In 2012, Alicia Blue quit her job and started cleaning houses. On a rainy Christmas Eve, while searching for her client’s apartment in Los Angeles’ Thai Town, she found Malcolm Clark Hayes, Jr.
“The moment I walked in,” says Blue, “I felt like I came home.”
A poet with no aspirations to be a musician, Blue vividly remembers first meeting the soul artist, who had toured with Little Richard and a big part of the England’s Northern soul scene in the late ’60s, working with Barry White and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Hearing funk music blasting from his sixth floor apartment, at first Blue considered turning around and leaving. “I knocked and heard this guy say ‘come in. How are you?’” remembers the Los Angeles singer and songwriter. Hayes, then in his 60s and wheelchair-bound following a stroke when he was 29, instantly connected. Eventually, Hayes opened Blue’s world to everything about music—blues, soul, jazz—forever transforming her life. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t meet him,” shares Blue, “because I wouldn’t be in music.”
Keeping her promise to Hayes, who passed away in 2015, that she would have to go all the way and never give up if he taught her what he knew, the indie folk-rock artist continues to captivate in her poetic storytelling since her self-titled debut in 2019 and follow up, 2020’s Bravebird and through new single “Blackbird,” produced by Eduardo Rivera, and her upcoming third album with co-writers Cage the Elephant’s Lincoln Parish and Sadler Vaden (Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit).
Working with Parish, more traditional rock elements are naturally threaded in the new album. “On some of the songs we’ve written together, there’s this rock underbelly, and that felt so correct for me, rather than just something real pretty,” says the Los Angeles singer and songwriter. “The intimacy of my lyrics and storytelling laid over this rock and roll, that approach is drastically different and also feels right as I dig deeper into myself as an artist.”
For Blue, lyrics always come first. “I just vomit prose, at least three pages, and then I’ll reread the bullshit I just spewed out,” she says. “Then there’ll be five little kernels of truth in there, and I’ll extract those lines and start building a song around, and find the music to match that sentence.” Recently performing at Revival Studios, Blue took on several of her original songs, including one of her most prolific tracks, “Magma,” off Alicia Blue, and tackled Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill.”