Nashville’s Alanna Royale On Songwriting, Wu-Tang Clan

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You guys cite Wu-Tang Clan as one of your musical influences. How exactly do they influence you?

Well lyrically, conceptually, Wu-Tang Clan has always fucking been on point. And they’re also a large group of people who work together and they all have their own role. We saw them at Bonnaroo when we were there, and they all have their own role in different ways. Everyone does their own thing, and we kind of shadow that a little bit. Also, they’ve been around forever and they’ve always made music on their own terms, their own way. One of the first Wu-Tang records, the electricity that they used was stolen electricity from another apartment. They ran an extension cord from someone else’s apartment because they didn’t have electricity. They were people who wanted to make music, and they were gonna do it no matter what. It wasn’t about touring and playing shows and making money. These were people who needed to play music because there was something inside them that they needed to get out, and I feel the same way. I feel like I would be fuckin’ stupid if I wasn’t trying to make music. I wouldn’t be happy; I would probably hate my life.

You said you saw them at Bonnaroo?

Yeah, we got to play Bonnaroo two weekends ago. That was like one of the shows that was like “We’re not gonna miss it.” And they were fucking incredible. They were awesome.

I missed them because I was waiting for Paul McCartney.

I actually only watched maybe like two songs of Paul McCartney. It’s crazy because obviously I love Paul McCartney and the Beatles cause I’m a fucking human being, but in my household, we never listened to the Beatles when I was growing up. I lived in a very musical household where we listened to all different kinds of music, and my mom had a very vast, eclectic collection of records. But the Beatles were not part of my mother’s youth growing up. My mom grew up with her older sisters and her mom playing soul and Motown music, R&B music. That eventually led to her listening to early forms of rap music in the ‘80s and disco and shit like that, so for me growing up, that’s what she played. When everybody was watching Paul McCartney at Bonnaroo and freaking out, for me, if that had been Stevie Wonder or Prince or Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson for me is like my Paul McCartney. So Paul McCartney – I watched it, it was awesome, but I didn’t really stick around. I felt really bad but it just wasn’t my thing.

Is that where you think your sound comes from?

There’s definitely a lot about the music you’re raised with that defines you as a musician, because there are two different ways it can affect you. One, it can be like “Oh my god, this is what I was raised on, this is what I love, so this is the kind of music I play,” but then there’s also that other way things can go where it’s like “Ugh! My parents just made me listen to fucking this music my whole life and I can’t stand it.” When I was younger, my mom never censored the music I listened to. She always knew what we were listening to. I went to punk rock shows, I went to hip hop shows, I went to ska shows, and I never had to lie to my parents about what I was listening to or what I was watching. They encouraged me to experience it all. So I never had a closed door, and that definitely affected me as a musician. And the music I make today is like, nothing is out of reach for me. If I tomorrow was like “I wanna start a polka band and I wanna play the accordion,” then I would just do it. I wouldn’t feel like “Oh but I don’t know how.” I wouldn’t feel like any door was closed for me. I definitely think the way I was raised was to have every – any route I ever wanted to go musically, I could do. All I gotta do is just do it.

alanna royale
Back to your Bonnaroo show, how was that?

It was crazy. I didn’t go in with any expectations. I really thought we would play for maybe thirty or forty people, and that’s not how it went. We had a huge fucking crowd. We sold a lot of records. We made a ton of fans. And for us, going in with small expectations like “Oh whatever happens happens,” means that every single thing that happened was just icing on the cake. We met so many cool people, we got to do a lot of cool interviews and it would be fucking awesome if we could go back. I would be floored if we could ever be asked to return as an artist ’cause it was the coolest fuckin’ thing in the world.

Had you ever been to Bonnaroo as a fan before that?

No, that was my first time going at all, and that made it even crazier because it gave me two perspectives – one as a performing artist and one as just a spectator. I spent most of my time – I mean we worked while we were there, we played, but I spent most of my time definitely as a spectator, just sitting in the middle of the crowd watching other bands and meeting people. We went out a couple times and just sat on other people’s blankets and just started talking to them and asking them who they were most excited to see, kind of like interviewing people around Bonnaroo. That was awesome because nobody there knew who we were so we just got to talk to a lot of really cool people and they were just very genuine; they weren’t trying to talk to us cause they knew that we played or anything like that. They were just being cool and normal and it was awesome. Everyone at Bonnaroo was the nicest person I’ve ever met.

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