Allison Mahal's debut single, Little Blue, is out everywhere today. Her powerful, trained voice backed with a polished band makes this a graceful entrance into the Nashville music scene.
In this interview with Rrita Hashani, Mahal tells us more about her background, being a grl in the scene and learning to let someone go, no matter how bad you want it to work.
What got you in to music?
My dad has always been my biggest influencer when it comes to all things music. He bought me my first guitar was I was 12 and when I was in high school, he gave me his record collection from when he was a kid. I became obsessed with listening to music in high school. I think this was when I really started to listen with intentionality and purpose. I love listening to the lyrics of the song more than anything. And I think it all goes back to my dad exposing me to really great music at a young age.
What's the music scene in Nashville like, underground and mainstream?
Nashville's music scene is a lot of different things. The mainstream music scene is loud and vibrant. It's fast pace, but I love being surrounded it. Although country music is not my style, I am inspired by some great commercial songwriters and artists here in town. I love seeing an artist absolutely destroy all rules of the music industry. The artists who mix things up and gives Nashville a sound it has not heard before. Maren Morris is one of those breathtakingly powerful women in Nashville. She makes the music she wants to make, and gives everyone who looks down on her a big middle finger. I love her.
Nashville's underground music scene is magical. It's personal and has the most magnifying sound I have been exposed to. I feel so lucky to go to Belmont, because through this school I have discovered some of my favorite songwriters. People my age who write like they have lived for 60 years. I find myself learning so much more from independent artists than anyone who is on the radio. I love that there are so many musicians in one city who create music with such passion and diligence. It keeps me motivated to write and tell my own stories every day.
What's it like being a woman in the music scene (playing gigs, setting up shows, etc.)?
Being a woman in the music scene is challenging yet empowering. I am constantly inspired by different women who do music in Nashville. When I took Audio 1 at Belmont, I was one out of four girls in my class. There were, of course, some egotistical alpha dudes who would love to inform you on how they have been producing music all their lives and they know everything there is to know about audio. However, I also met some pretty amazing and supportive guys in that class who were just as eager to learn and would never make any girl feel like she was below them. One of those guys is Josh Warren. He is the one who produced, engineered, and mixed my single Little Blue (actually all of the people involved in making Little Blue are dudes. And they are the best dudes in the world!).
Although I was a terrible audio student, I found myself really learning and looking up to one friend in particular in that class. My dear friend Hayden is the most badass lady I know at Belmont. She schooled absolutely all of those boys in our Audio 1 course. She put in the most work during and after class hours and just has this zest for learning that is contagious. She was never afraid to volunteer in class or make mistakes in front of people. Because that is how she became good. She was by far the best in our class. I think what I have learned most about being a woman in Nashville’s music scene, is that it is all about who you surround yourself with. Guys like Josh and girls like Hayden are the people I want to spend my time with. Because no matter how many pretentious, sexist musicians or engineers I may have to encounter in the future, I have an incredible support system of people I can look up to and seek advice from.
What does Little Blue Flame say about love?
I wrote Little Blue as this metaphor to someone who holds so much mental power over you in a relationship. It is about a person in my life who was like this little blue flame, someone who ignited the best and worst parts of me. That sounds really cheesy now as I am saying this out loud. Yikes. But it is true! I wanted this relationship to work out so badly that I gave in to a fantasy instead of what we really were.
Do you recommend falling in love head first, or taking it slow?
There is nothing wrong with falling head first, as long as you know what you are falling into. I am all about making decisions with my heart instead of my head, which is probably why I have not had a successful relationship in a really long time. But I just think it is imperative to know the difference between falling for the idea of someone and falling for who they are. Sometimes I have my rose colored glasses on too tightly, and I can get so smitten over somebody so fast. I just need to remember to sometimes keep those glasses at the tip of my nose so I can see through the bullshit.
What makes this song so special to make it your first single?
This song is so special to me because it one of the most vulnerable pieces I have written. I was in such a low place when I wrote it last October, and it felt liberating to get the truth of how I was feeling out of my head and onto paper. It is also special to me because I was able to work on it with such talented friends and musicians. Josh Warren, Van Isaacson and Jack Stark turned this sad folk song that I wrote alone in my room into something bigger than me. I feel lucky to be able to work with guys who support my music that much. They are all gold, shining stars.