For Texas powerhouse Ali Dee, rock is just as important country tradition. On her latest Sweet Southern EP, the singer peppers in enough mainstream appeal to stretch the widest demographic, but she clings to the things of the past. So, it's no wonder that she cites Dolly Parton and Dwight Yoakam as some of her influences. "Those sounds are so important," she shares in an exclusive interview with NashvilleGab, "I’m a huge fan of Dolly and Dwight. They’re perfect country music."
"That’s something I always want to make sure I’m bringing to the table. What, as a fan, do I love? I make sure that’s the heart of who I am as an artist," she adds. Even on her new single "Just A Broken Heart," a humorous pop-country track, she possesses significant throwback undertones. She recently debuted the track, to much acclaim, both from fans and critics.
"I don’t think I’ve ever loved a song as much as this one," she beams of the song, which was co-written by Ichabod, Chase McGill and Mary Morris. "I feel it’s a really relatable, fun song, especially for someone like me. I’ve always been dumped; I’ve never been the dumper. I’m like, ‘one time, can I just dump somebody?’"
She adds, "It’s really funny to see what it feels like what it’s like when you are dumped and all the emotions you go through, trying to get yourself together and trying to pretend it’s not bothering you. Really, deep down, you are a total hot mess. I feel like that’s why women can relate to it. I’m sure men are like that, too, but they just don’t want to admit it."
Dee ponders the moment she first heard the song: "I was having dinner, and [Ichabod] stopped by. We were just nonchalantly talking about what’s going on. He said, ‘you’ve got to hear this song I just wrote.’ He played me the song, and I was like ‘wow, it’s so cute and unique and different.' It got stuck in my head for two weeks.’ I finally called him up later and told him it was my next single. The melody just never left me."
As a rising talent, Dee makes sure to test out new songs in her live performances, and they same went for this delightful ditty. "I feel like I have to take it live to see how people enjoy it," she says. "That’s just such a huge part of my live show. People just love the song. We bring all the elements from the recording (the whistling, the banjo) to the stage."
Another stand-out track on her EP is "Sweet Southern Song," in which she describes her life and where she is. "In terms of my overall feel of the way I live my life, I am in charge of that," she says, of how the song relates to her own life. "If there’s something you don’t like, you can reconfigure it and make it more the way you want it. I’m happy where I am."
To-date, the singer has shared the stage with the likes of such legends as Clint Black, Merle Haggard and Charley Pride. But what has been the most special moment for her? "One of my favorite things I’ve been involved with…every Christmas, local artists in the Fort Worth area go to the hospital and perform for the sick kids there," she recalls. "One year, it was Randy Travis, Neil McCoy and myself. I was just like ‘what is going on.’ I felt like I couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. I was so overwhelmed. It so intimate; it was just us and guitars."
"You could see how the people in the hospital reacted to the music. To be a teeny-tiny part of that was really cool," she notes.
Part of that, too, is the escapist nature of country music. "[For example,] Miranda [Lambert]’s album came out a few days ago, and I haven’t stopped listening to it. I’ve listened to ‘Little Red Wagon’ thirteen times straight. It’s so creative. It gives you a chance to just zone out. I get ready and dance around my room and just sing the music. It’s just a way for people to get rowdy and feel and emotion or relate a song to their lives," she says.
"When I hear someone like her record songs like ‘Platinum’ and ‘Smokin’ And Drinkin’,’ I feel nobody out there is doing anything like that. It’s so inspiring. It makes me want to get better. I’m so thankful for artists like her that push the envelope and do something different. It makes younger acts out there excited, too."
On her own work, Dee admittedly doesn't know much about production, but she says that doesn't stop her from being very hands on in the studio. "I know what I like and what I want it to sound like, though," she asserts. "If a musician plays something I fall in love with, I know I want it. Chase MacGill, who produced the song, was one of the songwriters that’s really important to me. He’s young and amazing. I was so lucky I got to work with him on this. He knew exactly how I wanted it."
Of course, her rich broadcast background, including a stint as an arena host for NBA's Dallas Mavericks, has certainly helped her in her career. "It’s just another creative outlet for me. Getting to be in front of 30,000 Mavericks fans three nights all season long was just awesome. They’re not only basketball fans but they’re music fans, too," she says. "They get so excited. I’ve been with them for several years, and they get excited about my career. All the ticket holders are like, ‘we love watching you and your music. It’s so fun.’ To be recognized for it–Mavs Insider won an Emmy–was really exciting."
What's the toughest thing about being in front of the camera? "Trying to sound knowledgeable," she laughs, "making sure I do my research. There’s only so much time in the day, so I hate to show up for something like that and not know exactly what’s going on. I do a lot of bull-riding side-reporting. So, I make sure I know the riders, their families and history. It’s really like another form of art for them. They are like musicians, but they are crafted differently. Their dedication, hard work and focus is the same."
For fans already itching for a new Dee project, one is on the horizon. She reveals, "I think after ['Just A Broken Heart'], we’ll release another single. Then, by the end of the year, another album."
"It was so fun to release the EP on a whim," she concludes. "As an independent act, you have the ability to do stuff like that. It was basically a lot of songs that had been featured on [CMT’s] Texas Women. I wanted to get something out to the fans so they had something physical. I had decided the week before it came out I was going to release it."
In addition to her catchy tunes, Dee has also launched her own fashion line, Ali Dee Collection. So far, her specialty designed items, including her favorite T's, are featured in over 150 boutiques across the country. It's for “strong women who are proud of who they are and where they come from.”
Grab a copy of "Just A Broken Heart" on iTunes now!
[Audio Track via Roughstock]
Photos Courtesy Of Ali Dee Facebook
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