meet 21-year-old singer/songwriter alice kristiansen
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I'm Alice, I'm 21 years old and I'm a singer!
You’ve been posting covers on YouTube for over 6 years now. What first encouraged you to join the YouTube music community?
I had a friend who had been posting covers on YouTube and they found out I sang and suggested that I should try it. I think my first cover was The Only Exception by Paramore and it was really terrible and it’s not up anymore! For the first couple months I’d get a couple views every once in awhile and then I started getting a few comments here and there. I covered a lot of music that wasn’t Top 40--it was indie stuff and I think people came to my channel for that. Once people started commenting and interacting it was heartening, but it’s definitely hard to put yourself out there as a 15 year old girl since it’s such a tough time anyway!
Did people in high school know that you were a singer?
My freshman year in high school we were putting on Cinderella and nobody knew that I sang much before that, but I ended up getting the role of Cinderella! Then people knew. It was super crazy because usually upperclassmen get the lead roles so I think I made a couple enemies [laughs] but afterwards I think that’s when people started listening to my YouTube channel. But originally I didn’t post them on my socials or anything--I was super nervous!
I’m a singer myself and I definitely feel like it’s always more difficult to sing for people who are close to you like family members or friends!
Yeah, for sure. My mom actually didn’t even know I had a channel for a while. She was very strict with the Internet when I was young. We watched PBS and we didn’t even have Disney Channel until I was much older and they used to track our Internet history and everything! Then one day my mom was like, “what! I did not know you’re on YouTube now!”, and she thought it was so dangerous! I was in huge trouble for posting videos on the Internet initially [laughs].
You’ve now gained a following of nearly 500 thousand on YouTube and 85 thousand on Instagram. Some of your covers have amassed views well over half a million, and some over a million. Did you ever think that your future would hold such dedicated support from such a large audience?
You know, I hope this comes across to people who watch my covers--I’m not necessarily doing it for the number of people of watching. I post covers of music that I really like at the moment. Occasionally I’ll post Top 40, but really I post covers of songs that I enjoy and that I think I can do a good cover of. I wasn’t thinking so much about fans when I first started, but recently fan accounts have been popping up and that’s been really cool to see. And as I’ve gotten older I think I’ve more so realized that the numbers on my screen are actually real people!
You show quite a bit of versatility in the songs you choose to cover--everything from Lana Del Rey (which many of your fans seem to request) to new twists on rap favorites like Childish Gambino. What artists are you totally loving at the moment?
I’ve been listening to all of the Lana Del Rey singles that have come out recently! I love Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean, obviously, and I’ve gone back to some old Bon Iver records that I haven’t listened to in a while. My dad had an old record player that we hadn’t really been using lately so I brought it back to my place and I’ve also been listening to a lot of the music I grew up on that--old Frank Sinatra records and people like Ella Fitzgerald--so that’s been really fun!
Do you feel like the music you listened to growing up has influenced your style now?
I think to a certain extent it did. Stylistically it doesn’t as much as it did when I was 14-15, but I do think the Frank Sinatra sort of records influenced the way I sing--it’s a little more classic.
Who are your greatest musical inspirations?
I really, really love Lana Del Rey but there are so many! I need to look at my Spotify [laughs]. Oh! I love Fleetwood Mac. When I was growing up we really listened to music from the 50s and 60s around the house so I was able to discover all of this amazing stuff from the late 60s and 70s once I got older. Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favorites--her song Woodstock is one of my favorites. And then new artists like James Vincent McMorrow I definitely love because he changes his sound with every album and I think it’s so interesting to hear different facets of someone’s music taste.
A bit of time has passed since then and you’ve since released two singles of your own, Moon and Back and Twilight Moon. What served as the inspiration for these songs and what was your writing process like?
The way I write most of my songs is one of two ways--for those songs I wrote the chorus myself just messing around like singing in the shower [laughs]. Then I get together with other people and just flush it out. Then sometimes I’ll work with producers and they could have a track ready or we piece a song together ourselves and we think, well what does this song feel like? And we work with a word or an idea that the song feels like and then from there it’s pretty easy to write! I don’t have one singular writing process but it changes with the people I’m with or how I feel!
You also have a new single Lost My Mind. How have you evolved as an artist since your previous releases in 2016? And can you give a bit of insight into the inspiration for this song and what it means to you?
The first two singles that I released they’re obviously very different from each other and they didn’t really have a cohesive sound. But I think over the last year it’s been really exploring what kind of sound I want to have and then having that translate into the music. With my new single Lost My Mind and the music video we did with it, I did everything myself and directed the video and everything. It’s really exciting because from the beginning I wanted everything to be super hands-on and for people to know I am making my own music! I’m just super excited about the music video because I was so involved in the process of making it!
It must be so rewarding to be working with other musicians and producers now. How does it feel to be getting into the nitty gritty of it all now?
When I first started I was so stressed about it and I didn’t think I would like it all but now it’s become my favorite part of the entire process! It’s really cool how getting in a room brings out different sides of yourself and you can write totally different songs with different people. It’s also important to work with people that you really vibe with and understand you and are willing to help that along. I’ve been really lucky to work with people who have a lot more experience than I do, and to be able to learn from them about the music business and the craft of songwriting is amazing because I really didn’t know that much before.
Is it ever nerve wracking to release music that is so personal to you and your experiences?
