–This San Diego native songstress' music reminds one of her home city, with melodies that move like waves and lyrics that narrate life and love's impossible to escape experiences. Alyssa DeGraff, better known as Gardienne, is shaking up the indie pop-rock music scene with nothing but a bare heart and honesty.
Who is Alyssa DeGraff and then how did she become Gardienne?
Alyssa DeGraff is a dreamer who one day decided she should take her dreams seriously because life is just too darn short to play it safe!
(Ok, third person talking aside) I've always been passionate about singing and music. I have vivid memories of singing solos in church as early as age 4, and I even remember being intensely driven to compete for that front spot.
When I first started recording, I thought it would be fun to use a moniker instead of just my name. I was brainstorming ideas one day and the word guardian just popped into my head. I fell in love with the French spelling of it because the word itself leaves such a firm and masculine impression, yet it looks so feminine. This goes along with the vibe of my music, which tends to have a sweet edginess to it. Having grown up with brothers, something in me has always been driven to, "keep up with the boys," and stylistically, I wanted to be more than another female singer/songwriter who goes by her first and middle name.
If your music could be the soundtrack to any movie, what would it be?
I'd lace my music in with a movie along the lines of Inception, Garden State or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now, I fully realize that those are three VERY different movies. But I love to write music that is as raw and emotional as it is fantastical and quirky. For example, my song The Garden is essentially about betrayal, yet it explores that theme in a way that jumps between allegorical storytelling and more personal emotive lyrics. I think my love for psychology and understanding people in a deeper way reveals itself in both my movie and music propensities :)
Outside of other musicians, who or what inspires you daily?
Emotions; I'm fascinated by how so much of our life experience is led by this built-in inner reality. I write about my own emotional experiences as a means to process them and sort of "externalize" them so that I can move towards a sense of understanding and closure. As I began showing my most raw and vulnerable songs to friends, I found that they still connected with these lyrics that I thought were so personal and unique.
Tell us about the new EP Walking Trees. How it came together, who you worked with, how long it took to complete, etc.
The Walking Trees EP came together mostly of because my friend, and producer, Josh Scott. He heard the songs I'd written and offered up his creative expertise and use of his beautiful new studio here in Kansas City. In January of 2013, we began referencing artists like Feist, Kate Bush and Radiohead to fashion arrangements for these songs. I didn't want my music to be constrained by genre or me being a female singer/songwriter, and he helped to really push me creatively. The use of Scott's analog gear and vintage instruments really gave the album this organic rock band vibe.
Early on, I stumbled across multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Larson, who has worked with bands like Sucre, MUTEMATH and Sleeping at Last, and I knew that his stellar string arrangements would communicate the raw emotion and vulnerable beauty I wanted in my music. Jeremy really nailed it on every song he played on, but he particularly brought to life my opening track Man On the Moon.
From pre-production to the actual release date, I spent about a year working on Walking Trees. In hindsight, I'm glad to have taken the time and done things right. There is so much to learn beyond the actual recording process–setting deadlines, collaborating with people, marketing–I feel so grateful to have learned so much and I'm eager to work on my next project with the knowledge I have gained from this one.
Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?
Oh boy, I'm going to have to cheat and throw out a few names here! Among Savages would be one–Peter Barbee's an amazing songwriter and his arrangements have really inspired me. Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic is a songwriting/production genius who I would be ecstatic to work with. Also, Son Lux, and I think he should do some remixes for me (hint, hint.)
Where do you see Gardienne going in the next five years?
I've found that working in the studio is where I really come alive. So right now, the dream is to continue writing and recording music and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. The music industry is continuing to shift so quickly these days that I feel like the models of marketing, touring, getting a record deal, etc. are being tested. It will be interesting to see what even a few years does, but for now I'm committed to working hard, making great music and not being too much of a hipster :)
–interview curated by BIANCA BETANCOURT