I got to speak to the lovely Alela Diane on the telephone. Interview originally published on For Folk’s Sake. Listen to Alela’s music here. She is brilliant.
The pretty photo there is by Alissa Anderson.
My name’s Anika. It’s good to speak to you.
A: It’s good to meet you… via telephone.
How are you?
A: It’s morning where I am…. I got a cup of coffee.
I’m thinking about dinner, already. It’s dinner time for us. So… lots of things to talk about! You’ve been touring a lot this year, and you’ve had your album ‘To Be Still’ released this year. How have the shows been?
A: It’s gone really well, it’s been a really busy year, and a really hectic year because we’ve been on the road so much. But, all the shows have been going really well and the audiences and the people who’ve come out have been really nice, so it’s been worth it.
What’s your favourite place that you’ve played?
A: I really had a good time, I wouldn’t say the show was the best show, but the experience we had in Spain for the Primavera Festival was amazing. I think it was just because we got to see Neil Young play, so that’s why it was my favourite show.
Are you a fan of festivals then?
A: Some of them are really charming and nice, but the bummer part for us about festivals is that we’re never there for the whole weekend, we just come into the festival for one day, we don’t get to relax like everyone else does. It’s hard to settle into a festival when you’re only there for 24 hours or something, or 12 hours just for the day of the show, we see everybody there camping and having a good time… and there we are having to leave. So that’s kind of a bummer.
Are you excited about End of the Road?
A: I am! Everyone says, of all the festivals, that one, that’s gonna be the one I like the most because I think it’s smaller and more intimate…and everything. I am looking forward to it.
And you played St Giles earlier this year?
A: We did!
I wanted to go so badly but I didn’t have a ticket, and it sold out, and I had no money.
It’s a beautiful venue.
A: It is a beautiful venue! It was such an honour to sing in such a beautiful space.
Have you ever been to Union Chapel in London?
A: I have not…
It’s a really beautiful church with beautiful acoustics.
I’ve been told to ask you about hand-making stuff… you used to hand-make the covers of your CD sleeves?
A: I’m sorry! This is hilarious that you’re asking me this right now, ‘cos yesterday and today I got this idea that I’m gonna hand-make tour posters.
A: So my entire living room is covered in gold pens and scraps… and all of this crazy stuff. And ‘cos I didn’t pull it together to get someone to screen-print tour posters, I’m sitting here hand writing with gold pen on these posters and gluing lace… and all this crazy stuff. I’m trying to make 50… and I’m on number 5 right now.
You’re trying to make 50!? This sounds like what I was doing at the weekend! I invented this little book called ‘Possibilities In Winter’ ‘cos it’s getting quite wintery in London
It’s just about stuff that COULD happen in winter. But I decided to make 50 copies as well, but as soon as I started I was like ‘oh man……’
A: …. This is gonna take forever!
A: So I’m hoping to make some headway today but they take about 20minutes each, atleast. It’s pretty involved. It’s very similar to me hand-making 650 copies of the first record, which is what I did… it’s insane. But I DO like hand-making stuff.
Hand-making stuff is brilliant! It’s my favourite thing to get something completely unique, there’s only one of.
A: I love it too.
What do you think of the internet? Because you like hand-making stuff, I like getting handmade stuff… the internet can kind of destroy that in a way
A: I feel, yeah, I can’t discredit the internet. I really have to thank the internet for anyone hearing our music in the first place. I think I was in the forefront of the Myspace thing, when that was new a few years ago when that was a brand new thing. I really think that played a huge role in spreading my music around. I think it’s a useful tool and I definitely use the internet. But, it’s almost one of those things like ‘wouldn’t it be easier if it didn’t exist’?
A: Just because now everyone is so reliant on it, and I think that frustrates me a bit. Like, you can’t just not use the internet.
Yeah, well, positives and negatives… you can find out about new music, but maybe loose some of the charm that you’d have finding it a different way maybe…
A: Exactly. Yeah, definitely.
What have you been listening to lately?
A: Oh! Since I’ve been at home I’ve been listening to my record collection, my vinyl, most of them are older… 70s records! I’ve been really into Fairport Convention, and jamming Fleetwood Mac… old stuff…. Neil Young… nothing groundbreaking!
Where do you live?
A: I live in Portland, Oregon.
What’s the music scene like there?
A: Erm…. It’s, supposedly… it has a really great music scene. But I’ve been on tour so much and I’ve only lived up here since January, I’ve been go so much… I haven’t really experienced the music scene.
A: I’ve met some bands from here, like Blitzen Trapper, and my friend Laura Gibson…
Oh! Laura Gibson. I adore Laura Gibson! She’s brilliant
A: She’s amazing! And she’s such a sweet girl, so it’s gonna be great touring with her over there..
Yeah! You have a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with her. I’m gonna come to that. It’s gonna be AMAZING.
She has an instore at Rough Trade East. Have you ever been there?
