Our next guest on THE INTERVUE has built both passions into a thriving business, balancing an acclaimed string of movie, television, and stage appearances with records like 2018’s 15,000 Days. Her fourth release as an independent songwriter, 15,000 Days is a sweeping, big-hearted record, its songs rooted in modern arrangements and timeless melodies. And now, this wonderful actress, singer, songwriter will be performing at the Songbyrd Music Cafe on May 9th. I had the honor of talking to the wonderfully talented Alicia Witt!
Alicia, what can people look forward to with this upcoming performance in a few weeks?
So, the main reason why I wanted to go on this tour is because “15,000 Days” was brought to life through a Kickstarter campaign that I did, and so many of the people who made the album possible live in cities that I either have never played or haven’t played in so long, and DC is one of those.
So, I have some people in DC that I really want to bring this tour to, and that was my main intention in blocking off the month of May to go on a twenty-city tour. I’m going to be playing all of the songs from “15,000 Days,” as well as songs from previous releases, and some brand new ones I haven’t recorded or played anywhere yet. It’s should be a lot of fun.
Yeah, it definitely is a lot of fun. I want you to talk about the process of creating an album. You said moments ago that it was helped out due to a Kickstarter campaign, talk about the songs, about the inspiration.
Yeah. Well, it’s called “15,000 Days.” Some…a few listeners might have guessed, because that equals exactly the number of years I’ve been alive on this planet.
At the time, when I went to the studio to record this, which was about two years ago now. And when I figured out what a round number that was, I thought, “Ok, that’s got to be the name of my record.”
And then, I had the incredible honor to work with Jacquier King as the producer of it. And he’s produced albums by Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse, James Bay, to name a few. When I found out that he was interested in producing for me, I was deeply honored, but then also, I realized he how he truly works for big label artists.
This was something we’re going to need a different kind of a budget to make it happen, and I was able to raise everything I needed and more and I was…it was such an incredible feeling to know that not only do I get to work with this amazing producer, but we get to make it together, so without about 640 Kickstarter people, we put this album out into the world.
Well, that’s amazing. And I’ve heard all of the album within that last couple of days, especially the debut single “Younger,” which is one of my favorites, by the way.
You’re welcome! And it describes “the wonder of discovery in youth lyrically, a trip down memory lane.” What’s your inspiration to write “Younger?”
I’m so glad you asked me that one. That’s one of my favorites too!
(laughs) This is kind of cool, I’m going to…there was a whole set of lyrics that I had written, which lead to the song “Younger” being born. I was actually inspired by someone that I was close to who I felt have maybe lost some of that youthful impetuousness and fearlessness. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little scared and a little trapped in the ideas of what other people think you ought to be. And I wanted to write this sort of idea of reconnecting to the little child version, you know?
So then I brought these lyrics they were, I brought them to the writing session that I went to, with these amazing writers. And the lyrics I had were not fully turning themselves into a song. I didn’t like the melody that I’m coming up with and between two of them, the whole other idea came about, and they pulled a few of the lyrics I had but then it became a whole different song. And I love it. I love, love LOVE it, but what’s interesting about that also is I think the song that it became—at least when I perform it—I sort of imagine myself singing to my little girl self. Instead of to another person. And I love the idea that maybe everyone in the room is connecting to their own little child. (laughs)
Perhaps when they hear the song…and then, the other neat thing is, because we didn’t really use any of the lyrics speak of in that other original thing, I ended up writing a whole different set of lyrics off of what had originally inspired “Younger” and then that turned into a song that I wrote.
And I’m planning to play that one as a sort of like a partner song to “Younger” when I play the show because it’s interesting how two very different songs come out of the same concept.
I’m looking forward to hearing the song on May 9th. I cannot wait to hear it, especially since “Younger” is my favorites and it’s on my iPod and iTunes, so I’ve got to listen to it every time I’m feeling a bit older and I want to think back to those younger days.
(laughs) I love that! Thank you, Dean!
Anytime, anytime. I love the fact that you also wrote “Christmas Miracle,” that was recently used in a Hallmark film, and I love that song too!
Thank you, thank you! Yeah, it was one of those weird things that, in talking to other songwriters, I know this isn’t uniquely my experience, something that happens often when you’re channeling songs. Sometimes a song comes into your head and you don’t even know quite what the purpose is, but you know it’s supposed to exist.
“Christmas Miracle” was sort of like that for me. I wrote it in the middle of spring, I think? And it was just a thought that occurred to me and I wrote it and it really resonated with me. I started thinking about military families–
–and things that I don’t have personal experience with, but I obviously have deep respect and awe for people and their families who sacrifice so much.
