SONG PREMIERE: After ‘The Voice,’ Clarks Summit singer Alyssa Lazar reflects with ‘Dear Universe’
In so many movies, there is a scene when the protagonist has reached a crossroads, hesitating before their next move. Troubled and unsure of themselves, they look up to the sky, picturing something beyond the stars – a higher power, a mentor, or anything else that could guide them – and cry out for an answer that is often already within themselves.
This moment played out in a similar manner for Alyssa Lazar, though she didn’t need any dramatic music to accompany those thoughts – she was busy writing her own.
In March, her hometown of Clarks Summit – along with millions of others across Northeastern Pennsylvania and the rest of the country – tuned in to the long-running singing reality competition series “The Voice” on NBC and watched her blind audition, where her distinct vocals on Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” caught the attention of Chance the Rapper and moved her on to the next round. Unfortunately, she was eliminated in the next episode of “Battles,” leaving her wondering what she was supposed to do now.
That’s when her own personal battle was won with “Dear Universe,” an original song inspired by “a very sincere conversation with the universe.”
“This song started developing in my mind over two years ago. I remember it was one of those weeks where everything seemed to be going wrong, even down to getting a flat tire. I had about 30 percent of it written back then. It was one of those songs I just kind of forgot about. Strangely enough, it came back into my mind in a way I couldn’t even attempt to ignore back in February, after getting eliminated from ‘The Voice.’ That’s when I finished writing it. It’s about that feeling of confusion and frustration with the universe, when you think you finally found your person, or your opportunity, etc., and then suddenly realizing it was just another life lesson,” Lazar explained.
“I wanted to write it in a way that almost addressed frustration and issues with the universe like it is an intimate sort of relationship.”
Recorded just two months ago with Asher Condit, “a beyond incredible producer based in Nashville,” the contemplative pop rock single is premiering today on NEPA Scene as it hits all major streaming platforms. The “unique voice” Chance complimented is on full display, wrapped in emotional piano keys and the echoes of haunting questions.
The 24-year-old has been penning and recording original music for years, releasing her debut EP, “Hopeless Romanticism,” in 2021.
“I got a love of love on ‘Hopeless Romanticism,’ a strangely high amount coming from people who found it through my videos about music theory on TikTok. I think the fan favorite is ‘Maybe I Did Change’ but, honestly, I think my favorite might have to be ‘What Would I Do Without Me?'” she noted.
Next came the single “Sick Feeling” in 2022, followed by “Dear Universe,” so a new record could be coming together this year.
“‘Sick Feeling’ is an endearing little song I wrote about a crush. I actually produced this one and wanted to make something that sounded very ABBA-esque. It’s definitely a good indicator of where I’m going next musically. A big sort of theatrical rock sound, a little retro, lots of harmonies – that’s where we’re heading,” she described.
“There may just be an album on the horizon that features these two in the future. They have this cohesive sort of theatrical, retro sound, and that is exactly what I would be aiming for in a potential upcoming album.”
In between all this, an unexpected opportunity to appear on “The Voice” came about.
“I had been auditioning for years and kind of just forgot about doing it after a while. Last year, however, I saw that I could just submit a video audition, so I said, ‘Why not?’ Eventually, after months of callbacks and interviews, I got a call that I’d be going to LA!” she enthused.
“[The blind audition for the celebrity judges was] absolutely terrifying, and thrilling. I was trying my best to just focus on the song, just like any other performance.”
She believes her coach, who called her “an amazing performer,” gave her solid advice before pairing her with fellow contestant Magnus on “Your Song,” a classic by one of her biggest influences, Elton John.
“Chance the Rapper just had this super comforting, kind presence to him. After going in to the room for rehearsal the first time, it all just felt very easy and natural working with him. His No. 1 piece of advice was to stay true to your own individual artistry, and in a competition with 40 other amazing singers, it’s very hard not to compare yourself to others. That was the absolute perfect piece of advice in that given situation,” she recalled.
“It was just absolutely surreal. It really did feel like a movie. I still look back at the rehearsals and the performance and it just hits me with the most beautiful kind of nostalgia. Although in my wildest dreams, I would’ve wanted to play piano, a lot of people on the show would have to sing songs they didn’t really want to sing. I got to sing my idol’s song, so I feel very fortunate.”
While she was narrowly edged out of the competition, Lazar has continued sharing behind-the-scenes photos and videos on social media since her Season 23 episodes aired, looking back on her overall experience fondly.
“It was super far from what I would’ve imagined going into it, but I look back at it with nothing but happiness. It was just this very consuming and magical period of time. The best part of the whole experience was honestly the people, though. I’ve made some lifelong friends with the other contestants, and I’m so grateful for that,” she said, adding that it has already led to more career opportunities.
“It’s amazing how much easier it is to be taken seriously as an artist when you have the validation of being on a show.”
The overwhelming support back home has been encouraging as well, from billboards to newspaper, radio, television, and podcast interviews. After high school, she moved to Nashville to study commercial music and songwriting at Belmont University and pursue her own work, but she still plays in the Scranton area a few times a year.
“I’m more overwhelmed with happiness than anything. NEPA has always given me an amazing platform, opportunities, and support, even as a kid when I was singing anywhere I possibly could. I can’t possibly express the gratitude I have for Scranton.”
Her next local gig was just announced today, an intimate performance at the recently reopened Madame Jenny’s, the “speakeasy” located inside Ale Mary’s (126 Franklin Ave., Scranton), on Friday, June 16 at 8 p.m. with psychedelic rock band Campanula. Tickets, which are $25, can be purchased now on Eventbrite.
Before the summer ends, she will also be part of the outdoor, all-day Good Things Are Happening Fest at the Scranton Iron Furnaces (159 Cedar Ave., Scranton) on Saturday, Aug. 12 with Petal, Wild Pink, James Barrett, The Tribe, Little Hag, Esta Coda, Channel 65, Glass Mask, Brendan Brisk Band, and We’re From Antarctica. Tickets, which are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, are on sale now via Ticketleap.
Until then, she plans to continue writing, recording, and playing live throughout Nashville, “and just continuing to see how I can execute my vision – and making lots of dirty martinis in the process.”
“That’s going to be quite the production at Madame Jenny’s on June 16th, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Campanula will be a supporting act also playing, and they are phenomenal. It’s going to be a great time. Good Things Fest is going to be such a huge event, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Lazar emphasized.
“I have a lot of shows I am ecstatic about coming this summer, and some songs that I cannot wait to release. And I can’t wait to get to see everyone in Scranton! Let’s keep making big things happen for the NEPA music scene! Thank you guys so, so much for believing in me.”
Learn more about Alyssa Lazar and her music in Episode 167 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:
Photo from ‘The Voice’ courtesy of Casey Durkin/NBC