UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumna and singer-songwriter Alisha Zalkin recently released her EP “March to a Different Beat” and will perform at the music lounge Room 5 this Saturday. Zalkin, who received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA, spoke with Daily Bruin’s Brittany Taylor about her experience at the university, her musical influences and her inspiration for songwriting.
Daily Bruin: How did going to school help you decide you wanted to pursue singing and songwriting?
Alisha Zalkin: I was a musical theater (student) so I was always singing and studying voice. Outside of that I was writing a lot. That was my true passion.
DB: Who are some of your musical influences?
AZ: Ever since I was little I would listen to the great voices like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Their voices were just so engrained in me, and I listened to them over and over again. From a musical standpoint, one of my influences … is Carole King. I love how her (songs) spoke about issues going on in the ’60s and ’70s, but they weren’t so preachy and are still relatable now.
DB: Can you tell us about your songwriting process?
AZ: I’ll find some inspiration from a conversation that I had with somebody or a story that I find. I really love to dig deep and find the truth of a situation. It usually starts with music, and I’ll hear a melody. I’ll do a freewrite of … what I’m feeling about an issue, and then I’ll go back and edit. I’ll take out the strongest imagery, language and lyrics that go with the music.
DB: What is the backstory behind your song “March to a Different Beat?”
AZ: It actually came out of a conversation I had with my dad about a year ago. I never really knew much about his childhood, and we had this really amazing conversation where he shared a lot with me. I was so inspired by this story of being a first-generation American in this country with parents who were survivors of the Holocaust. He grew up in the ’60s and ’70s and was a crazy hippie. There were times (when) he could have really gone off the deep end, so it was interesting to hear what made him shift and become this incredible lawyer who represents victims of childhood sex abuse. He gives a voice to the voiceless. If he weren’t who he was, then I wouldn’t be who I am.
DB: What made you want to make “March to a Different Beat” the title of your album?
AZ: This album has been a process of finding my own voice, who I am as a person and what I really want for a different world. “March to a Different Beat” is about being yourself, owning it and not being afraid to share it with the world.
DB: Do you think you’ve found your voice?
AZ: Totally. I do, however, think it is a lifelong process. It’s something that will always be growing and changing. I’m certainly on that path but I’ve definitely grown into myself as an artist.
DB: Would you say there is a different message you try to portray throughout each of your songs?
AZ: Overall the message is finding that light from within during a rough time. In each song, the message is very specific to different issues. For instance, the issue of having courage and being yourself is the message for “March to a Different Beat,” and “Beautiful You” is about loving yourself and not being afraid to be who you are. “Say It to my Face” is about having the courage to stand up to a bully and be OK with your situation.
DB: Do you have any advice for students looking to pursue singing and/or songwriting?
AZ: If you have any interest, I say go for it. Do your research and study the great musicians that really resonate with you. Research what is going on right now in the music industry and have fun. Just let that burning desire out and shine.
Email Taylor at [email protected]