Folk singer Alicia Blue is possessed with a sky-blue voice and working-class background. She’s cleaned houses, waited tables, slept on couches and worked as a caregiver. They’re all experiences that have informed her music, which over the years has evolved from blues to traditional (though still soulful) folk.
Born Alicia Gutierrez, the artist unveiled her reinvention last year with the single “Incognito,” a song about being a “passing” Latina and the racist comments about Mexican-Americans she would hear because people assumed she was white. The song anchored the self-titled EP she released last summer. (Blue’s pre-2019 music has all but vanished from streaming services.)
Now, Blue is introducing her full-length, “Bravebird,” with the sparkling single “Queen of Echo Park.” It is not only inspired by, but it features backing vocals by, Lauren Ruth Ward, the ascendant singer-songwriter who has given as much energy to the L.A. scene as she received in recent years.
“When I first saw Lauren Ruth Ward two years ago at a Sofar Sounds show I knew I was going to become friends with her,” Blue says. “Her unapologetic lyrics and vocal agility was in many ways the opposite of me, but also inside of me. Somehow we became fast friends this past year and she invited me over for a co-write. We tried a bit but ended up just getting to know each other better. She baked me sweet potato fries and we had drinks and we talked about boring music vs. music that ‘works,’ as in, music that works though life, issues and the times. That asks tough questions or at least expresses what is usually not kosher to say. Especially as a woman.
“I went home and told her I’d elaborate on our co-write, but I couldn’t do it. When I started the lyrics I could only begin to describe the joy this person brought to me, as an artist, as a friend, as a sort of spiritual inspiration. And the beauty and mystery and larger than life experience I had with her, and continue to have. There’s a magical quality in which she chooses to live … I needed to be the one to tell the world about this magic, especially since so many others (her fans and friends included) would relate with it. I needed to paint the picture of what we all felt. Lauren has lifted up so many of us in the L.A. music scene, it felt silly not to comment on this energy flowing through us.”
You don’t have to be familiar with Ward to appreciate Blue’s portrait of this seemingly mythical figure, but you’ll smile if you are. Produced by Jordan Ruiz and featuring Ward on backing vocals and guitar and Jason Goldstein on keys, “Queen of Echo Park” is out today.
||| Stream: “Queen of Echo Park”