No bone-honest Omaha scenester between the ages of 15 and 35 doesn’t want to be Kianna Alarid when they grow up. Alarid’s first band, Tilly and the Wall, indie-rocked the 00s with effusively youthful songs on Saddle Creek Records, opening for Bright Eyes and appearing on soundtracks. Firmly established by 2004, Alarid’s gone from a wide-eyed, 23-year-old-innocent to a seasoned music industry professional and mother. Alarid is now based in Kansas City, where she spoke eloquently between diaper changes about the new band (Yes You Are), lessons learned, and maturity.
“I see the events in my life as steps on an ascending road. I didn’t always see it that way. I didn’t even realize there was a road. I think that’s what it means to be lost in the wilderness,” Alarid says. “But now that I am aware of this, I can view good events and bad events as steps going upward toward a destination. The present moment in my life is always reaching for that next level and always being aware of the obstacles and pitfalls so I don’t slip off this narrow way.”
Yes You Are came into being two years ago when Alarid and writing partner Jared White felt inspired and set to work in a more methodical, practical manner than in years past.
“We just set our focus on the next step: determine what it is we need to do to make that happen or get that ball rolling,” says Alarid. “For me, it’s like night and day. With Tilly I didn’t realize what I was doing. Inspiration came sporadically and felt organic yet fleeting. With Yes You Are, I have learned to invoke inspiration at will.”
Alarid admits that while managed productivity seems obvious in many professions, to an artist, it feels like “a strange secret no one could’ve taught me.”
“There are no handbooks when you start. No one clocks you in or out, and no one but you can hold you accountable. It feels like a natural kind of artistic maturity.”
Alarid says the charm of Tilly’s music was in its eclectic collaboration of five songwriters and the innocence of their sound. In the best sense, she says, they were amateurs.
“We didn’t even know what we were doing,” Alarid says of Tilly glowingly. “Like we were kids dancing and singing in a basement and it sounded so pure and free. It just came out that way with no predetermined concept. Tilly songs were my songs of innocence. Yes You Are songs are my songs of experience. That’s how it feels to me.”
Every Yes You Are song is a two person collaboration between Alarid and White. What will define their sound will come from their “very different” current interests.
“There’s always this contrasting dual source,” Alarid says. “The magic happens when I try to write him a classic 60s pop melody and he tries to write a Swedish electronic song for me. Interesting things happen when we pass through each other’s filter.”
Being a mother has made Alarid realize she is duty-bound to actualize dreams she never knew she had.
“I need to teach my daughter by example that life is meant to be a quest. We’re meant to grow towards something,” Alarid says. “We’re meant to believe in things before we can see them. I intend for my life to be the proof for her that she can be great at whatever she feels called to do. If I’m going to be great, I have to know what I want, be resolved to achieve that, and work hard until I do, never giving up.” Encounter
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