HomeC2CInterview: Alana Springsteen on C2C, working with BRELAND and new music

Interview: Alana Springsteen on C2C, working with BRELAND and new music

Like many of her fellow country artists, Alana Springsteen started her musical journey young, learning to play guitar aged seven and writing her own songs by the time she was nine – before venturing to Nashville to begin working with some major industry heavyweights just a year later.

In the 12 years since, she’s racked up an impressive roster of collaborators, including the likes of Liz Rose, Mitchell Tenpenny, Shane McAnally and Shay Mooney, as well as releasing two independent EPs and touring alongside artists including Adam Doleac, Josh Turner and Filmore. Now she’s preparing to release her debut album ‘TWENTY SOMETHING’, following her trip to the UK to play at C2C as part of the Introducing Nashville showcase.

Whilst she was over here I sat down with Alana to talk about her C2C experience, her musical influences, working with BRELAND on ‘For What It’s Worth’, her plans for new music this year and much more.

Welcome to London!

Thank you so much. We got in about two days ago now and it has been so cool just to get to explore the city. The first night we spent over in the Notting Hill area and I was just walking around finding cute cafes. It’s just so much culture, so much history. I’m truly honoured to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

Is there anything else you’re hoping to do whilst you’re here? Like any other sightseeing, trying British food etc?

Yeah, we definitely did. The first night actually, we got to have dinner and tour Parliament, which was insane. It was so beautiful. The best way to kick off London I could ever imagine. It was incredible.

So for people who may not have listened to you before, how would you describe your music and your influences?

I feel like my music is a little bit of everything. I grew up in a small town in Virginia Beach, and it’s by the water, so I’m a total beach girl at heart. I grew up five minutes from the ocean. So I always like to say I want my music to feel like a top down Jeep drive along the water. But I’m influenced by so many different things. I grew up listening to Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban – a lot of country music. But as I grew up I dug into so many other kinds of music, from rock to indie, pop. I went through a massive 80s phase when I was younger. So I think all of that has found its way into my music. That’s what I love about where country music is today. It’s finding people that didn’t know they were country music fans and bringing them in so they’re able to find their own little corner of country music.

You’ve mentioned Taylor Swift and I know you did a song when she released ‘Midnights’ called ‘Taylor Did’ – what’s your favourite of her songs?

Oh my gosh! That is way too hard of a question. I think my favourite album of hers, still to this day is RED…

Yep, same…

Really?! Same? A lot of people say 1989 or something else, but I love that album. And I remember distinctly going to Target the night it came out and buying the CD and going back home and playing it in my little CD player in my room. And that’s one of the few albums I know front to back, like song order, all of that. But I would say ‘All Too Well’ is probably in the top favourite Taylor Swift songs of all time. I love the 10 minute version.

You know, Liz Rose is a writer on that song too, and it’s so full circle because I grew up on songs like that, and now having her be somebody I’m collaborating with and writing with. She wrote ‘twenty something’ with me which is the title track to my album, so it’s all very full circle. I mean, if you had told 12 year old Alana that when that record was coming out, that I’d be writing with Liz and the writers for these things, I would have freaked out [laughs].

Speaking of ‘twenty something’, I got to hear it when you played it at the Songwriters show last night and it was brilliant…

Oh, thank you! That was such a fun night. So ‘twenty something’ is officially the first song I’ve ever played in the UK. That was my first show overseas ever so I wanted to make it really special, and that song means a lot to me.

I also wanted to ask about ‘shoulder to cry on’ which you put out just before coming over here – can you tell us a little bit more about that?

‘shoulder to cry on’, I wrote with Liz Rose, Trannie Anderson and AJ Pruiss. We went down to Liz’s beach house, and like I mentioned earlier I’m a beach girl, so this was my first real opportunity to write at the beach. It was the first day of the retreat and we went out to the patio, with the waves in the background, started messing around on guitar and it literally just came out. It’s just so hauntingly beautiful and it sounds like driving to me. It’s got this rhythmic quality to it. And we were sitting there and Trannie had this title, ‘shoulder to cry on’. We were like, “No way that hasn’t been written before”, just like going around, because it’s such a “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?”.

