Los Angeles is home to 4 million people, each with their own story and outlook on life. For many, we may find some inspirational insight in our yoga classes, in conversations with our local barista, with our relatives, or maybe on sappy instagram accounts. For Alicia Blue, she found the biggest light of inspiration within her friend and fellow Angeleno artist, Lauren Ruth Ward, and she put all the energy exuded by Ward into a groovy tune that embodies the beauty of the city that so many of us call home.
“Queen of Echo Park” is a sonic nod to the early 60’s and 70’s in Los Angeles, a sound we associate with psychedelic parties or flowers weaved into braided hair. The butterfly feeling that the song sparks in listeners is due to that same feeling felt by Alicia when she wrote the song. Alicia, like many, began songwriting to put any and all dark feelings at ease through words. That said, “Queen of Echo Park” was created with the intent to unearth joy instead. The result was a serotonin spiking song speaking to the strength that both Alicia and Lauren hold as women who live their lives with a sense of fearlessness.
Read our interview with Alicia below as she opens up about acceptance, interpersonal passion, and some LA cliches that she’ll defend to the end. Alicia may have crowned Lauren Ruth Ward the Queen of Echo Park, but with all the sweet 70’s soul in Alicia’s voice, you can’t help but think of her as regal as well.
You spoke about writing this song with joy rather than sadness. When I write personal essays, I too have trouble writing about light times over dark. Why do you think this is?
I think most artists are trying to release a certain chaos 99% of the time. Pain, blues, depression, trauma. Once it’s out, there’s a clarity, a freedom. But it always comes from underneath at the start, and that’s where it’s dark.
What was it like to write this song?
Ironically there was such a big release writing this song. This person had such a big impact on myself, and my local community, that it felt like I was etching a piece of history into stone. Almost like a journalist would document an event. I actually cried while writing it. And that’s because as a woman, with my life experiences up until that point, I had never been empowered the way the subject of this song empowered me. I needed everyone to know. That feeling comes along rarely, but I had it when I wrote Incognito.
The song is about Lauren Ruth Ward, a fellow LA artist and friend of yours. What was it about her that led you to write about her?
I was telling Jordan my producer over dinner, she’s unapologetic. That’s it right there. She has a wholeness about her, a self-acceptance that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in someone before. Let alone a woman. And the crazy part is she shares this with anyone willing to accept it. Hence “she don’t judge as she resurrects, all the color buried in my chest” haha. My color, my demons, my divinity, and everything in between. It’s all accepted, and all beautiful. Especially my womanhood. I knew this truth before I encountered her, but it was dormant. Waiting to erupt. And she was like a match that lit the fire inside. Having grown up the youngest of 6 brothers, sisterhood was not only not experienced, but I wasn’t seen. Not understood. My intellect and intuition and sensitivity not quite valid. And of course it wasn’t seen, we are barely scratching the surface of unearthing this “other” way of making sense of the world. Heart centered, less violent, intuitive. That’s my rant for today haha.
You often write about social issues in your songs. Do you ever feel pressure to speak out about issues being that you gave yourself the platform of performing songs that you wrote?
I never feel pressure from the outside. The pressure I feel is the one that’s buried inside me waiting to speak on what I know must be said. And it’s not really “pressure” as most people know it (in a negative sense). It’s more like a natural phenomenon, the way the lava inside a volcano rises and eventually exits.
The song has 1970’s Laurel Canyon parties at Mama Cass’ vibes. What is it about Los Angeles that gives it such a strong connection with music do you think?
Los Angeles, famous for being the jungle that it is, also has a golden softness to it. It’s almost a spiritual coolness if you will. Cool as in not aggressive or antagonistic, cool as in soothing. It’s almost like, if New York is masculine, then LA is feminine. It’s the Yin. And with this yin comes the opportunity for new ideas to be seeded. That’s exactly what happened in Laurel canyon. The first time real poetry was put into pop music, and it worked! It takes sensitive people to do that. Right now I’m surrounded with some of the most intelligent, hard working, but also emotionally intuitive people I’ve ever met. Many are women, but men too. I’d say my entire band is that. I feel like I met the best men in LA haha.
If you could define Echo Park as a genre of music, what would it be?
Wow that’s tough. It’s always been saturated with indie rock to me, the kind that goes in a million different directions. But right now, there’s definitely a nod to the past happening, and I don’t even think it’s a trend, more like a natural evolution. Returning to the golden age of music. Ideals and lyrics from the 60’s-70’s soul to singer songwriter from that era. I’d also say women are dominating it right now. Dominating the east side.
Are you from LA originally?
I was born in Pomona, CA which is an hour east of the city. But I’d say yes, because I’ve been here quite some time.
What are your favorite and least favorite LA cliches that you have found to be true?
My favorite cliche is that it’s always sunny, and sorta dreamy. Because it’s quite true. I hate that eating healthy and good energy (they say vibes usually) are still cliche to so many people. It’s like, you are what you eat and your energy does affect everything around you! I think we are moving away from these ideals being seen as vain and “dumb”. But I still hear it from so many people.
What are you going to do to celebrate this release?
I performed a single release show with my band yesterday, Jan 30 at Good Folk, alongside Ruth (Laurens folk project), Her Crooked Heart, Abby Litman and Cunao.
CONNECT WITH ALICIA BLUE
photos / Tammie Valer
story / Paulette Ely