There are journeys that cover geography and those that traverse emotions, and “Ego Trip,” the forthcoming album by L.A.-based singer-songwriter Alisha Westerman represents both. Westerman, a Caribbean American from St. Croix who studied creative writing at UC Santa Barbara and eventually earned a PEN Fellowship and Idyllwild Poetry Scholarship, is the daughter of calypso musician and island sailing legend Llewellyn Westerman. Her mother is a craftsperson from Long Beach. It was there Alisha Westerman met songwriter Shane Gooding, who became her boyfriend and inspired her artistically.
Gooding is the co-writer on “Human Prize,” but he never got to hear the final product. He died suddenly after a brief battle with cancer, after which Westerman spent some time in New York City’s East Village (where she first performed the song from Gooding’s notes) and on St. Croix. The song is the stripped-down closer on “Ego Trip,” the album Westerman has made with Long Beach producer Chris Schlarb (Psychic Temple), and features Danny Frankel (Lou Reed, Fiona Apple) on percussion and Tabor Allen (Cherry Glazerr, Psychic Temple) on drums.
The plaintive song, a rumination on wealth from the points of view of a celebrity, a billionaire and a working parent, gets an equally straightforward video treatment from director Francis Capone, who portrays Westerman busking on the Metro. “Busking was something I started doing in New York,” she says. “For one, I was broke and any bit of money helped. But also, it’s the best practice. You see what resonates with people.”
“Ego Trip” — which the songwriter calls a study “of love, grief and being flat broke” — covers far more musical territory than the acoustic simplicity of “Human Prize” suggests. But it’s a fine introduction to Westernman’s sharp lyricism and keen insight.
||| Watch: The video for “Human Prize”
||| Live: Alisha Westerman celebrates her album release Nov. 7 at the Semi Tropic.