I think because it’s wrapped within a song it’s not as stressful as you’d think! What’s more stressful is getting into a room with people that you’ve never met before and writing. It’s such a funny experience because all of these social norms just completely go out the window because you have to open up about these personal experiences with complete strangers. You make new friends on a level that you wouldn’t normally because you’re emoting so much. For me, that’s the most stressful part because it’s hard to write songs that are so emotionally honest. Not that the music I wrote before wasn’t honest but I think I used to write music that was framed in a way that wasn’t so personal so I could distance myself from it and I’ve been learning recently to be more open.
Knowing that your fans are really resonating with the songs and experiences you’re writing about, how would your describe your relationship with them?
It’s so rewarding. I love putting out covers but to put out original music and to have people respond to it is incredible. Over the past year I think I’ve really started to interact with my fans more and it’s so cool because a lot of them are girls my age and they’re dealing with really similar things--and they’re all super intelligent and interested in the same things I am! It’s been super cool to get to know them as individuals. They’re just so smart and to see them be interested in the news and the things that are happening in this world is just so rewarding.
Because of the size of your platform, you have to consider you might be someone’s role model or an inspirational figure in a young girl’s life. How do you handle that possibility?
I mean, it’s super stressful to an extent. On one hand, when I think back to how I was feeling when I was 13 years old and super awkward and then to flash forward 8 years and to be a role model for someone else is absolutely crazy. I don’t try to be a role model but I think people take something from my social media. I get comments about how I don’t wear much makeup and that’s inspired other young girls to try it as well. Obviously, I don’t wear makeup because I’m not good at it [laughs] and I wish I could, but to know that these women are feeling more comfortable with their natural selves is so rewarding! And I do think that there are a lot of Instagram accounts that don’t show women in their natural state and I think it’s important for people to see something natural represented somewhere with a large platform.
In a time when some artists are just so manufactured, it’s almost more impactful how you are so real online. In fact, I feel like people resonate with how relatable you are in a way that makes them feel like they’re your friend!
Yeah definitely. Even though it’s fun to be glamorous and everything I do try to make things relatable and just post things as what they are. I think if I were to look at my Instagram and see things portrayed as what they’re not I would feel weird about it! I do feel like my authentic self is reflected on my social media accounts which is cool because when people respond to my things we are genuinely connecting.
On social media you are often vocal about current issues whether it be politics like voicing support for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election or other topics. Do you think it’s important for public figures to have these conversations?
I definitely think it’s important for people to share their opinions on the political process because it is made for regular people to take part in. I’m in school right now and I’m a political science major so I hope that young people get involved in the political process and vote! But I think the idea that artists and people in the entertainment industry shouldn’t talk about their political views is an invalid point. If you feel strongly about something you should discuss it and be open to hearing other people’s ideas too. However, in the past few months--because things have been so polarized--I haven’t been posting about it as much. I feel like we’re not really having very productive conversation on social media anymore.
Do you feel like when you do discuss these political issues it helps reach an audience of potentially young women that might be encouraged to engage too?
Yeah. I just really want my followers to know that yes, I really love music but it’s also important to be educated on these issues. When I posted to register for the primaries and to get out there and vote no matter who you’re voting for, people really respected that. For young people it’s important to participate in the political process because it is a privilege that we have. But I do think overall, I connected with a few more people because they saw me more as a whole person, you know?
The music industry, and the entertainment industry as a whole for that matter, is still very much ridden with sexist attitudes that devalue the hard work of female artists. But now more than ever, female artists are speaking out and discrediting these attitudes. How does this sentiment play into your work ethic/music/everyday life?
On the Internet it’s definitely something that I face. It’s not been terrible, only because I don’t think I’ve put myself out there in a way that directly challenges what people might have to say about the way that I look. My thing is that people might think that I’m conservative because I’m not posting half-naked photos on the Internet, but my choice not to do so is not at all an endorsement of being conservative, it’s just the way that I do things. I think that people feel that I’m making a statement in how I live my life but when it comes down to it, it’s just personal choice. I don’t have any less respect for people who do the opposite of me. People are so quick to put us in boxes and pit women against each other. I’ve even found that if I post a cover and I’m wearing a more revealing top, ¼ of the comments become about that. So maybe I shy away from it because I do want people to be focusing on the music even though it’s not my fault!
Do you ever face moments of doubt and how do you overcome them?
Personally I find it really hard to read comments that might not be positive. It’s an ongoing process to build a thicker skin because naturally I’m not the type of person who was made for the public eye and is really good at just letting things roll of their back. There are hate comments that are just plain and simple hateful and I don’t have as much an issue with those because those are from people who are just unhappy with themselves, but the ones that might have a little more insight and get under your skin are more bothersome to me. But if I comment back to some of them I do get a lot of people supporting me which definitely makes it easier.
Is there a philosophy you like to follow when you’re facing these negative comments or feeling discouraged?
I think it’s just important to come back to the nitty gritty of it and why I started doing this. If you’re getting hate comments the best thing to do is to just throw yourself into the craft of making music because that’s really what you’re here for. The negative comments really are nothing in comparison to this amazing thing that you get to do everyday with music.
For other young women who want to get into any creative industry, what advice would you give them?
First off, have people around you that share the same ideas as you as far as what you want to do with your career and who understand what it’s like to be a female artist because I feel like there are things that come with that that are unique. Find people who will amplify your voice. It’s a very real thing that we have to worry about being heard or making sure that our personal choices are being recognized by others. I’m lucky enough to work with people who do allow me to take charge--even though I do work with a lot of guys--they’re really great at letting me steer things and once you build that core group of people they’ll advocate for you in any situation. Also, be authentic. I would never judge someone for not being authentic because I think it’s so easy to fall into being like someone else because it’s easy or less scary. But it takes time to get to that point but when you do it’s so much more rewarding.