But this song hits home for me because I’m not a very outwardly emotional person. I’ve kind of noticed that most of my processing I do internally. I think that’s why I’m a songwriter too, because that was always my outlet. Writing songs was my therapy. But I’ve noticed a lot of my moments where I’m really emotional, breakups with guys, those breakdowns have happened a lot in the car for me. I don’t know what it is about it, I think it’s just there’s no-one around to see. It feels like a safe place, you’re just in your own little bubble. ‘shoulder to cry on’ is about that. It’s about all the nights that I spent just crying in my car and having that be my safe place, and it’s been really cool to hear the stories and how people have found themselves in that one. But I’m really happy it’s out in the world.

Tell me more about your songwriting process more widely. Do you have a typical approach to your writing or does it vary?

I think it tends to vary depending on the song. I’ve had songs that start with a melody. ‘twenty something’ was that way. I remember getting that idea and sitting down at my piano. A lot of times in the morning, whether I have a writing session or not, I kind of just sit down and just start messing around with chords, patterns. It just seems like my heart’s pouring out in that moment. Wherever my headspace is, it just kind of finds its way into the music.

With ‘twenty something’ I was just mumbling that melody and the lyrics kind of started falling out as I was singing to myself, and ‘twenty something’ kind of came through all of that. But sometimes I’ll have a title that I love, or a concept that I’m like, “This is weighing on me and I really need to write this”. So it just depends on the song, for sure. But I would say I’m a melody person. I love melody hooks. That’s kind of my sweet spot. I start there usually.

The other song I wanted to ask about was your collaboration with BRELAND on ‘For What It’s Worth’. How did that come about and what was it like to work with him?

Yeah. Oh my gosh, first of all I’m such a fan of BRELAND. He has obviously made such an impact over here. It’s so cool to see how the UK fanbase has been reacting to him. And even the song – I heard the other day that it’s on the radio over here, which is wild. It’s so cool to hear that.

But BRELAND reached out a few months ago and asked about this song. He wanted a feature on it and he was like, “You’re the first person that I thought of, it needs to be you”. Obviously I’ve written a lot about breaking up over the past couple of years [laughs]. That’s kind of been what I’ve been going through and processing, so when he reached out and I heard the song I saw myself in the song immediately. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I wished a guy had come and said what that song’s saying to me after a breakup. It’s a really mature, self-aware take on a breakup song.

And getting to write that second verse too, I feel like just took it to the next level. Being able to bring my own perspective into it was a lot of fun. I got in with Liz to write that second verse too. We got in, wrote the verse, he loved it, went in and recorded. I’m just so happy to get to collaborate with him. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and I think it just made a lot of sense.

I also wanted to ask about ‘you don’t deserve a country song’ – tell us a bit more about that one…

‘you don’t deserve a country song’, I wrote with Mitchell Tenpenny, Michael Whitworth, Geoff Warburton and Will Weatherley. And they all kind of felt like older brothers in the room that day. It’s just fun, the camaraderie that you find in the writing room. But that was actually the first time I’d met Mitchell too, that day, and that was a really cool way to kick off our relationship. He’s such a great songwriter in his own right. And that led into touring together and writing more together. Every single song we’ve written I’m putting out this year. That’s pretty rare and pretty special.

But I remember writing that song around the time that I remember finally being in a good place after my last relationship had ended. And at some point, I just looked up, and I looked at this incredible life that I was getting to build every single day around me, and I was like, “I’m not gonna let this person take any more than he has already taken from me”. No-one deserves to steal your happiness. And so I think the song was me kind of relearning to trust myself and gaining back that confidence.

There’s a moment in the bridge that’s really fun. I approached it as my chance to kind of say what I needed to say to him without having to see him face to face, so in that bridge there’s a line, “you don’t get to hear your name on the radio”. And when we were together, me and this guy, we talked about the fact that I’m a songwriter and I write songs about my life and I might put his name in a song one day or something. I don’t think this is the song that he expected to be in! [laughs] But it’s fun to play live because I tell that story and I think the fans all feel that empowerment with me and they have my back. It’s just always a really cool moment.

We’ve already mentioned touring – who have you learned the most from that you’ve been out on the road with?

Oh, wow. I don’t know if I can say I’ve learned the most from anyone specific. I think I’ve learned something different from each one. My first tour was with a band named LANY, a pop indie band, which was so much fun because I’ve been a fan of their music since their first EP. So that was very much a dream tour for me. It started in Nashville at Ascend Amphitheatre, so to get to play in my own back yard like that was really really cool. I think I learned a lot from that one. Coming out of Covid, I released so much music during Covid, so my first real touring live shows were like arenas and ampitheatres. So I think I just found a side of myself I didn’t really know was there. You can’t imagine what it’s gonna feel like to be on a stage that size and to feel the energy from fans like that.

And I think I realised more than ever that touring is so important to me. I mean, those live shows, those moments that I have with fans, that’s why I do what I do. And that’s a big reason why I’m here at C2C too. There’s pockets of those fans all over the world, and I never wanna be just stuck in a bubble or a box. And this gives me the opportunity to meet fans that I never would have had access to before. So it’s such a great way to kick off the journey that I hope I’m gonna have here in the UK and worldwide hopefully one day. But I think I learned from that tour just how important touring is for me and how much of a focus I wanna make the live show.

And Mitchell Tenpenny was a great person to tour with as well. We just had so much fun. It was such a family environment by the time that tour ended. He’s just… I think, from him, he has done that. He’s made touring such a focus for him. And you see his fans show up and sing every single song. Not just what’s on the radio, but the deep cuts. And I think that’s just so special and that’s the kind of fan base I wanna build too.

I also wanted to ask about your Coffee Shop Stops that you’ve been doing whilst you’ve been out on the road with Adam Doleac in the US. Is that something you’d want to do in the UK at some point?

Oh, my gosh. I would absolutely love to. I’ve visited some really cool coffee shops since I’ve been here. I was doing my research on the plane, finding all the cool cafes, so if you have any recs let me know! But it’s been fun because I’m such a coffee person. I need my caffeine every single morning. It’s been a fun way to get to explore these different cities I go to. I’m already gonna be getting a latte at some point in the day so I’m like, “Why not make this a thing where I can hang out one on one with people?” And it’s been some of my most favourite moments on tour, those conversations I get to have with people one on one. So I would love to do something in the UK, maybe next time I’m out. Hopefully soon. I cannot wait to get back out here. It’s not gonna be long.

What would be on your bucket list in terms of people you’d like to work with, places you’d want to play and things like that?

Ooh, bucket list… As far as people to work with, there’s a few that come to mind. Julia Michaels is up there for me. She’s such a great songwriter and artist, and it’s been cool to watch her start to have a footprint in country too with the song with Maren [‘Circles Around This Town’] and all of that. I’ve always been such a fan of how honest her lyrics are. That’s kind of how I approach my songwriting too lyrically, so I think we’d really hit it off. Sam Hunt is somebody that really shaped the artist I am too – ‘Montevallo’, when he released that album it changed my life. So I would love to get to collab with him at some point.

Dan + Shay is another one too. Even from a touring perspective I think that would be a lot of fun. I saw them at Bridgestone [Arena in Nashville] for the first time, and me and Shay have written a bunch. We wrote a song on this record together that’s coming out on ‘TWENTY SOMETHING’. And then a weird one is Remi Wolf. Are you familiar with her?

Not really, no…

She’s indie pop, but from a writing perspective – so whatever it is, maybe we’ll wind up on a festival together one day. I just love what she does so much. She creates from a place of freedom. There’s nobody else doing what she’s doing, and I think that’s badass.

What’s the one song you wish you could have written?

Oh-ho-ho-ho! That is so hard! There’s so many are coming to mind. I would say ‘Sand In My Boots’ is one that I keep coming back to, and I’m probably thinking about it because I was with Ashley [Gorley] yesterday playing the Songwriters show. Man, he played that one live and it sounds like a classic. It sounds like it was written years and years and years and years ago. But it’s still… every time I play it it just takes you on this journey. It’s a really beautiful song. And so it’s definitely one at the top of the list of things I wish I’d written.

We’ve talked about the album a bit already. Is that going to be the focus of your plans for this year?

There’s a lot of music coming, in the form of an album this year. It’s called ‘TWENTY SOMETHING’, it’s 18 songs. The past few years I’ve kind of been on this journey of self-discovery and getting to know myself, as you do in your 20s. It’s been a lot of messing things up, making mistakes, especially in the areas considering guys and love and all of that [laughs]. But I think all of that messing it up and the mistakes you make help you learn and start figuring things out, and eventually hopefully we can get things right. So I’m releasing this album in three parts, and looking forward to just taking fans on that journey with me. I think whether they’re in their 20s or not, we’ve all been through those phases at one point in our life or another. So I’m hoping people hear their story in it.

Alana Springsteen’s latest single, ‘shoulder to cry on’, is out now on Columbia Records/Sony Music Nashville.

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura has been writing for Entertainment Focus since 2016, mainly covering music (particularly country and pop) and television, and is based in South West London.

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