Singing and writing songs since she was a teen, Alice Wallace drew influence from strong female singers — artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt — who made the biggest impact when she was finding her own voice.
Today, “although many might call my music country, it’s really a mix of country and blues and folk and rock, with a little yodeling thrown in for good measure, because I think that’s a lost art that deserves to be found,” said Wallace, who was named the 2017 California Country Awards Female Vocalist of the Year.
In other accolades, in 2016, she won the L.A. Music Critic Award for both Best Country/Americana Artist and Best Official Music Video (female). Most recently, she put out a new album, Into the Blue, and will perform some of these songs during her local show at the Ojai Underground Exchange on Feb. 23. Joining her will be the Rose Valley Thorns, a bluegrass and old-time band based in Ventura County.
“I have played small shows in Ventura and Ojai over the years,” she said. “I am so excited to be bringing my new album to Ojai, and to be sharing the stage with my friends in the Rose Valley Thorns.”
With her new album, Wallace said she wanted to tackle big topics.
“We give voice to women who aren’t being heard. We highlight the struggles of the wildfires in California. We tell tales of love and loss and heartbreak,” she said. “And all of this with some of the best musicians in Los Angeles bringing the songs to life in ways I hadn’t even dared to dream was possible. I am honestly bursting with pride when I share this album with people, and the response I’ve received back has been absolutely wonderful.”
Into the Blue is really “a love song to California and the southwest,” she said.
“I didn’t write it that way intentionally, but I am so happy that’s what it became,” Wallace said. “It draws from my experiences as a woman in California, and as a traveling musician. You can hear the ocean and the mountains and the desert and the canyons echo through these songs.”
On Feb. 23, she will perform her new single from the album, “Santa Ana Winds,” which she wrote last year with Texas-based indie-folk artist Andrew Delaney as they watched the Thomas Fire wreak havoc on Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
“And I know Ojai also suffered greatly due to that awful fire,” Wallace said.
Also on her set list is “Elephants,” “which is the only song on the album I did not have a hand in writing. That song was written solely by Andrew Delaney, but when I heard it I thought it was such a powerful commentary on the #MeToo movement — though written well before #MeToo was a phrase — that I asked him if I could record it.”
“Desert Rose” tells the tale of a woman who comes across the Mexican border to seek a better life for her unborn child, while “Echo Canyon” is a modern version of the traditional cowboy ballad with hints of yodeling thrown in. Older work will be featured at the Ojai show as well.
“I still have several songs from my previous releases that I love playing at live shows — songs that tell stories of life on the road that I think others can relate to,” Wallace said. “And I always make sure to end my shows with a yodel, either one I’ve written or one by a famous yodeler I admire, like Patsy Montana, who had the first million-selling single for a female country artist with ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,’ or Don Walser from Texas.”
Although she has only performed once in Ojai, “I am so looking forward to coming back to such a lovely place and getting to share these new songs.”
Like any show, her goal on Saturday will be “to transport people for those few minutes I am in front of them. I want them to feel like I wrote those songs just for them, because in a way, I did. And more than any other album I have released, the songs on this new album are for California audiences, first and foremost.”
Alice Wallace performs at Ojai Underground Exchange on Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:30-9:30 at Ojai Underground Exchange, 1016 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai. For tickets and more information, call 805-340-7893 or visit www.ojaiartsexchange.com. For more information about Wallace, visit www.AliceWallaceMusic.com.