So, to me that’s kind of what the song became about and then as it turned out, it was the producer of that last Christmas movie that asked me if I happened to have a song that might fit into the scene, and it suddenly popped into my head that “Christmas Miracle” would go perfectly there and it would also be an excuse for me to record it and released. So, that’s how that happened. I had written it the previous year
Wow, that’s an amazing story! That’s great that a producer had listened to the song and asked you about it, and now it’s featured on a Hallmark film, and now you’re part of the Hallmark family, as they say.
Yes. This year will be, I think my seventh Christmas movie in a row.
Wow! Seventh in a row. I’ll definitely watch out for that. Speaking of which, you were known for amazing roles throughout the years, especially with “The Walking Dead,” you played Paula; Autumn Chase in “Nashville”. But one of my favorite roles of yours was from an older film of yours: “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” where you played Gertrude Lang. I want to know what were your favorite experiences for making that film?
I have so many. Just getting to play an instrument that I had to learn very quickly, because I am a piano player, of course, but that is the only instrument that I can play as of today. I had to play the clarinet, so when I got the part, they gave me a month of clarinet lessons before I had to start filming. And that was just…it’s always really satisfying to get to learn a new skill and do something in addition to playing the scene like a professional thing that the character can do that you can’t.
So, I got to do that. I got to do…I mean, the first day I played it, the music supervisor kind of frowned and said, “well, there’s a problem.” I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Well, you’ve learned it perfectly, but the problem is you’re supposed to be really bad at it.” They’re always going to get you where you sound like you can’t play. (laughs)
So then they had to teach me how to make the clarinet squeak on cue. Yet, another interesting skill, because whenever the clarinet squawked, that would often be Richard Dreyfuss’ cue to say something. It was just a lot of fun, and then I guess my favorite memories from it was the first scene that we filmed was…obviously, all of my scenes take place in 1962, but I had already met Richard and we had already done the table read, so I knew what he looked like as current day Richard and when I first saw him on the set, when they had made him look thirty years younger, I looked right past him. I had no idea that was him.
It was amazing! I think he wasn’t in the makeup room that everyone else was in. He was in a special area, you know because they had a lot of work to do and it was just stunning! He looked thirty years younger. Amazing!
It is the power of movie magic, what can we say? (laughs) And I say, the movie definitely is near and dear to my heart, because I was playing the trumpet around the time when “Mr. Holland’s Opus” came out and reminded me of a lot of memories of the music teachers I had who influenced me today, so it holds a near and dear place to my heart.
That’s really cool.
Looking back over your amazing career, which started at the age of six to “That’s Incredible,” which in you played the piano—which I saw the clip, many years ago—to now, what can you say is your proudest moment?
That’s a great question, and I don’t know. When I think back over all the stuff I’ve gotten to do so far, I really am overwhelmed with gratitude. I mean, there are so many amazing moments I have to say I was so proud and so…just overjoyed when I, first of all, got the part on “The Walking Dead,” but it’s all so secretive.
I had only auditioned with that one big monologue scene, and I didn’t know who I played on it. I knew it was only one episode, but I didn’t know if it was one scene or two scenes, or who I’m actually working with or any of that. I received the script in a very secretive email right before my flight took off.
When I got to read it I remember my mouth falling open like, “whaaat?”
“I get to do all the (unclear) Oh my God!” It’s seriously the best guest-starring role I think I’ve ever seen. It’s just such an honor to get to do that. In ways, I can’t fully explain that role and everything, but on a personal level, everything…it was a life-changing experience for me, I can think clearly in my mind everything that came before and everything that came after. So, that was really…another proud moment just happened, which was…you know, having just recently moved to Nashville because my heart was calling me there, and I realized after twenty-five years of living in LA…
I don’t want to live in LA anymore. I want to live in Nashville. Of course, making music in Nashville is more conducive to that, but also my best friend lived there. It just made sense, but there was that little voice which, I didn’t give much focus to, but ok, it was like “what do I do? As an actor, is it ok to live in Nashville?” Because most actors don’t.
And I had this amazing audition that came along for “Orange is the New Black.” I made a self-tape in my living room with one of my best friends, and we felt really good about it and sent it off, and two days later, I got the call and got the role It’s a fantastic role, but I’m not yet allowed to say much about, but it’s a very big part in the final season, season seven, and…
It’s a really cool storyline, and I just felt so proud and honored to have gotten to be part of such an important show, I think, and in its very final season.
Absolutely, especially it’s one of my favorite shows. I’ve watched it from the beginning, especially with great, powerful characters, so to hear that you’re now going to be on the show, I’ve got another reason to see “Orange is the New Black,” coming up on season seven.
Yeah! (laughs) I think it’s a really good season.
And we’re looking forward to meeting you on May 9th at The Songbyrd, which I know our Washingtonians are ready to do.
Thank you so much! I am so excited to be here, and I can’t wait to play for everyone on May 9th!
Tickets are available on Alicia’s website at aliciawittmusic.com. There’s also meet and greet tickets available.
If you want to follow Alicia on social media, follow her on