reggae-tinged title track, and Nobody which also dips into a similar stylistic vein.
Two Shots slides along delightfully – a nod to 60s styled pop. L.A. Hotel Room shows a more personal side to Brilla’s work, and is delivered with a compelling wistfulness.
Sorry brings her back to perhaps where she sounds most at home – a bubbling, energetic tune spilling over with a number of musical sensibilities. Mark on Me carries that same feeling, as does the effervescent nature of Lifted. The CD’s closing number, I Don’t Need the Stars, rounds out the collection nicely with a charming, distinctly classic, ‘old-school’ jazzy feel.
“I’m so excited for this tour,” says Brilla. “Getting to travel with my band, meeting new people and playing for my fans is truly the most rewarding part of my career.”
The album was produced with the collaborate efforts of engineer Mike Jones and mastered by Tom Coyne.
Looking back, the urge to both perform and create music came along quite early.
“I was definitely a musical kid growing up – one of my earliest memories is knowing that I wanted to play music in some capacity,” she explains. Interestingly, she wasn’t formally trained in music in terms of lessons, and even disliked music class during her years in middle school.
But still, as the years went by, it was increasingly clear that the life of a musician was the clear choice for her.
“I really taught myself, and I think that was the best way for me to learn because I wasn’t good at taking lessons,” she adds with a laugh.
As to her voice, she remembers always having a love for singing. But as a child she often had a raspy voice because of literally screaming while suffering from nightmares.
“My vocal chords had nodules on them – I sounded like Janis Joplin. It was funny, you would hear me talk and I would sound like a chain smoker. But at that point, I was singing all of the time at home.” A flair for performing was being honed as well, although it would be a few years before she started to hit the stage professionally.
“I think it wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 before I finally had the guts.” Prior to that, stage fright was a real obstacle. “It’s funny because I would put on shows in my living room and do comedy acts and dancing and entertain my family, but I would never sing.
“But now, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I love it. I’m not sure where the transition happened – when it went from being the most terrifying thing to the most thrilling,” she laughs.
Meanwhile, practice did indeed lead to better results as the years passed. She enjoyed singing along with superstars like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and it wasn’t long before her own vocal abilities began to flourish.
During this time, a multitude of influences were sinking in.
“My mom liked folk music, and really cool classic stuff like Carole King and Joni Mitchell. I listened to them more for their songwriting abilities.
“So I grew up listening to a lot of different music – and one thing I knew was that rhythm is such an important part of music for me. I would say that I really like having that rhythmic element to it.”
Inspiration can spring from a number of sources as well. Brilla said lyrics tend to come to mind quite frequently.
“I’ll be walking down the street, or having a conversation with somebody or biking, and I’ll think of a line and know it would be really good in a song.” Ideas for melodies surface as well as the creative process rolls on.
“I try not to dissect the process too much, because melodies will just tend to pop into my head. Who knows where they come from? I think they are from an accumulation of things that I have listened to in my life and my brain randomly putting them together.”
She is currently writing songs for a new CD which will be recorded in July and is slated for release in August.