By Nicholas Jason Lopez
There are people who don’t discover their true passions until the age of adulthood, but such was not the case for Los Angeles singer-songwriter Ali Angel, who signed up for guitar lessons by third grade and was always involved in her school’s theatre performances.
After a turn with other artistic mediums such as scriptwriting and filming, they haven’t quite kept her interest in the way that playing music has.
With the release of her April 2021 single “Play Pretend” – which has over 75K Spotify streams to date – and a six-track self-titled debut EP on the way this spring, it seems the masses have also agreed that her musical pursuit is the right way for her to go.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Angel about what she has been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How have things been for you recently?
Ali Angel – Fine! The world is crazy and there’s been a lot of changes for me recently, but focusing on my music is really what pushes me forward right now.
Music Bugle – How do you handle constructive criticism?
Ali Angel – I try to be open! A lot of the time, I’ll be stubborn about lyric changes or melody changes in my songs when I’m really set on my ideas, but my collaborators are so talented and at the end of the day, I always trust them and their ear, so I’m always open to changes. I’m really just open to learning the most I can about all the different sides of this industry and slowly getting more seasoned in them all. Since I work with such talented people, I know that their suggestions are always invaluable, so it would only hurt me not to be open.
Music Bugle – What kind of career advice would you give someone your age who is unsure what they want to do?
Ali Angel – I have a lot of friends who’ve been stuck or unsure on where to move forward in their career and I think it’s a huge obstacle people in their mid-twenties often face. I think now is the time to be brave and take risks in our career and try to make a living doing something we love and are passionate about. I think it may take more work, struggle and could be less stable at the start, but I think if you’re listening to your gut and trying to do what you love, in the long run, you’re going to be the happiest and it’s always going to pay off. Network, be open to saying “yes” to all opportunities and be brave!
Music Bugle – What do you attribute the streaming success of your 2021 single “Play Pretend” to?
Ali Angel – I did a lot of independent playlist pitching to people – I got the record on a lot of big playlists that have consistent stream. This can be good for numbers, but recently, I’ve been trying to focus more on getting my music to the right listeners’ ears. I’d rather have a slow and steady build in which I’m picking up genuine fans that like my music as opposed to a ton of passive streams on songs. It’s really all a learning process. Making ads that target people who listen to the bands and music that listeners have compared your sound to can also be a great way to get your music to the people who are most likely to stick around.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your six-song EP?
Ali Angel – A long, slow, amazing, inspiring learning process! It was a lot of shoots and ladders – making progress on a song, me questioning a production element, then us going back and reworking things to get it just right. Making this EP during the pandemic was also challenging. A band member would get Covid and delay us recording an instrument for, like, two weeks, somebody would get exposed, etc.. People already are busy enough with their own work and schedules, so Covid really made it harder for me to finish everything as quickly as I wanted. That can be rough, when inspiration and energy towards a new song often fades with time and makes it a little more begrudging to work on stuff that doesn’t feel new anymore. I learned so much about production and realized how much I truly love that part of making music. I wanted to be as involved in every aspect of making these records as I possibly could be. My producers would probably say I drove myself crazy over trying to adjust and perfect small details nobody else would even notice by the end.
Music Bugle – How would you describe LA to someone who has never been there before?
Ali Angel – Definitely a place you need to spend a lot of time in to truly understand and appreciate! I think having grown up here, I have a special fondness for it. LA is so big though, that it’s the kind of city that can always feel new – there’s always an event, restaurant, small neighborhood, etc. – that I’ve never known about that I will discover out of the blue and that excites me. There’s a space for every niche here. The drivers are absolutely crazy though, it’s literally the Wild West on the streets.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Ali Angel – I love that retro-soul music has its own modern space now, because it’s really my favorite sound right now! I also love that artists can really experiment with different sounds with each project. I have some more country twang in me and alt pop that I wanna explore in the future.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Ali Angel – Lately, I will go to my parents house in the valley and spend time with my family just hanging outside, making dinner and watching TV and movies with my parents and brothers when they’re home! It can feel like an escape from stress and reality for a bit.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Ali Angel – Helps them brand-wise and business-wise and hurts them mentally. (Laughs) It’s so draining to have to create “canned content” to post and to put so much energy into making stuff for instagram, TikTok, creating ads, etc.. I try to find ways to enjoy it, though and make it silly. I also compartmentalize the entire business. I’ll devote some days or times to being creative, writing, or practicing and then, I’ll shift gears and get into my business/marketing/pitching brain and spend time emailing, creating content and organizing stuff!
Music Bugle – Which song would you call your current “guilty pleasure”?
Ali Angel – Of mine or of somebody else’s? My favorite of mine currently is “Hideaway”! It’s super peachy, catchy twangy-soul and I just love the way it turned out. In terms of other music, I’ve been loving all of Natalie Bergman’s recent releases – they’re soul meets gospel-like hymns and I love all her melodies and production so much. I also can’t stop listening to Lola Kirke’s new song, “Better Than Any Drug” – it’s like a mix of country and 80’s pop, but modern.