A: Ermm.. I think I have. I’ve done a number of instores. I have two specific memories of Rough Trade shops. So, probably.
Well, there’s a Rough Trade East and a Rough Trade West. Do you get to see the places you tour much, or do you just go there… play a show… leave…
A: Yeah, it’s a bit like that. I’ve been to the Rough Trade in the basement and then I’ve been to the other one that’s in the nice part of town… that’s not in the basement.
(Laughs) Do you know what I’m talking about?
Yeah, well I’d say the one that’s in the basement is in the nice part of town, and the one that’s not in the basement… is kind of, the weird part of town. That’s the part of town I’m in right now.
A: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m not from London, so…! In the basement, maybe there wasn’t as much traffic… makes me feel like it was nice!
Ok. So your CD came out a little while ago, do you have new songs ready for an album or EP…
A: Well, we actually, I have an EP coming out in September. It’s with my friend Alina, who sings back up vocals with me on tour. It’s just the two of us, two voices, we’re both playing guitars. It’s quite sparse, very simple. It was recorded just in two days, and it’s 6 songs…
Wow, two days! That’s pretty intense…
A: Yeah! It was. Well, we were between tours and we had no time and it was just like ‘gotta make an EP’ ‘ok let’s do this’. So it’s a couple of traditional songs, a Towns Van Zandt song, and then a song by her and a few songs by me. So yeah, a little collaboration! I’m really happy with how that came out. And that’s just gonna be on 10” vinyl and digital…
A: Yeah, pretty cool.
So… you have your EP and tours, what are you plans for the rest of the year and next year, if you plan ahead… do you plan that far ahead?
A: I do! I actually do plan that far ahead. My life has been so planned for me lately. We’ve been on tour sooooooo much this year, we’re pretty worn down, all of us. I’ve been touring with a whole band, there’s 5 of us, it’s been so much and so busy. I haven’t been home for more than 2 weeks at a time, and that’s hard on me because home is so important. So after this tour and 1 more us tour in October and November, I’m scheduling some serious time off… probably about 6 months. There’s a new house… I just bought a new house in Portland. So I’m gonna move to the new house. Get settled, hopefully write some new songs…
What made you move up to Portland?
A: My boyfriend was here, and that was the main reason. I’ve lived up here before, I lived up here for 2 years a couple of years ago. I think it’s nice. That place I’m from, Nevada City, is a really, really small town… it was just starting to feel to small. I couldn’t go out without running into someone, every day, having it like that. It’s nice to feel more anonymous in Portland…
What is it that you miss about America when you’re in Europe, is there anything you really miss in particular…
A: Yes! There is. There are two things in particular that I miss. One of them is Mexican food.
A: We eat so much Mexican food here! You know, ‘cos Mexico is close to California. And I grew up in California… so I was always eating beans and rice…
We have Mexican food here! Oh, hey! Have you ever been to Nando’s?
A: I have not. Is it in London?
Yeah! It’s all over Britain. It’s a Portuguese place, and they do different types of chicken! It’s really delicious…
A: I have not tried it. BUT! Portuguese food is not Mexican food either!
Well, it’s Spanish…
A: It’s not the same! (Laughs) It’s totally different! I miss Mexican food. The other thing, specifically, touring in, not necessarily England because you guys seem to understand this next problem, but in France, they don’t understand large cups of things… a LARGE cup of coffee.. it’s not gonna happen
Everything is small? But I guess, in fairness, when I go to America, everything is huge…
A: Well, it is! And that’s not always good… but for certain things, like a cup of tea,. When I’m on the road, in France they give you a cup like that’s an inch and a half tall… I’d say that’s it.
A: And Proper American breakfast is something that’s not…
Oh, what’s your favourite breakfast?
A: Like, eggs and toast, and fresh fruit…. It’s kind of, definitely…
…different. We have different types of bacon.
A: Yeah. It’s just different. There’s a certain type of breakfast culture that happens in the states.. that is not there…
I’d like to recommend a different place (!) where you can get American breakfasts in London. It’s called the Breakfast Club.
A: Is it… is it a chain? Cos we have the Breakfast Club here..
There are 3 breakfast clubs. There’s one in Soho, Hoxton and Islington…
A: Alright Well, I’ll have to remember that. But I think, the Breakfast Club, if it’s the same Breakfast Club that’s in the States, that’s kind of like what American breakfast is like, but it’s the bottom of the barrel American breakfast, you know? It’s like the trashy American breakfast…
It’s pretty good here!
A: (Laughs) it’s alright? I’ll take your word for it…
And you get Whole Foods in America don’t you…
A: Yes we do.
Is it as amazing as it is here?
A: Yeah, it is. I live… there’s one close.
I love ice cream. It’s sad that’s it the end of ice cream season.
A: Oh no! (Laughs) it’s true. Food is a major issue on tour.
Ok… I think that’s all my questions…… for a food magazine, actually. Alela Diane: on food.
A: Ok, thank you.