Maybe it’s us or maybe I’m just / Falling in love with California, 20-year-old Alana Springsteen sings in her new single, released May 14.
From Joni Mitchell to Big & Rich, the infatuation with “California” is a tale as old as time. Yet, the emerging act deemed herself worthy of joining the tradition with transcendent vocals over an intertwining storyline.
Springsteen co-wrote the song with Jerry Flowers (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood) and Jared Keim (Rascal Flatts, Restless Road), two of her “favorite guys in town.”
“We started singing this melody, and lyrics started falling out, and it just came together,” Springsteen tells American Songwriter in a special video about “California.” She highlights their use of internal rhyme schemes, exemplifying the above like with “us,” “just,” “love.”
“I love the ways you can use sound to create emotion,” says Springsteen. “Because the song is about a conflict between reality and what’s in your mind, I wanted to duplicate that with guitars. We layered guitars, there are so many electrics, and we wanted to just ground it with pedal steel.”
Springsteen is proud of the vocal stacking built into her chorus. In her opinion, the treatments like reverb and compression played into her vision for a “dreamy, atmospheric feel.”
The song, she says, “is just as much about the connection between two people as it is the connection between a person and a place.”
In order to capture the push-and-pull of the geography itself, the artist returned to the physical place to film the music video. The West Coast is a place that brings Springsteen peace. Being back there, physically, to record the video brought together “all of [her] favorite things.”
One of her priorities was to bring a Jeep on set to cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway. Driving along the winding, rocky coast, the video radiates late summer incandescence.
“Sometimes you get so beautifully lost in a moment that the lines around love get blurry,” Springsteen shares. “Is it the person? Is it the place? Or is it the way everything around you collides in the most beautiful way for a minute? When I was recording this song and shooting this video, I hoped it would take people back to whatever that moment was for them.”
On March 19, Springsteen released “Trying Not To”—a stunning duet featuring a fellow-rising Nashville star, Roman Alexander. Following his debut EP, Alexander and Springsteen teamed up in the writer’s room with his producers, Flowers and Keim for what they decided should be a duet. Springsteen describes what unfolded as “pure magic,” crediting Alexander’s lush vocal contributions and her co-writers lyrical genius.
Combined, these two singles serve as a pillar to her highly anticipated album project, expected later this year. A fruitful 2020 allowed time for the young artist to dive into what she wants to say, focusing on intentionality in the way she delivers her message. The Virginia Beach native points to early influences like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift, who initially drew her into country music. As an artist, Springsteen hopes her messages will resonate as much as her influencers’ did with her, helping navigate those coming-of-ages years of wonder.
Watch Alana share her 5 Favorite Things about “California” below.
Photo by Anna Clary