Aleisha Simpson is the lead singer for the band Heart Avail; here is a link to their self titled album:
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
A: I’ve known I wanted to be a musician since the 8th grade. I was in choir and was being tested on some music theory. I started singing and the whole class went quiet and my music teacher put me in the select choir that day. I was a really shy kid so getting that kind of attention and realizing I was really good at something, changed my life.
Q: Why heavy metal?
A: I think we are considered more symphonic metal then heavy since we have the operatic vocals instead of screaming. Honestly I always figured I would end up doing music like Sarah McLachlan or Sarah Brightman. I play piano and that’s how I began composing music. But once I met Greg, I knew I had finally found my nitch. Greg writes really symphonic and complex pieces that somehow are perfectly fit to my voice and range.
Since our first attempt at songwriting I knew I never wanted to go back to just being a classically trained singer. I love the challenge that each new piece presents and makes me go outside of my musical box.
Q: Who are your biggest musical influences and how can we hear it in your music?
A: Heart Avail is very heavily influenced by European rock. Bands like Nightwish and WithinTemptation are some of our biggest influences as they also do really strong operatic vocals with a heavy symphonic instrumental sound. The U.S. hasn’t quite adopted this form of music yet with the exception of Evanescence. When I heard my first Evanescence song, I was instantly hooked. Greg and I defintiley follow the style of our fellow female fronted European bands and since we intend on traveling there we think this works out just fine for us J
Q: What kinds of life experiences do you like to write about?
A: Oh gosh, we have had so many. Honestly some of my favorite experiences are meeting other bands and our fans. This last tour we did for New Year’s Eve was one of our most memorable for sure. We met up with LaRissa Vienna and the Strange, another female fronted rock band that I had been trying to get together with for a year. They got signed with our management company to which I was thrilled and so we finally got to meet these guys on December 30. And it was amazing; the bands had instant chemistry with each other and were totally supportive of every member. It’s so rare that you meet bands that not only have talent but are humble and in that band, we found both. The bands danced with each other, stayed up together, had breakfast in the morning, we all talked to our fans and treated them in a thankful manor and just showed such a sense of comradery that I left tour with a full heart. Our New Year’s Eve was brought in with style and full celebration together and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend it.
That’s just one of the many experiences but it’s the one freshest in my mind and honestly one of the best moments of my musical career.
Q: Who is your biggest musical influence and how can we hear it in your music?
A: I think this is a repeat of question three but I will see who my biggest musical influence in my life was my grandfather. When I was a little girl I used to sit at the guitar with my grandpa. He would write and play music for me and those moments were always so special. When he died I knew that I had to continue on the legacy and make him proud.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?
A: I currently work at a drug and alcohol treatment center for teen girls. For me personally, music isn’t just about getting my music out there. Musicians have the ability to have a huge impact on the world around them and that has always been my goal. I want to inspire these girls that no matter how hard their circumstances and no matter what they have been through, that they can live their dream. I want to give them hope that they can get past this addiction; they can live a better life, a life that is full of promise and hope and has so much beauty in it. In our music, a lot of our lyrics are inspired by loss and depression and conquering both of these things. I want that, I want to inspire everyone around me, that they can overcome anything.
Q: You are a female fronted heavy metal band. Have you had to deal with much sexism?
A: Oh yeah. I started out this sweet innocent girl with big dreams and a view that everyone is good and wants you to succeed, which people instantly tried to crush so I had to become much harder. Unfortunately if you don’t take shit from people, you are instantly labeled a bitch. If a guy is rough and a jerk to people, he’s metal as hell, but if a girl doesn’t take shit from anyone and runs her band like a business, we get the “bitch” label. The problem is when you aren’t a female who takes off her clothes in music and refuses to be pushed around; you have to work even harder to get people to listen to you. To me, just because I’m a girl, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be treated as an equal in rock. I’m not going to start bawling in the middle of a set, or throw tantrums, like I’ve seen a lot of my fellow male musicians do, and yet there is always this stigma that girls just aren’t as good. It’s always funny to see the look of shock on people’s faces when they hear us for the first time. Yes I’m wearing a dress and my hair is curled and I just rocked your face off, get over it. My fans know I love and appreciate them and I didn’t have to sleep with anyone to get where I am and I am really proud of that.
Q: What is the song, “Broken Fairytale” about?
A: “Broken Fairytale” was written in the middle of a very bad breakup. When I was little I had this dream that I would meet a prince on a black, not white horse that would come rescue me and we would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that prince never came and each one that came a long crushed a little more of my heart. So when Greg presented me with the music of Broken Fairytale we discussed how we wanted a really happy instrumental sounding piece with really dark lyrics. So I made my own fairytale out of the lyrics. Broken Fairytale is a metaphor for a broken relationship that almost destroyed me and a warning to girls who try and stay in destructive relationships.
Q: What have you done to promote yourselves?
A: The first thing I realized about music was that no one is out looking for you. In other words I had to find every outlet possible to get our music heard because I believe we have a good product worth “selling”. So I began to search for podcast radio stations, online magazines, anyone who said they were looking for Indie artists I sent music to, no matter how big or small those companies were. It took a lot of time, I no longer have a social life, lol, and sacrifice, but we began to get noticed and approached by companies instead of me approaching them. When we got offered opportunities to hang out with people in the industry and get pointers on how to be better musicians, we took those opportunities no matter how much money they cost because we want to be the best musicians and band we can possibly be. We have run an 8 week radio campaign with our single “Broken Fairytale” and it topped online charts for 10 months. We then did a 3 month press campaign with Asher Media Relations where he got us published worldwide and we released our first 5 song EP with on iTunes through our distribution label, Milagro records. We also played at Sundance Film Festival last year and spent 10 days there networking with people and also went to Nashville, and California to meet up with industry people as well. In other words, a whole heck of a lot. I am promoting our band 24/7.
Q: What is your most horrible music industry story?
A: Uhhhh. This year we got invited to attend a music conference in Nashville Tennessee with the intent on meeting people in the industry who wanted to teach musicians how to succeed in the music industry. We were told we were handpicked and that our music would be distributed to labels, radio stations, sponsors etc. but we had to pay to get to Nashville. So we bought our plane tickets, booked our hotels and Greg, my manager Kim K. Jones and I flew to Nashville. The first thing we saw was this “Christian” based event had jacked up parking to $25 a day just for their lot. We then got into the building and registered for the classes we wanted to take. And so began the four day conference. During this conference everyone was pretty much told, you are not good enough in the music industry, its evil and the only way you can succeed as a musician is if you donate your talent to “God” oh and pay this guy or that guy money so he can make you a better musician. Everything involved large amounts of money that was musicians were expected to pay and then told they needed to preach to people about the grace of God…….one guy insisted if you paid him $400 you could be as good as Taylor Swift. Each speaker told horrible stories of how they had lived, and really really bad stories that just made you feel dirty and then a speaker would get up and say and I quote “None of you are going to be good enough to make it in the music industry but God will take you. “ Bands had traveled from all over the world for this event to be told, you aren’t good enough. It was horrible and discouraging as hell and we left angry. Luckily my manager salvaged the trip by introducing us to an incredible guy with an amazing music studio and we did have a good time once we realized we did not want anything to do with this company and in fact skipped the last two days so that we could just tour Nashville, which is cool as hell fyi.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.