Posted On 05 Dec 2014
Tag: About Me, Alicia Witt, Anyway, Ben Folds, Billy Joel, Boogie Woogie, Christmas At Cartwrights, Cold Turkey, Consolation Prize, David Lynch, Down, Dune, ELTON JOHN, Friday Night Lights, fun., FX, Hallmark, HBO, Hollywood, Hotel Cafe, Hotel Room, House of Lies, I'm Not Ready For Christmas, Justified, Kaumyar, Last Holiday, Law And Order, Live at Rockwood, Mr. Hollands Opus, Nashville, Nat King Cole, New Word, Noshville, Sara Bareilles, Shawn Colvin, Showtime, The Librarians, TNT, Tom Waits, TONE-z, Twin Peaks, Two Weeks Notice, Urban Legend, Vanilla Sky, West Hollywood
Alicia Witt in an incredibly recognizable actress. Here are just a few of the films and TV shows that she has been in: Twin Peaks, Fun, Mr. Hollands Opus, Urban Legend, Vanilla Sky, Last Holiday, Two Weeks Notice, Friday Night Lights, Justified, Law And Order and much much more.
Along with being in the movie business, Alicia is also an accomplished pianist, songwriter and singer. She has been amping up her musical career in the past couple of years. Her next album will be released in March 2015 and it was produced by Ben Folds.
A couple weeks ago, Alicia performed a short but very sweet set at the West Hollywood venue, Hotel Cafe. The intimate space provided the perfect environment for the show. She played a handful of songs off her forthcoming album and a few brand new ones as well.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for All Access! Where does this interview find you today?
I’m home in LA, I just got back from Nashville last night.
Can you remember the moment that you wanted to make that transition to act AND sing? Had you always wanted to be a singer?
I’ve been a pianist my whole life – I actually played background music for a living for years as a teenager to support myself, before I was making enough as an actor. But I always wanted to do exactly what I’m doing now and I always wrote songs and sang them- just not in public. I finally got to a point about 8 years ago where I came to the obvious realization that, if I wanted to share my music, the only way that was going to happen was if I was brave enough to start playing gigs.
You’ve been acting since you were 7 years old. How do you think your acting career has helped your music career?
They’ve helped each other, for sure. Both are equally important to me and equally fulfilling to me, so i feel like since I’ve started making music more a part of my life, it’s made me a better actor too and definitely, being an actor has helped people find my music simply because I’ve already had a career in that, so it’s helpful in that way. But I also know that that’s only the initial curiosity factor- the great thing about this is that when you’re putting your music out there, it’s such a personal thing. People will like it or not and that’s not really up to you as the artist.
“It feels so good to play shows now and know that people are mostly there for the music and not just to check out an actor they may have seen.”
So many ways- but the biggest is probably just the confidence. Going out there and knowing from experience that I can do this and that I know how to deliver a song in a way that people will listen to. When i started this out, I was trembling with panic before each show!
I just read a few fun facts about you: You played the piano over the credits on an episode of Twin Peaks?! How did that happen? And you actually learned to play the clarinet for your role in Mr. Hollands Opus! That’s incredible! Can you talk about that experience?
Thank you! Well- my first movie role was in David Lynch’s Dune, so I already knew him. The role I played was written for me, and it was his way of helping me get back in the door since I’d just moved to LA at the time. I then worked with him again in Hotel Room on HBO a few years later. He had me playing piano as the character and I can’t remember how I ended up playing “Boogie Woogie” but I did, and he decided to film it and use it over the end credits!
And yes the clarinet- as a pianist it was certainly easier to pick up but they gave me lessons for a month. Of course, my character was supposed to be quite bad at it so then after learning how to play it well, I had to learn how to squeak on cue so I seemed worse than I was for the scenes where she couldn’t play the piece yet.
Let’s talk about you working with Ben Folds. How did that relationship come about in the first place and what was it like working with him on your forthcoming album?
I met him in Nashville when I was coming through town in 2012 for my ‘Live at Rockwood’ release tour. I ran into him at a deli called Noshville in fact. It will always be one of the greatest honors I’ve had- that he responded to my music and writing the way that he did. We’ve written a few songs together, one of which he has recorded and one of which is a duet that we wrote for the end credits of my film Cold Turkey, released last fall. (it appears on this new album too.) Working with him as producer on this album was really something else. He’s incredibly gifted at hearing a song and knowing what best to do with it. Ben also played almost all the other instruments on these tracks (except piano, which I played). They don’t get better than him in terms of pure musical genius and I couldn’t be more honored that he lent a little of that to me for this album and put so much time and detail into it.
Speaking of your forthcoming album (to be released in March 2015), what can we expect from it? What are some of your favorite songs on this collection?
“Consolation Prize” is definitely one of my favorites. I plan to release it as a single ahead of the album release and at this time of year, “I’m not Ready For Christmas” is a big favorite! I never feel ready for Christmas and it comes earlier every year it seems. I also love “About Me”, “New Word” and “Down”, which is a co-write with T.O.N.E-z, who I met thru doing Justified on FX last year. He co-wrote the theme song to that, and i’m extremely proud and excited about our collaboration on this track.
Where can fans see you on the big screen next?
My next appearances are on the TNT show The Librarians, which airs this month or next; My new Hallmark Christmas film Christmas At Cartwrights, in which I am actually playing Santa for a good portion of the film!! I also just finished shooting an arc on the Showtime series House of Lies which airs in February.
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands or singers have consistently inspired you and your music though the years?
There are so many! Elton John, Billy Joel, Tom Waits, Shawn Colvin, Pink, Sara Bareilles are only a few. Also all the big band crooners like Nat King Cole, he’s one of my favorites.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place with you (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
I always think of the time that I was playing in Denver and my drummer, Kaumyar, came back up on stage and somehow almost knocked the entire drum kit over! It didn’t help that I had just announced he’d gone to do shots – I was joking but the timing was perfect.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
The biggest honor is when someone comes up to me at a show and says that a song I wrote perfectly describes something they’ve been going through or have experienced, and that my music made them feel less alone. I think the most incredible thing is when music has the power to unite a room full of people in that way, especially when you write something that may mean one thing to you, and something completely different to another listener.
Alicia Witt’s “Anyway” Video: