[Interview] Alanna Royale Stands Up for Immigration Rights in Nashville
We’ve all seen the marches and protests led by women since President Donald Trump took the office. The Nasty Women reference is from a debate earlier in 2016 where Trump called Hillary Clinton a "Nasty Woman." Nashville’s own Nasty Women got together to organize an event at The Basement East to raise money for Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. The event featured an art gallery curated by Gallery Luperca, and then was followed by a concert, spoken word showcase, and additional poetry performances organized and headlined by Alanna Royale. The live performance featured local artists from several genres and backgrounds. They even had a performer from the Middle East, Ahmed Alzouabi and Sons, which brought me back to my college days as an Arabic major. The bar featured drinks with name variations of the word pussy to guide us into our journey of being Nasty Women. I had three to make sure I was on the right path.
Artists told personal stories of immigration to the United States followed by songs they personally wrote. Every performer was a different genre and somehow it all fit together. Back in the green room, Alanna put on her makeup while coordinating musicians and getting ready for her own performance that would bring the night to a close.
When it was her time, she walked onto the stage with a purpose in black pants and a sheer black top with gold sequins sparkling in the light. There she stood, a woman among a band of men, and they rocked it. She performed “Animal” with a vengeance. Alanna took a moment to send us all on a journey of equality. She took a moment to remind us that we are all people before jumping into performing the band's music that has not yet been released. Her voice drew us in with its soulful tone and everyone vibed with the new music. Not once did she miss a note and her performance was phenomenal. She inspired everyone on stage and she inspired me during our interview
Are you the organizer of this event?
I am a co-producer. That’s sort of the title I have given myself. This even is sort of a lot of efforts from a lot of different kinds of people coming together. KT and Sara from Gallery Luperca came to me and just asked if I would be interested in performing and emceeing. Then it was like, well they want to have a music aspect and they were like we don’t know shit about throwing a show. We can put a gallery show together. We know how to curate an art show. So, there was just a lot of different pieces of this puzzle and everyone kind of played to their own strengths and then I was like, 'Okay, I’ll just help you book it. Who will I get to play it? 'Then it was like this morning people were STILL hitting me up. Can I perform? Can I donate something for the raffle? Can I do this or that, and it was just crazy.
How did you end up getting involved with Nasty Women?
Yeah, well, I will say it’s funny. I’ve talked to some other women about this. I think the minute that Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman on TV and he used that term to sort of label her and paint her as someone who was not to be respected or not to be taken seriously because she had stood up to him and she didn’t play into his bullying tactics. Whenever he shot at her she shot right back. He tried to play that as a weakness and he tried to play that as a character flaw. That’s not uncommon in this world for a loud woman, a woman of conviction to be tossed aside as a nasty person, or angry, or whatever. Like you need to calm down or whatever and it’s like they try to take your courage and your sense of self and turn it into something chaotic and stupid or ugly. I think, and I have talked to a lot of women, and I think the minute he said that he dawned this whole movement of not only women, but people who know that feeling of being sort of shushed and swept under the rug, for whatever reason, by oppressive people. As soon as he said that I was like, 'Well, I guess I’m a nasty woman. I guess that’s just the way it’s gonna be.' So, I guess from that moment that’s how I got involved.
What is it like being a solo female lead in a band of men? Is it difficult?
You know what? The thing, and I was actually going to address this on stage too, is that for me I stand in front of those guys on stage. My ability to be the boss and be the front person doesn’t diminish them as men. That’s a common misconception is that giving someone strength takes strength away from you. Giving someone power takes power away from you. There is room for everyone at the table, you know what I mean? So, the guys who literally stand behind me every day, they’re secure in their manhood, they’re secure in their place in the band; they’re secure in their place in the world. Giving me power and looking to me as the leader doesn’t mean that they’re insignificant or they don’t matter it just means that one person is the leader. No one questions it if the man is a leader; you know what I mean, because that is a natural leadership role. It’s really funny I was reading this thing the other day that was like –Imagine a pilot- And you just imagined a white man. You know what I mean? I was like oh shit. Even in my mind I did. Why? You give leadership roles; it’s not uncommon to give leadership roles to people like that. So, being in the band I don’t ever feel like I’m a woman leading a band. I feel like I’m a person leading a band of other people. I never feel that way. I also have young women who come to me being like I hate being the one to say something because then I’m nagging. Cause then I’m annoying. And I’m irritating. That I’m bitchy. Just by saying, 'Hey please don’t do this or instead of playing that note can you play this note? Or Let’s try it this way.' That’s something that you face every day. I never really feel that way in my band, but I’m very lucky. I’m very lucky. Not every woman in any position is lucky to feel that way.
