Nashville husband and wife duo Alyssa and Doug Graham have not only literally weathered the storm, but a series of difficult events and the creation of new music seem to have made their bond stronger. The couple raised in New York and raised in New Jersey were new parents in Nashville when the tornado remained just before the pandemic and Alyssa suffered some medical setbacks; postpartum depression, a debilitating voice injury, and wrist surgery. They are now celebrating the release of Sha La La, a new ep is coming out today (a feature film is slated for next year), their recording studio in Nashville, 3 Sirens and a documentary film about their motorcycle trip along Route 66! The Grahams are playing WMOT Last Friday From Home today at noon.
AnaLee: Congratulations on your new version, Sha La La is out today! We’ve all been through a lot in the past year and a half, but it looks like the successes keep coming for both of you. Tell us about your journey to recording and releasing this ep and how the title reflects your approach to life these days.
The Grahams: We named the EP Sha La La because at some point you just have to let go. Let go of disappointment, let go of self-pity and judgment, let go of aspirations motivated by narcissism, let go of what you thought was real, let go of control, let go of anger and let go of who you thought you were and embrace who you can to become. Like everyone else, we have had 14 difficult months during the pandemic. We were new parents with a one-year-old when the pandemic broke. A child we have been expecting for over 20 years and spent 3 years (with the help of science) conceiving. We released a brand new record that spanned 4 years and our best work to date (in our minds). We had an amazing tour booked both nationally and internationally and were very excited. On March 17, 2020, everything changed and a downward spiral ensued.
We didn’t have any family nearby and we were new single parents in lockdown with a one year old (I know any parent reading this will sympathize). Obviously, all tours have been canceled. I was suffering from postpartum I found out I needed wrist surgery so I couldn’t play guitar for 8 weeks and to top it off I suffered from vocal bleeding and I couldn’t speak let alone sing for weeks (followed by months of voice therapy). Fortunately, we’ve always had it better than many because our love affair has always been a constant (since we were kids). When we got into the studio we had bits and pieces and ideas and we just wanted to experiment, which is evident on this EP. We had come to terms with everything that was going on (the pandemic) and the big life changes we were going through, so we wanted to let go of the structure, our normal methods and just make art with friends. When you can’t plan, make art (and lots of love). We thought âSha La La,â a recurring vocal passage on one of the tracks, was a fitting name to drop everything that you once thought made sense but isn’t.
AnaLee: I understand that you are planning the release of a full album for 2022. Will it pick up where Sha La La stops or can we expect something completely different?
The Grahams: Oh, if only I knew the answer. MDR. We have certainly given up on predicting the future or the path that music and art will lead us. However, we are convinced that after Sha La La our next record will be a continuation of our “anti-perfect” exploration. We plan to work with Dan Molad again as we speak the same romantic, whimsical and exploratory language. Danny is never empty of ideas about a music or a production. He will go where no man has gone before and will love every minute of it. It is also a pleasure to work with him. People often think that darkness and anger make a good record. Sometimes being with people you love and embracing the goodness and beauty can do something magical too. Together with Danny we have found that magic. As always, we’ll also be working with our childhood friend and longtime co-author Bryan McCann. The three of us are so connected spiritually and musically. All of our records are a collaboration with BMC since our childhood in Jersey. However, Georgette (our daughter) will surely have an impact on our next full version as she has changed the paradigm.
AnaLee: In 2018, you opened a creative space and invitation-only recording studio in East Nashville, 3 Sirens. Tell us about it and what is your vision for 3 Sirens.
The Grahams: For us, the check-in process is all about creating the mood so that we can feel as comfortable as possible walking down the rabbit hole with friends, exploring and experimenting freely. 3 sirens was a long-standing dream for us to build a âutopianâ artistic community. The basic vision was to bring together beautiful minds and provide an inspired space and community for creativity and exploration. We wanted to develop a unique collective of producers, songwriters, musicians and artists of all kinds. Basically we wanted to go back to the days of artistic exchanges like the 1960s in Greenwich Village and the 1920s in Paris. We wanted to create a vibrant professional space with all of our favorite toys so our friends would want to come hang out, talk, create, let off steam and feel inspired to create together. We wanted our producer and artist friends whom we love and respect to come and feel at home. After working in many studios, some amazing and some not, we have learned what is and what is not inviting and inspiring for us. A good space helps to create a good work of art. Our goal was to create 3 mermaids from another world, serene, comfortable, inspiring and loaded with deadly equipment. A playground of sound and thought. What has happened in creating this beautiful space is that we have started a lifelong artistic mission that we continue to develop and people love. That’s the point.
AnaLee: New York filmmakers Natalie Brasington and David Johnson filmed a documentary during your motorcycle trip on the infamous Route 66. Tell us a bit about this road trip and the movie In search of the Milky Way.
The Grahams: We see ourselves as artists, not just musicians. We both paint and write. Doug owns several collections of paintings and sculptures and we both have a great passion for the art of filmmaking. Sometimes visual expression is more powerful in representing an idea or message. Natalie and David have collaborated with us several times over the years. They are incredible artists. When we shared our vision for Route 66 motorcycle travel with them, they jumped at the chance to work together again. The documentary captures our motorcycle adventures on Mother Road during a frightening and tumultuous time in American history. The road trip became the inspiration for our third album, Kids Like Us, which, ironically, was released on March 27, 2020 at an even more terrifying time in American and world history.
AnaLee: You recently announced a UK tour for next year which includes the documentary and a live performance. Tell us about that and if there are any plans to bring this show back to the United States.
The Grahams: Again, planning for the future seems a bit futile but one can only hope that we can continue to make art and share it with those who are willing to listen. We’ll see what tomorrow will bring. Either way, we are hopeful.
“Beyond the palisades”
“In Search of the Milky Way”
“Pilgrims and punks” – Live from 3 sirens