Alicia Witt

You definitely know Alicia Witt - she's been on the silver and small screen for over 20 years, including 1984's "Dune" and in 1994 with the lead role in "Fun" - a  disturbed teenager portrayal that garnered her the Special Jury Recognition Award at the Sundance Festival and a Best Actress nod at the Independent Spirit Awards. She also played Zoey Woodbine, daughter of Cybill Shepherd in Cybill's sitcom until 1998. She's been in a ton of other shows, from Law & Order to Ally McBeal, Friday Night Lights and the Sorpranos... But you'd notice her even if you didn't catch her on these legendary programs. The lady is beautiful. Really beautiful. And obviously, ridiculously talented. However, even with all of her acting success, Witt craves more. And that's what brings her to PEV today.
Alicia says "I’ve been acting my whole life and as much as I love it, I’m used to it by now... the thrill of playing in a new city or sharing a brand new song with an audience, which I try to do at every show, is still so new and so exhilarating." You heard right; she's taken to the stage with a new purpose, and a self-titled EP. We asked her about this effort - she says "Lyrics are very important to me, and the way in which music pairs with them to get under your skin. I’d describe my music as piano driven pop/rock in the classic style of Elton John/Billy Joel/Tom Waits with modern influences like Sara Bareilles, John Mayer, Ray Lamontagne, Sheryl Crow and Train." It gets better - she covers one of my favorite songs of all time on the 4-song collection, Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al". Classic. While you need to check out the EP, Witt still manages to handle acting and singing together. Her role in "Peep Show" was spotlighted this week and she's even writing a new screenplay as you read this, most likely while on location currently, shooting a new movie in Oklahoma. As well, she can be found in "Cowboys and Angels", along with a few others that she's already wrapped up. Busy, right? Well, thankfully, she found time for us.  Obviously there's much more to learn, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ's.

XXQs: Alicia Witt

PensEyeView.com (PEV): A singer/songwriter and talented actor, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others?

Alicia Witt (AW): Lyrics are very important to me, and the way in which music pairs with them to get under your skin. I’d describe my music as piano driven pop/rock in the classic style of Elton John/Billy Joel/Tom Waits with modern influences like Sara Bareilles, John Mayer, Ray Lamontagne, Sheryl Crow, Train, etc.

PEV: what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

AW: I loved Elton John, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond... all those singer-songwriters of the ‘70’s that were still playing on the radio so much when I was growing up... but I also loved the big band music of the ‘30s and ‘40s, and the great singers of the ‘50s and ‘60s like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, etc. That was the music my dad listened to and I fell in love with it.

PEV: What was it like for you when you first started out in the entertainment business – before you were able to be on TV and have your music heard?

AW: This new career is beyond thrilling for me. I’ve always wanted to share my music and play gigs and do this for real but it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that the songs started pouring out of me finally. The fact that now I’m playing gigs across the country and people are discovering my music and relating to it and coming out to hear me play is a dream come true, and I’m still only just getting started. I’ve been acting my whole life and as much as I love it, I’m used to it by now... the thrill of playing in a new city or sharing a brand new song with an audience, which I try to do at every show, is still so new and so exhilarating.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

AW: For me, that happened 4 years ago when my best friend was over and asked me to play her a few of the songs I told her I’d been suddenly writing a lot of recently. When I finished, I turned to her and she was just looking at me, and she said, ‘You need to play these somewhere other than just your living room.’ and that was really the first time I thought maybe I should try sharing them.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from an Alicia Witt performance?

AW: Hopefully, something that moves them in some way... songs that are about something and that make you feel good (I hope!). And you won’t hear any lyrics that are there just because they rhyme. 

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage or in front of a camera, to perform?

AW: On stage as a musician and in front of the camera are two very different things for me. When I’m in front of a camera, I’m usually playing a role, which is it’s own thrill... I get to hide behind a character and bring out parts of me on the sly. But as a musician it’s all me. When I get on stage I am so excited to share that part of myself and look out at people listening... it’s a special kind of connection and I don’t think it could ever get old for me.

PEV: Any preshow rituals before you take the stage or do you just wing it?

AW: I always hand write my set list and think about what each song means to me at that show.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

AW: I feel like I’m really living life on my terms these days and that brings a lot of highs and a lot of lows... inspiration enough for more songs than I could ever have time to write.

PEV: Tell us about your recently released self-titled EP. What can fans expect from this work?

AW: The first track, ‘Anyway’, is a very personal story about the end of a toxic relationship and the freedom and relief that comes when you get out the other side of it. ‘Blind’ is about the feeling when nothing’s gone wrong and yet you know it’s time to walk away. ‘Taken’ is a love song. And I’m very proud of my cover of ‘You can call me al’; you’ll probably either love it or hate it.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

AW: Not really. Sometimes, a lyric isn’t completing itself and I need to take a step back and look at it the next day. Sometimes it takes longer than that. I recently completed a song I started a year ago.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Alicia Witt?

AW: I’m frighteningly good at Galaga.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

AW: It actually supported me when I first moved out to Los Angeles to be an actor; instead of waiting tables I played piano in restaurants and lounges. So in a way it was my first career. Of course I wasn’t playing my own music then.

PEV: What one word best describes Alicia Witt?

AW: Free.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

AW: There is no worst part! Looking forward to my first real tour, I’ve still yet to make one. My upcoming Denver day of rock date (May 28) followed by my first Chicago show (May 29) mark my first mini-tour with my band. I can’t wait to be stuffed into a sweaty tour bus or van for a few weeks straight! Bring it on.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

AW: Everywhere that I haven’t played. It’s such an honor to hear from people around the country and around the world who want me to play in their city. I’m especially looking forward to playing London for the first time, that will probably happen later this year... it’s one of my favorite cities and I have a lot of friends there who are like family, as well as a lot of people there who are familiar with my music, for some reason.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

AW: My friends and my parents are my very biggest fans. I’ve never played in Worcester (my hometown) but I’ve played in Boston a few times, which is the closest I’ve come. It’s been awesome. 

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

AW: Aside from working as an actor, I’ve also just completed my first screenplay... working on getting that produced at the moment. In terms of spare time... there isn’t much, but the idea that my music is even a career now and not just a dream and something I love to do makes any time I spend working on it feel like a break. I also have 3 rescue animals- 2 dogs and a cat- and any time I get to spend with them is a gift.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

AW: Some of the great local artists that I love are Bleu, Taylor Locke and The Roughs, and Everybody Else - they are about to release their next album and I can’t wait to hear it. Loved their last one a few years back.

PEV: So, what is next for Alicia Witt?

AW: More, more, more.

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