On another note, the last album you released was Achilles in 2014. Do you have anything new that is set to be released this year?
We’re gonna play, I think, all new songs tonight. We’ve been recording. We were recording all summer. We’ve been mixing. Depending on how certain things play out we’re sort of in the middle of that situation where we don’t know where it’s going to land, but I really hope that by the late spring/early summer the record will be out. That’s my hope But who knows. Sometimes you’re not the master of your own destiny. Sometimes someone else is. It’s gotta find it’s channel. It sounds amazing and we had a really good time recording it. We pushed ourselves and I feel like I significantly, we all significantly grew. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had working on a record, for sure.
I know that you’ve worked with several talented musicians on past records, such as on Achilles. Who would you do a collaboration with if you had a choice?
It’s so très. I feel like this is something that a lot of people would say, but I will say, Kendrick Lamar. Only because I still listen to To Pimp A Butterfly and get fucked up about it. I still hear that record and it’s still brand new to me every day. That record it speaks to me over and over and over, and that record is deeply rooted in the 70s and 80s psych-funk and jazz and stuff that he was raised on, like by his parents, and that’s the kind of stuff I was raised on, and a lot of heavy, grimy, freak funk. Okay well, maybe then Thundercat who produced some stuff on the record. Maybe Thundercat. Let’s fuse them into one person. Yeah, let’s make them one person and say that that’s my answer.
Aside from performing, what is your favorite thing about being on tour?
The food. Eating. When you go to a city and everyone’s like you gotta eat at this restaurant, or you gotta eat this type of food. This is the food that everyone in town eats or it’s like a big thing culturally or whatever. Like you know when you go into the Midwest and you come to the south, hot chicken, or barbeque, or whatever. When I was in Dallas, I was in this neighborhood that was a huge Asian population and I had amazing Vietnamese food. There was a whole string of restaurants all in one area. I had barbeque at Oklahoma Joes in Kansas City, and that was like one of the best barbeque places in the country. There were Asian tourists in Kansas City. And I was like yes, literally to eat barbeque. The first time I went to Wisconsin and obviously I was like I’m gonna eat cheese curds, but I had never been to Wisconsin before and I got a vacuum sealed pack of jalapeño cheese curds, and just ate them with my bare fingers like a gross person. They were like wet on the inside. I was like I am a gross person, but this is very good. So I always look forward to it. There used to be a place in St. Louis that we had some super fans who were gonna come meet us in St. Louis and bring us food. In St. Louis they make this thing called gooey butter cake? So, they brought us a bunch of that. There was a place called Thai Pizza and it was literally a pizza place run by Thai people and they turned Thai dishes into pizzas. So like red curry sauce with scallion, and potato, and prawn, and it was so fucking good. It was so good and they went out of business. So these people tried to go get us Thai Pizza and they were like Snapchatting us pictures of the Yelp account like ‘It’s closed!’ It’s always interesting when people are like you gotta go to this place and then you go and you’re like that sucked. That was gross. Whatever. And you’re like that’s what the people in this city were really offering you. So, I think it’s pretty fun. And you never know sometimes people are so psyched that you’re a band and they give you stuff cause they think you’re like cool. They don’t know that we’re not cool. So, thanks for the Blondies.
Check out Alanna's tour dates here.
Photos by Garry Walden for Bullet Music