Bigger than That , with Alysha Brilla

Interview with Alysha Brilla by Hanan Awaad

Alysha Brilla with Hanan Awaad at one of Alysha's concerts
Alysha Brilla with Hanan Awaad at one of Alysha’s concerts

I first read her name in an article in Waterloo Region widely circulated newspaper ‘The Record’ in 2015 supporting a local cause. During the past couple of years, her name became well-known as a huge supporter of human rights and an advocate for women in the music industry.

As a person who values words, Alysha captured my heart with her lyrics, by her voice and later by her unique exotic, exciting style and fashion.

Q. Alysha, ‘I am Bigger Than That’ is my favourite song. I feel the song could be an anthem for many causes, domestic abuse, girls’ education, women’s right and standing up for all forms of oppression. When you compose your songs, do you start with a particular message that you want to convey or it just comes organically to you?

When I compose my songs, often what will come to me is a lyric or a melody. Sometimes it comes from a discussion I have had with someone about social justice; sometimes it is from reflections I have on the current political atmosphere and sometimes on my spirituality. Musically, I find myself singing and writing melodies all the time. So when I have an idea; whether it is musical or lyrical, I will go to my guitar or piano and begin to bring the song to life. I am so happy you love “Bigger Than That”. It is a song I wrote about exactly those things; women’s rights, girls education and standing up against oppression.  I hope to instil hope for those who believe the world can be changed for the better.

Q. You are a creative person, but also you are an entrepreneur. You started your company, and you manage a team of different functions and tasks. Was it easy to balance creativity and business savviness and what did you learn mixing art and business?

I started my company seven years ago so that I could release my music independently. When I first started, there was a significant mental dissonance for me between my business and my art. I was so used to being an artist and prioritizing the open, free-form and artistic right-brain. Seven years later, with a successful independent music business, I’ve learned how to mix the two together. It turns out that the better I am with my own business, the more empowered I am; especially as a woman in a male-dominated business industry like the music business. I’ve learned that to succeed in business, you must also be creative; so I am able to use my creativity in more than just one forum now.

Q. In a recent discussion we had on Facebook, you explained how you have traits of both introversion and extroversion. How important for the artist to have both sides and what to do if you lean towards one side, but you need to tap into the other side?

It is important for a working artist these days to have both sides. I am both a quiet, observant thinker and a natural entertainer at the same time. When I play a show, I’m often speaking and engaging with people sometimes from 2:00 pm until 1:00 am, so often after the show, I will want to have space to be on my own and receive energy back into my body. Similarly, when I tour or travel, and it is very busy, when I come back home, If I am lucky, I will have a day or two, and I will often spend those few days on my own just relaxing, reading, being in a quiet space. I think that balance is important. I would have nothing to write about if I were singing/speaking all the time. Sometimes I need to have the quietness to observe others and observe myself, to practice my spirituality and to find rootedness.

Q. What does it mean to you to be a celebrity and do you miss those times when you were not so popular?

This is a good question. Being a local celebrity to me is a bittersweet thing. To be honest; I always just wanted to produce and perform music. The idea of ‘celebritism’ makes me very uncomfortable, and there have been times when controversy has caused a lot of stress in my life because that popularity is not what I seek. I have, in fact, many times considered quitting the business and living a more private life, doing work that isn’t so public. Ultimately, I just want to share my music with the world and make a positive impact on my community, which I love dearly. I do often miss being anonymous and not having any connotations to my name. I suppose it is part of being a professional artist, though. In the process of sharing your music with the world, you meet many amazing people, and they come to know you. I would really love for my music and my passion for equality to precede me above anything else because, at the core, that’s why I’m doing what I do.

Q. You are always on the road, from London, Ontario to Breadalbane to Gagetown to Terrace to your home city Waterloo, how d you manage your time and energy with such a busy schedule and how this affects your creativity?

My schedule has definitely become much more hectic in the past few years. Managing my time requires a pretty comprehensive plan, but I have been so lucky to work with amazing people who make the artist-entrepreneur job a little easier. I travel a lot to share my music with the world. I do have a chronic auto-immune disorder, which requires me really taking care of my body, mind and spirit throughout this journey. Yoga has been a wonderful blessing for me, and I try to make sure I eat healthy and spend time in nature. This is why I love KW. As far as creativity goes, I’ve never been able to sit down and write with a concerted effort. When a song comes, it comes. So that means at times I will not write for maybe months and then all of a sudden I write five songs in three days. I consider my relationship with music as a gift. It always heals me and brings me joy. I don’t take for granted when I am inspired, and if inspiration is not there, I will not force it or complain. I just let the music flow when it flows. Travel (new scenery, meeting new people, new ideas) always inspires new songs, though. That seems to have been the best way for me so far.

Q. Let’s talk style. You are your own brand and played it beautifully and embraced all the elements that make you unique. Starting with your braids, your nose jewellery, the vivid colours and the ethnic touches in your clothes either embordered skirt hem or embellished decolletage. You always rock this look, and you mix it with punk or goth elements from time to time. How Alysha’s style evolved and how do you describe the relationship between your inner self and your outer image?

Thank you so much. I really appreciate the kind words. I have always really loved colour. When I was young, my mom would take us to shop at the second-hand clothes store because we didn’t have money to buy new clothes all the time. Back then, I was so embarrassed about shopping for used clothing, but now, it is a lot of what makes up my wardrobe. Inside, I am a very colourful, vibrant soul and that is reflected in my style. I love bold, contrasting colours and beautiful patterns. My style has evolved a lot. When I first began performing, I used to wear no makeup, simple jeans and white t-shirt and long hair. I thought if I dressed more plainly, people would focus on my music more than my image. Over the years, though, I began to see my fashion as an opportunity to further express who I am. If you walk into my apartment, you see the colours and sarees and Indian flare, and you can see how I kind of live in my own little colourful world. I want to bring that onto the stage along with my music. Much of the time, even if political, my music is joyful and my outer image reflects that feeling.

Q. Last question, what keeps you up at night these days?

These days I am so busy working on my new album coming out September 2017.

Originally posted 2017-05-22 15:05:06.

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