As you’ll read below, Alyssa Micaela says the release of her debut album, The Hard Way, was “liberating” for her.
After a long rollout, The Hard Way captures Micaela presenting the music that she wants to make: music that speaks to her and that she’s proud to stand behind. The 11 tracks that make up her debut effort showcase southern rock, traditional and straight ahead country sounds, all the while, capturing a bi-line of the Texas native’s life.
We chatted with Micaela all about The Hard Way, as well as her journey into performing, lessons learned, hitting the road and more!
Pro Country: Your bio mentions that you were initially thrust into music by your mom and that you were initially very shy. How long after you began performing did you begin to truly enjoy it and fall in love with it?
Alyssa Micaela: My mom had me join an after school program to bring me out of my shell. I was terrified; I really didn’t want any part of it. Once I got involved in it and saw the attention I got from singing and had people actually telling me I was good, I said, “I love this, I’m going to do this.” [laughs].
PC: When did that love for music translate into realizing you wanted to, and could, pursue music as a career?
AM: I’ve loved music and performing since I was in elementary school, but I don’t think I really started taking it seriously until I was a teenager. It was around then that I knew music was 100% what I wanted to do with my life. During my high school years, it became my main focus.
PC: Your bio also mentions a chance encounter with hit songwriter Liz Rose, who has taken you under her wing and worked with you for the last 15 years. What has it meant to have her in your corner for so long and to have the belief from someone who has had her level of success in the industry?
AM: Knowing Liz has been such a blessing. It’s crazy to think back on meeting her when I was 15 years-old. I’ve known her for literally half of my life; she’s been a part of everything. She’s the reason I moved to Nashville. I don’t think I would’ve done all of this if it hadn’t been for her.
PC: To that point, what emotions came with packing up and moving to Nashville to give your all to pursuing music?
AM: I think because I did it so young, I was pretty fearless. I just went for it, I didn’t even think twice; I couldn’t wait to move to Nashville. Now, as an adult, if you told me I was going to do that, I’d say “What? Are you serious? No!” [laughs]. It was way easier at that young age than it would be now. I was naïve; you have stars in your eyes and just want to live your dreams.
PC: Your debut single, “Getaway Car,” earned millions of streams across platforms. What was it like to be releasing music for the first time and to see the way it was being received and to tangibly be able to see that success?
AM: It was so exciting! There were pros and cons to that, because that is still my highest-streaming song. That set the bar really high for me, and I have yet to beat it. In a way, it makes you think, “oh man, I did that right away, and now I can’t beat it,” but to come out of the gate with that was really cool. When you’re young and just getting started, it was motivating.
PC: As a young artist releasing music for the first time, do you put pressure on yourself with subsequent releases to that success happen again?
AM: I used to. I’ve had to stop doing that because it makes you set really high expectations, and I don’t like to be disappointed. Now, I’ve had to change my mindset. I know I’m doing this because it’s what I love to do, and I know that there are people out there that are going to relate to the music and are responding to it. That’s really all that matters.
PC: You’ve been releasing songs from your new album, The Hard Way, since 2020. As release day was approaching, how much were you looking forward to being able to present these songs as a full package and have the album out into the world?
AM: I’m so excited to finally have it out as a whole. It’s been a slow burn releasing a song at a time because of the process being delayed. It’s really rewarding knowing that it’s finally out and that it’s a whole project that you can listen to from start to finish.
PC: You’ve mentioned that in the leadup to The Hard Way, you had a mindset shift towards focusing exclusively on writing and recording the music you want to make and worrying less about commercial success. How freeing is it to be in that headspace and to be able to fully be the artist you want to be?
AM: It’s so liberating. I’m so thankful that I came into that and had the realization of wanting to write music that I wanted to sing and music that made me proud. All it did was give me a huge confidence boost. I feel like I grew so much through it, and in the end, I came out with a product that I can be really proud of.
PC: You had the strong streaming success with “Getaway Car” seven years ago, but what has it meant to you to see the streaming success that songs like “Hell in a Handbag” and “Girls Like Me” have had given the approach you took to the album? Does it make it more validating?
AM: Absolutely. With “Getaway Car,” I was writing about what I was experiencing in my life at the time, and people related to it. Here I am, years later, still writing about what I’m going through in my own life, and people are still relating to it. I’m happy that I stuck to writing what I know and singing songs about who I am.
PC: “If Texas Had a Heart” is our favorite song on The Hard Way and is a song you co-wrote with Ben Williams and Chris Rafetto. Can you talk about what inspired the song and how it came together in the room?
AM: Being from Texas, I’ve always said that Texas is home, no matter how long I live anywhere else. When people ask me where I’m from, I always say that I live in Nashville, but I’m from Texas [laughs]. I was writing with Chris and Ben, and Ben brought the title in. The title was all he had, but I knew we were going to write it. I’ve been in Nashville for almost 12 years, and I’ve got really homesick a lot and sometimes wondered to myself why I moved in the first place. This song came from such a real place, and I’m thankful Ben brought that title in.
PC: “Jealous of the Birds” is another one of our favorites on The Hard Way and serves as the album closer and talks about feeling caged in. How true does that song ring for you when you wrote it?
AM: When that song was written, it’s exactly how I was feeling. I was in a dark place and feeling very anxious, so that song was very real and very vulnerable for me in that moment. It’s really cool now to see how different my life is from when I wrote that song. It gives me so much hope for how much better things can get. I think everybody has felt the feeling this song gives at one point or another.
PC: What is it about you that makes you comfortable being vulnerable like that and dredging up those feelings?
AM: I think it’s just growing up. There was a time that I didn’t want to show a vulnerable side at all, but as I’ve grown up, I’m proud of it. I’m proud of all of the years, time and struggles, because it’s all a part of my journey. It’s made me who I am; it’s made me tougher.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from The Hard Way after listening all the way through?
AM: I hope it puts them in a great mood. I hope they can crack open a beer and play the whole album start to finish and have a good time. I hope that they feel like they know me afterwards. I hope they feel like we’re old friends or that I’m somebody they want to be friends with.
PC: You mentioned your journey earlier. In the seven years since you released “Getaway Car,” what do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in that time?
AM: It’s been a long road. A lot of times, artists like myself move to Nashville and we think things are going to happen a lot quicker than they do. You go through hard times and disappointment, but you grow through it. I think that’s what this journey is all about.
PC: Along with releasing and promoting The Hard Way, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
AM: I’m focusing on playing as many shows as I can; especially Texas shows and getting back to my home state so I can play for my people!
*Alyssa’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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