Interview with Alli Bean
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
It feels kinda random to look back on. When Wayne's World came out in 1992, I heard Queen for the first time & was stoked about Freddie Mercury. My parents were also Billy Joel & Elton John fans, which got me hearing rock piano from a very young age. When I was 9, I had heard a lot of great singers on the radio & was facinated by people like Michael & Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, Brandy & Seal. I wanted to know how they came to be able to make the sounds they made & figured they were magic in a way. The R&B influence on popular sound at the time definitely shaped my musical taste in spite of my parents' more classic rock bent. I even found Boyz II Men & All-4-One compelling even though I didn't fully understanding the context of their content.
As for how I got into studying music, it was kind of a mix of random circumstances. I had asked for either a skateboard or keyboard for Christmas, thinking “if I get the skateboard, this boy at school will like me. If I get the keyboard, I'll be able to make noises,” & either thing felt like a win. My parents thankfully opted for the keyboard & after meeting someone at a party who taught piano, I had a teacher. That teacher nurtured me for seven formative years & I partially credit her for the fact that I'm a musician today. If I wasn't playing music, I'd probably still be a nail technician looking to diversify my aesthetic portfolio.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I'm big on getting out of my head whenever I can. I love to do some form of physical movement every day to stay in touch with my whole self. My partner & I are lucky to live right next to a large national park, so we like to go on hikes when we have free time together. We also like to take trips to areas where we can forage for mushrooms, dig for shellfish, or find other food items. This past summer we went on our first canoeing trip & we can't wait to try again. These changes of scenery & activity help me remember who I am when I'm not a musician; they also remind me that I don't have to be anything specific in order to be a great human being. When that pressure is off, I feel channels open. The ripples settle & I can see straight to the silt of what I'm trying to say.
How long have you been making music?
I've been playing piano for 20 years & singing seriously for about 7 years. I wrote my first songs when I was 12; mostly classically-oriented solo piano pieces. I didn't start believing in myself as a writer until I aced a jazz composition course on my way out of university in 2019. I figure if I can write believable jazz in my mid-30's & I could write decent contemporary classical piano pieces when I was a pre-teen, I'm safe to call myself a writer.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I'm out of Vancouver Island, BC. We have some phenomenal talent very close together. When I was working through my jazz education, I was fortunate to work with highly intelligent faculty. They set me straight on a lot of misunderstandings & helped me chip away at not just my instruments, but my human development as well. When I was ready, I joined Soul Source, the local community R&B band, as the keyboard player. Nick LaRiviere (Best Laid Plans, 5440, The Paperboys) leads this group & it's such a fun environment to cut teeth in. Over the years I spent in this band, I became a stronger keys player & performer, but I also became a singer, an arranger, a composer & an artist. This group was there for me to test things out every step of the way, right up to supporting the release of Outside Voice & playing my horn arrangement of Twenty Questions on a couple of gigs! It wasn't until I had finished my Jazz education & gotten out into the community more that I truly understood how connected everybody is here. Many of us went to the same schools & had some of the same mentors, which definitely shapes the landscape.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
My most memorable show so far has to be the Outside Voice album release at Hermann's Jazz Club last June. It was a lot of firsts in one night. It was my first solo album release, the first time playing the album with a full band in front of an audience, the first time my face was The Face on a poster at a place like Hermann's, & the first time I felt strength in my vulnerability. It was an intimate evening & it was wild to experience my own music that way. Each of my bandmates played the music with their own flavour, which really brought the material to life. It really helped me see that I don't have to do overfunction to create a great product. It was also humbling & mind-blowing that my four friends showed up authentically & gave so much.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I really enjoy playing at the Duncan Showroom. That spot has been around for a long time & the fellas who run it are a class act. The space itself is so quirky & full of miscellaneous vintage items. It looks like a rad garage sale, but nothing is up for grabs. The seating is theatre style & they sell pop & chips but no alcohol. The capacity is limited, but that's part of what I like. They've had a killer livestream setup since well before the pandemic & I swear that's part of why they survived as well as they did. They have multiple camera angles & great lighting on stage.
As for places I haven't played but would like to, pretty much any large venue would be amazing when I'm ready. Someplace like the Gorge Amphitheatre, or Radio City Music Hall would feel like magic.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Don't get attached to anything you write & don't quit writing. The only time it stops is when you do.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Two Birds. It's an assertion of autonomy & choice in a relationship. It's an affirmative “I've learned about who I am & decided that I'll stay with you because I really want to.” A lot of the time we find ourselves in relationships & it can be hard to remember who you are in relation to the person you're with, especially if you meet them before you really know what you want out of your life. Two Birds is a coming to peace & a choice to remain in love.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Of my own songs, people like Twenty Questions because it's bouncy & I've played it a lot. They also like Grief & Gratitude, which humbles me as a smile. When I was still playing a lot of covers, I used to get asked for Valerie (Amy Winehouse) & Santeria (Sublime) a lot. I love both tunes, but I'm glad to be singing other stuff now.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
My music is usually inspired by interpersonal dynamics. I've written a lot about the ends of friendships, or the confusing way relationships can fall apart. Sometimes a whole tune will come to me in one sitting, other times it's a riff or a lyric that floats around for years until it fits someplace. I've learned not to shoehorn; you end up wasting time writing a bunch of nonsense to try to make a good part into something bigger & you end up with a diamond nestled in a muddy setting. I'm all about writing a lot & then letting it rest, going back to revise into rightness.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
My message is mainly about self-awareness. It's one of the trickiest things to get a grip on as a person, but once it's there you can't really lose it if you're vigilant. I think one of the greatest ways to make the world a better place is to consider the ramifications of our behaviour on ourselves & others. It's a lot easier not to notice & live your life on autopilot. That's what I'm here to challenge. It's never too late to look at your actions & think “yikes, that needs a shift,” & then to do the work.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I am currently conceptualizing my second album. I'm writing, fundraising & looking to a wonderful producer here in town to be my main team mate. My next album will dwarf Outside Voice. I can't wait to have more to share.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
I'm all over the place! You can find me at @allibeansings on all social media platforms.