By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer
We are in for a musical treat when Burroughs and Cerro Coso graduate Alas de Liona takes to the stage in her farewell concert before she moves to Scotland. (Yes, Scotland.) Joshua Hall at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds becomes a concert hall with sound, lights, and a stage by Mc2 on Thursday, April 13, when the doors open at 6 pm and music start at 6:30 pm. There is no cover charge, but donations to help send her to Scotland are very welcome.
Not only will we be treated to her lovely voice and original songs, but The WAZ and Brian Cosner will also back her. Another delight: Aaron Lee will open for her.
Why Scotland? Liona has been fascinated by that part of the world since childhood. While attending UC Santa Barbara, she took a fifth year as an undergrad to participate in a study abroad program. “I wanted to work with some scholars over there,” she says. “I ended up playing for fun within the first six months at open mics and little sessions.” One can say she was discovered. “I ended up getting connected with a manager over there who believed in what I was doing and asked, ‘Do you know what is in the future for you with music?’ We ended up going back and forth, discussing career possibilities, and ultimately deciding that I would be willing to move to Scotland to pursue music if there was an opportunity. It seemed like my music was landing pretty well there.”
That was in the autumn of 2019, and now the pieces have fallen into place for her to make a move. Of course, we know what happened in 2020. “COVID happened, and lockdown happened,” she says. “So I ended up spending more time there. It was challenging to navigate going and coming back safely and within regulations. It has been quite an eventful couple of years since then.”
Over the past few years, she played in Scotland in several concerts, sometimes opening in front of over 500 people, headlining smaller venues, and recording in music studios. This work laid the groundwork for her to obtain an Artist Visa. Let’s say it wasn’t easy with a lot of hoops to jump through.
She already has several performances scheduled in May. She will be one of the acts opening several concerts for The Proclaimers, who achieved fame in 1988 with their song, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” That will be in a huge tent with 5 to 6,000 fans. In August, she will open for Orchestra Maneuvers, who wrote the Pretty in Pink theme, “If You Leave.” More engagements are being announced for the summer.
“It’s definitely been a long road,” she tells us. “A lot of waiting, a lot of quiet, a lot of downtime in between wondering what’s going to happen. I get excited while it’s happening, rather than getting excited before because it is a career. It is work. It is effort. It’s an emotional roller coaster. But I’m looking forward to it. I’m apprehensive. I’m nervous. I’m excited to have the opportunity to record my music. I think that’s the most thrilling part of it for me, being able to make my next album, something I’ve been working toward for a really long time.”
Her performance style has grown; she has become a woman at ease on the stage, telling stories, laughing, and smiling. Guitar player Tom “Krunchy” Rindt from The WAZ says of her stage presence, “She’s a very attractive girl. You get that interesting, funny, dry personality. She’s a lot of fun.”
Liona’s sound has been evolving as she gains experience. “My sound evolved a little bit from the record that I recorded here, Lightning and Fire. It moved into a kind of Ambient Spacey Indie Pop with Radio Astronomy. The gravity of Gold, my next album, is going to be an Indie Rock Dream Pop album with the folk elements that my music always has.” Her voice has been described as “ethereal,” and there will also be that flavor in her new music. She hopes to record it this summer and have it out early in 2024.
In February, her song Spirals was reviewed by Illustrate, the Independent Music Magazine.” It states, “You can tell you are going to get sucked into the song from the moment the warm pads and synth sounds catch your ear. The track is carried by Liona’s voice, which is the song’s standout because of its endearing vulnerability. Her already stunning voice becomes even more chilling with the addition of harmonies…The music of Liona is light and uncomplicated, floating on synth ocean tides while offering a unique perspective. The song captures a relatable but fleeting paranoid state of mind and encourages empathy and self-reflection.”
“Open Mic was where I started playing in the community of Ridgecrest,” she says. “It was a great place to try out my songs and get an idea of how to perform, what performing is like, and what you can expect. People are there to watch the performers and see what people can do, and the audience is always interested in cultivating local music and creating community.”
Being raised in a musical family with singer/songwriter/guitar-playing parents, Liona began her interest by writing. As her talent developed, she realized she needed to play an instrument to expand her writing abilities. The guitar was a natural choice, as guitars were all over her childhood home. Being self-taught and self-directed, her early music was a bit unusual. Laughingly, Liona remembers, “I didn’t know anything about chord structures and what is supposed to be used; I did some very strange things. The songs were strange, the recordings were badly done, and they were poor quality. Looking back, I had these weird songs that probably should never have seen the light of day.” However, her music excited her, and she was eager to share and continue writing and recording.
We can look forward to her visits when she returns to the desert to visit friends and family and, hopefully, takes the local stage.
Liona is happy she will have other writing opportunities in Scotland, but it is too early to announce. She can be followed on Facebook.