SONG PREMIERE: From Clarks Summit to Nashville, pop singer Alyssa Lazar admits ‘Maybe I Did Change’
Those who have heard young Alyssa Lazar perform throughout the Scranton area since she was in grade school will soon learn that she’s changed… and that’s not a bad thing.
“I started singing by the time I was 3 and just never stopped from there. Throughout elementary and middle school, I started singing the national anthem anywhere possible – Abington Heights football games, Little League baseball games, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees games, the Little League World Series – participating in any music-related event in town and constantly asking to play a song at any bar or venue I went in where there was a band. The Wannabees, for instance, would always welcome me up to play with them when I was little,” the Clarks Summit native recalled.
“By the time I was in high school, I started playing at most every bar/restaurant in town weekly, from Andy Gavin’s to Crotti’s on Ash to Sydney’s Lounge, along with releasing original music throughout that time span since I was about 13.”
That’s when she released her first “album,” which she put in quotations, as she has since taken it off the Internet. That’s because, right after high school, she moved to Nashville to study commercial music and songwriting at Belmont University and began to develop her own sound that has transformed “drastically over time.”
“I grew up singing along to a lot of Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood since I was a little kid, but was also raised on a lot of classic rock, Elvis being a huge thing in my family. For a long time, I felt as though my sound leaned toward country due to those female vocal influences, until I realized that I had been pushing myself into a box that I wasn’t really meant to be in just because I felt like I had to in order to fit in to a certain lane in the music industry. I’ll always love country, but it isn’t really who I am as an artist. The core of my being is most definitely rock and roll, especially that of Elton John, Billy Joel, Queen, and other piano-oriented rockers. I had really come to this realization, ironically, when I moved to Nashville,” she explained.
“When people heard me perform, they immediately recognized what a big aspect my piano-playing was to my sound. I had never really recognized that; I had just thought of piano as my way of accompanying myself at my gigs since I was about 15. My favorite songs to play at gigs throughout Scranton since I was in my early teens were always classic rock or pop rock songs, and it took me a while to open my eyes to what the core of my music clearly was.”
Now 22 years old, she is creating the music that she was always meant to make, and her new single, “Maybe I Did Change,” is proof of that, showing both vulnerability and strength in songwriting that is inspired by 1970s rock and today’s pop. It is premiering today on NEPA Scene as it hits all major streaming platforms.
“I wrote ‘Maybe I Did Change’ over a year ago, and I remember the moment after writing most of it in a music building on my school campus thinking, ‘This song is the one. This is my best song.’ I even remember the first moment the line ‘Maybe I did change, maybe you’re right’ popped into my mind. I was walking into a coffee shop near my house and I thought, ‘Wow… Imagine telling a version of me two years ago that right now I’d be walking into this coffee shop in East Nashville that I never would’ve heard of.’ I went in and just kind of wrote down some lines in my notebook, and those lines turned into a song. I sort of realized that everything surrounding my life had changed, and that I did too,” she described.
“For a long time, I didn’t want to admit that I had changed. I was really hurt to have been told that, honestly, because I had felt like the word ‘changed’ meant that I was less than I was before. After quite a few months, I finally was able to come to the conclusion that, in most cases, if somebody tells you that you’re not the same person you used to be, it’s because they never wanted to confront that you were able to grow without them.”
The track will be on a new EP that could debut as early as April.
“This song actually took a lot of different components to fully record. It’s produced by Omgprkr, my extremely talented friend who is producing the entirety of my EP. A lot of this song, however – including drums played by Nathan Sexton, my vocals and piano, and bass – was recorded at OmniSound Studios next to Music Row, engineered by another one of my astoundingly gifted friends, Josh Emmons, who also plays bass on this track. So yes, a lot of premeditation, time, and work from many different people went into this song. I just knew that this song was worth all of this work, however. I’m super lucky to have such supportive and talented friends, like Josh Emmons and Omgprkr supporting me and this song the whole way, and doing anything possible to make ‘Maybe I Did Change’ everything it turned out to be.”
Emmons is also a member of her band, which includes Drew Bostwick on drums and Andrew Vendelis on guitar. Last week, they were able to play in front of an actual crowd again, the first time since last February due to COVID-19.
“Playing with a full band for the first time in about a year was exhilarating. I’ve gotten to play quite a few acoustic shows throughout the past few months, but everything is escalated when there’s a full band. It really reminded me of what the dream is and what I’m fighting for,” she said.
