Alissa Moreno has a richer life story than most songwriters. She was born on a small Navajo reservation and grew up in Albuquerque. She began writing songs in Hawaii, then moved to L.A. to pursue music and teach meditation. She later made her way to Nashville, where she co-wrote a Top 5 song for Rascal Flatts. That gave her plenty of money to finance a family trip to Rishikesh, India, the former home of Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Almost exactly one year ago, Moreno’s Nashville home was destroyed in a devastating fire. Despite the loss, she continued to work on a new EP. It’s called “Wildfires”, and the title song was written long before the fire.
Alissa Moreno is clearly on the path of the True Artist, just like Caroline Polachek, Aimee Mann and Australia’s Laura Jean. Wildfires is a testament to her courage and extraordinary musical gifts.
“Wildfires” is a beautiful song, with the best bridge I’ve heard in ages! What’s the backstory on that song?
You listened all the way to the bridge! You are simply awesome. I love that one. I wrote this when I was living in Hollywood. My bedroom was also my music studio, so I had access to a piano at all times. That piano melody kept coming to me, and finally, one night around 3 am, I finally sat down to play and work with it. The lyrics just started falling out. It was a beautiful and very healing moment. I was a young, broke artist just starting to really work in LA and it was a scary time because my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I was questioning my life away from family and the home I knew. Funny enough, we were just starting to record some songs for my upcoming album Cuts and Covers when our house caught fire while we were all sleeping. The fire took everything and three weeks later I recorded this version of “Wildfires”, which was incredibly cathartic.
Did you produce all the tracks on your new EP or did you have a co-producer?
I am delighted to say that Neilson Hubbard produced all of the songs on the new Wildfires EP, which is part of the upcoming album. He and I had been wanting to work together for years and now this is our second project together. I trust him completely, so I stay out of the way when it comes to my opinions (unless I hear a cool riff or harmony I think we need.). He’s an amazing Grammy-nominated producer, singer/songwriter and photographer, so it’s very easy to let him run with an idea knowing that he has a vision.
I still hear some great songs on country radio, but they’re outnumbered by the formulaic ones about trucks, whiskey and backroads, in my opinion. What’s your take on the current state of country songwriting?
I don’t really separate out my writing these days. It used to be that I had pop sessions and country sessions on my publisher’s calendar. But when I think of it, my biggest cut came from country artists and it was a pop song for sure. A few years later, a trop-rock country song I wrote that never made it on Music Row became an international reggae hit. I think this really speaks to the blurring of lines and I’m excited by that. There’s not as deep a sense of “stay in your lane.” Lately, it’s more about making music that speaks a truth and resonates in many formats.
Many of your songs sound tailor-made for movies and TV. Are you actively pitching songs to the sync market?
I used to write quite a bit for film and tv. I didn’t intend to, per se. It just naturally developed that way. I’ve always had a bit of composer-mind when it comes to arrangements and emotion. There was a time when I would write and record a song and it would magically be placed in a production within the month. These days, I’m not in LA running into show producers at Starbucks or meeting filmmakers at a friend’s dinner, so it’s much slower for me in that sense. For the first time, I’m actively working on a deal with a sync company run by a dear friend of mine and the thought of someone out there pitching my songs for specific projects is so inspiring! It can be quite heartbreaking when art just sits on a shelf unnoticed.
You’re an amazing pianist who has studied Rachmaninoff and others. Was your piano damaged in the house fire that you recently experienced?
My goodness, thank you! I absolutely love little motifs and they often haunt me until I’m willing to arrange them into a song. I am very sad to say that my first-ever grand piano (which Kip Winger was kind enough to share with me) was destroyed in the fire. Almost one year later, it is still sitting in the shell of our house burned and rusted and full of glass. So…as a part of my healing process, I started capturing images of it and of me playing it. The new video for Wildfires is a strong symbol for us as we celebrate escaping the devastating fire exactly one year ago. It really speaks to me in the lyric “we survive, we get by, we take the hit and we learn to fight. We collide, but we don’t die trying to put out wildfires.”