From one classroom to another, Ally Ahern just graduated from the Chicago Academy of the Arts and will soon be attending Berklee College of Music in Boston this fall. Only 18-years-old, this pop singer with a very artistic aesthetic has her head on straighter than most people my age (I’m a full on 30-years-old). She spilled about where that initiative comes from as we talked about her debut album, her time at an art school and more. Read about this rising artist now and make sure to keep an eye out for her on the east coast in the coming months as she plans to get out and play shows in between classes at Berklee.
Kendra: Watching your video, listening to your music and seeing you as you are. You seem like a very confident person as such a young age. I know 30-year-olds who don’t seem as sure of their life as you are. Where does that stem from for you?
Ally Ahern: Confidence is something I think we are all constantly working on and reassessing, but I feel if you truly “love yourself” at your core (as cliché as that sounds), then you will do what you want to do without considering if other people will stop and judge. I have done plenty of things artistically and just in general that I am fully aware people have labeled as “out there”, but frankly I just don’t have the time or energy to care about what they think. If what I was doing wasn’t something weird and different, who would ever stop and look at it for more than 5 seconds? So I guess artistically (and in general) – I just do what I feel like doing without even considering the potential negative responses I may receive. Looking back even in elementary and middle school, I did a ton of weird and “artsy” things, and I certainly was NOT the “popular girl” in school, but did I care???? No. I was having fun doing something other than social climbing – which is what I recall the majority of my grade being caught up in.
Kendra: Musically speaking you’ve got your debut, Ally Ahern, out now. Being that you’ve spent your life in Chicago, if you had to compare that record to a place in your hometown where would it be and why?
Ally: The ravine by my house. I do tend to lean more towards saying I’m a city girl, and that I thrive in structure and being around people, but I like to go to this ravine near my house to do my deep thinking and meditating. I grew up in the same house and have been going to the same spot in the ravine my whole life, so at this point, it feels like a very personal place to me. I love collaborating with other musicians on songwriting, but I developed as a songwriter writing in a very personal and intimate way, so my spot in the ravine reflects that.
Kendra: Let’s talk about that video for “Doorless Keys.” Beautifully captivating from start to finish. Knowing you’re an art school grad, did you play a big part in the overall look and concept of the video?
Ally: Yes, I sort of dreamt up the aesthetic vision and the concept for the video when I was in the process of producing the song, and then I bounced my ideas off of Paul Elliott of DualMindVisuals, who I collaborate really well with, and we went from there. Paul took the album cover for my EP and he also just shot my second video “Suffocation” which will be coming out sometime in the near future.
Kendra: Which speaking of, is music your full-time focus now that you’ve graduated from Chicago Academy of the Arts?
Ally: Yes! I knew I wanted music to be my main focus since about 7th grade I believe.
Kendra: How did going there sort of shape your overall style when it comes to the artist that you are?
Ally: I studied musical theatre for the majority of the time I was at Chicago Academy for the Arts, which helped my performance skills and collaborative skills immensely.
Kendra: I love to check out Instagram and saw a #TBT of yours singing at a wedding. When it’s a performance like that, do you prep any different than a show at a club?
Ally: I sing jazz outside of my original material, I’ll sing with a combo at bars, restaurants, and private events, and for that specific wedding I sang this love song called “That’s All”. Prepping for a jazz show is a completely different process than prepping for an original show. With original shows, it takes a lot more planning and such because I’m solo, where with jazz shows I’m collaborating with musicians and I’m only one part of the equation.
Kendra: Seeing that you just graduated, if you had to make a mixtape that best sums up your current post-grad life – what five songs would have to be on it?