Alicia Witt has a passion for connecting with her fans. “The thing I love the most is when people come up to me after a show and they tell me that a song perfectly describes a situation they’re going through,” says the singer, songwriter, pianist and acclaimed actor, whose first full-length studio LP, Revisionary History, came out May 5, 2015.
Witt’s new album is full of songs like that: nine of them, to be exact, that deal in themes of heartbreak, loyalty and the amazing power that comes with finding your own voice —and using it. “This record is probably the most personal thing that I’ve put out,” says Witt, who released a self-titled EP in 2009 and the full-length Live at Rockwood in 2012, in between parts in films and on TV in an acting career that began with her debut in the David Lynch sci-fi classic Dune in 1984, when she was 7.
For all the autobiographical touches on Revisionary History, it’s also a collection of deeply relatable songs. The reflective piano ballad “Friend” opens the album with Witt sifting through feelings of attraction for someone she knows should be just a pal and not a lover, while the aching vocal showcase “Consolation Prize” pairs torchy piano with taut electric guitar accents as Witt muses over the ways in which we edit our pasts to fit the present. Revisionary history, indeed — the album title comes from a lyric in that song.
“We can constantly be revising how we remember things, and maybe that’s not so bad,” says Witt, whose TV credits include The Sopranos, Friday Night Lights and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. “Maybe it’s how we move on.”
Produced by Ben Folds, Revisionary History was years in the making. Some of the songs date back to the mid-’00s, which gave her plenty of time to hone them in concert before heading to Folds’ studio in Nashville, where she recorded the album in two week-long chunks in the spring and late fall of 2013.
“He’s got such a unique and specific vision for how those songs should best be presented,” Witt says of Folds. “I had no doubt that he was going to bring to it his own vision for the sound of each song, but he also wanted it to be a truthful reflection of what I do. The record sounds very much like me.”
Witt credits Folds for digging into the essence of each song for musical arrangements that sometimes brought out their hidden sides: the folky stomp on “Blind,” for example, highlighted the rootsy touches in a song Witt had been performing for years, while the mournful trumpet and marching drumbeat perfectly captured the mood on “Down,” a tune inspired by the smart but troubled character Witt played on Season Five of the Emmy-nominated FX series Justified, and featuring the Emmy-nominated New York rapper and actor T.O.N.E-z
“When I heard it all put together, it made me cry,” Witt says. “At the end, when the trumpet comes in, it sounds like a soul making its way up.”
Then there’s the girl-power anthem “About Me,” which shows the influence of Folds and Billy Joel in the robust piano and Witt’s defiant, determined vocals; or the lush, sultry ’60s-style pop tune “Theme From Pasadena,” which Witt wrote with Folds for the movie Cold Turkey (Witt starred opposite Peter Bogdanovich and Cheryl Hines in the indie drama, which was originally to be called Pasadena). In fact, Revisionary History boasts such an array of sounds and styles that there’s no pigeonholing Witt as a musician.
“I love all different types of music, so the songs that I come up with and am drawn to when I’m writing are naturally all over the place,” says Witt, whose movie credits include 88 Minutes with Al Pacino and Two Weeks Notice with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.
Witt has been a music lover since she was a little girl growing up in Worcester, Mass. She began playing piano when she was 7, competing in international piano competitions into her teen years. After she moved to Los Angeles at 14, she supported herself by playing in the lobby lounge of the Beverly Wilshire hotel until she landed her first regular acting job on the CBS show Cybil when she was 16. It took a few more years before she began consistently writing her own songs, and it wasn’t until 2008 that she started performing them. Her first gig was opening for Jimmy Webb at a benefit in New York. Moving from standards and show tunes to original songs was a big leap for Witt.
“There was a considerable fear factor,” she says. “As an actor doing theater and doing live television, it wasn’t about performing for people. It was about performing my own music. That’s incredibly vulnerable.”
Witt’s fears that audiences wouldn’t respond proved very much unfounded, and the vulnerability of opening up to strangers helped her make the all-important connection that turned them into fans.
“The most that I can hope for as a singer-songwriter is telling these stories that are incredibly personal, but saying them in a way that somebody else can relate to their own experiences,” Witt says.
Alicia Witt has had a three-decade long career, starting with her acting debut as Alia in David Lynch's classic ‘Dune’.
Alicia recently received rave reviews for her role as Paula in AMC’s critically acclaimed series The Walking Dead. Witt is currently appearing and singing on ABC’s hit drama series Nashville as country star Autumn Chase.
Witt was most recently seen on Season 4 of the Emmy-award winning Showtime series ‘House of Lies’ opposite Don Cheadle. This past season, Alicia also appeared on the new DirecTv series ‘The Kingdom’, on the hit CBS show ‘Elementary’, and in 2015 in the new TNT series ‘The Librarians’.
In 2014, Alicia joined the 5th Season of Emmy-award winning FX series ‘Justified’ with Timothy Olyphant. Alicia played Wendy Crowe, the smart and sexy paralegal sister of crime lord Daryl Crowe (Michael Rapaport) who takes matters into her own hands to bring him to justice in the Season 5 finale. Last summer she appeared at the Geffen Playhouse in the Los Angeles debut of Tony-nominated Neil Labute play ‘reasons to be pretty’.
In 2013, Alicia appeared opposite Peter Bogdanovich and Cheryl Hines in the independent family dramedy 'Cold Turkey', in a performance which NY Daily News critic David Edelstein hailed as one of the best of 2013, and garnered the headline ‘See Cold Turkey For Alicia Witt’s Performance’ in the Village Voice. Also released in 2013 was the film 'I Do', which had a nationwide theatrical release after screening at 25 festivals worldwide and winning 10 awards. Alicia has two songs featured in this film as well.
...sharply personal, boldly melodic pop originals in the Carole King/Billy Joel vein ... snappy, resilient, emancipated-woman anthems and touching lost-and-found love ballads- Philadelphia Inquirer
... what a voice. It comes from tender, intimate appeals, soaring to roof raising heights, as she all the while works the piano with ease and command...where Witt really excels is in her ballads, personal and universal poems of love, longing, and everyday girl issues. Her lyrics flow with a poetic polish, and her piano playing rivals that of rockers Billy Joel or Elton John. - What Duvet Said
... her mature and telling lyrics resonate with deep meaning and purpose... her probing words are intimate, candid, confessional' - Worcester Telegram