“My band members are all great friends of mine. I’ve been insanely lucky to have met such talented people who are willing to play with me. They all have their own individual music careers, as most Nashville musicians do, but they are always extremely supportive when it comes to playing with me at my shows as well. Got a good team of boys.”
Nashville is known as “Music City” for a reason, so Lazar has had to work hard to stand out from the pack and pursue a dream she shares with so many others.
“Everybody is a musician in Nashville. It’s very rare to find someone with no involvement or connection to the entertainment industry. Nashville is definitely harder to get a foot in the door when it comes to playing gigs due to the fact that they can book you or the 1,000 other options contacting them to play. However, it’s taught me to get a bit pushier, and being that there is such a saturation of talent really pushed me to hone my craft and step up my game, even when it comes to style. The other funny thing about Nashville is the misconception that you can only pursue country there. It’s been so cool to watch other genres like pop and rock grow here, and I love to get to be a part of that growing demographic,” she enthused.
“Surprisingly, Nashville has really embraced my pop/rock sound at gigs, despite being a mainly country music-oriented city. Everybody is a guitar player, so although much more difficult to transport, I always like to be the only one playing keys. When pitching myself to a venue to play at, they’re usually excited to house a different sound, although that meant really needing to tighten that sound and knowing how to sell it.”
That’s become even more challenging over the last year as the pandemic rages on.
“Coronavirus has definitely been damaging to the music business. It’s very scary to have to wonder what is going to happen with the touring aspect of the entertainment world especially. However, quarantining allowed me to say, ‘OK, I can’t control everything that’s happening now. But what can I control and focus on?’ I used the time to learn to produce a ton of demos of my songs on this old computer in my basement, write a ton of new songs, and figure out what I wanted to release,” she said.
“My songwriting process typically works where I’ll get one line in my head, figure out what it means, and then create a song around that. That was pretty much the case for all of the songs on the upcoming EP. I’ll just have a weird line and melody pop in my head, and I know that it’s gotta mean something. I usually start with the hook and write create the rest of the song around that idea.”
“For the most part, they are either channeling a certain mood or it’s just me being extremely vulnerable and honest. ‘Maybe I Did Change’ is especially a song that is 100 percent coming straight from my heart and my own experience. I sometimes like to get creative, take on different perspectives, and write from that, but there’s nothing like pure honesty and emotion from a deep place coming out on to the notebook/keys.”
Not only has her music and songwriting changed, but the way she presents herself as well. Those who saw her play in NEPA bars and at events like NEPA Scene’s Got Talent as a teenager will find an even more confident and fashionable pop star in publicity photos and her social media presence, which she maintains in her own way.
“I have a very complex relationship with social media. From an outside perspective, it probably seems like I love social media. Honestly, I’m such an old soul that I truly wish the music business worked like it used to, where you would gain a large career by having talent, going out and performing. Nowadays, for the most part, you gain a career through your social media. On the contrary, I have always loved fashion, and I think visual art can be very important to go along with music – for instance, the flamboyance of Elton John’s style tied with his music is hugely inspiring to me. I think style itself is an art, and I try to express myself through that along with my music. They’re very cohesive,” she emphasized.
Lazar is currently focusing on that content along with more music and videos since touring is out of the question at the moment, so friends and fans back home will have to wait to see her live again.
“No solid plans to play in NEPA again quite yet, but I definitely want to get planning because there’s nothing better than getting to play at home for all the people I love, grew up with, and have always been in my corner. It’s especially fun now that I could finally drink there,” she said with a laugh.
“I’m so grateful for all of the venues in NEPA that have supported me since day one and allowed me to play there before I was really even allowed to go there. Crotti’s on Ash, Andy Gavin’s, Sydney’s Lounge in Clarks Summit, and The V-Spot are a few of my all-time favorites that all hold a very special spot in my heart. Some lifelong relationships have formed with the people who have allowed me to play at their venues, and I’m super grateful.”
Surprisingly, Nashville reminds her of home in some ways, a place she has wanted to be since she listened to all those iconic female country singers as a kid.
“It’s the perfect mix of gritty and welcoming. I will say I’m that one person living in Nashville that is always excited to go back home and gets homesick pretty easily, but luckily, Nashville has been super welcoming and supportive of my music, and it definitely feels like home, or at least a second home, at this point,” she said.
“I just want to mention how lucky I am to come from a hometown that has always believed in me, supported me, and pushed me to believe in myself. Scranton is a special city.”