September 03, 2010

Pan-American Pop

By Karl Avanzini


Culture-crossing singersongwriter LISET ALEA readies her debut album

Cuban-born, American-assembled, and European-adopted, singer and songwriter Liset Alea is at home anywhere. After leaving Cuba - and as if to try and prove the point - she has lived in Costa Rica, Miami, New York, Amsterdam, London, and Paris, absorbing influences as she goes. Liset has toured the world with French DJ AlexKid and Sananda Maitreya (aka Terence Trent D'arby), and shared stages with Raul Paz, Laurent Garnier and Llorca. However, her most thrilling moment came when she recently performed with Juanes in her native Cuba at the historic "Paz Sin Fronteras" Concert, where they sang to an audience of 1.2 million people.

When did you discover you had a gift for creating music?

I asked my mom to take me to get some singing lessons at age eight. I didn't start writing until I was in my teens.

Who are your musical influences?

I have always been a fan of the storytellers: Carole King, Lhasa, Paul Simon, Caetano Veloso, Grace Jones, Brian Wilson, Natalie Merchant, Nick Cave, Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones, Suzanne Vega, Burt Bacharach.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Yeah, I think it said something like "Are you here/Are you there/Are you somewhere in between/Do you run/Do you walk/Do you roll into the mud/Are you gay/Are you straight/Do you wanna me my mate?/Yes/No/Maybe so/yes/no/I don't know/..." I wrote it with my friend Dylan and I think we thought it was brilliant. I still remember the melody perfectly too, that's gotta mean something...

How was your experience in Cuba and performing with Juanes?

It was life-changing. I understood the power of music in a way that I had previously only hoped was true. I was in my native country singing in front of 1.5 million of what would be my friends and neighbors had I not left Cuba so young. It was a really mesmerizing experience. I was humbled to be sharing that stage with such a selfless and visionary artist.

What is next for Liset Alea?

I am nakedly and unabashedly diving head first into my new album, which is a journey into everything I've written on my balcony since I moved to Miami, making a conscious effort to document this moment of my life, which is markedly more positive, colorful, love-full, and yet at the same time more self-analytical and questioning than ever. It's my first self-penned Spanish album. I decided to sing in Spanish because after so many adventures around the world, I realised I had never taken the time to really explore one culture, my own. I'm looking forward to using this album as a perfect excuse to get to travel a lot.

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