11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: Ali Sperry

Ali Sperry (Photo by Fairlight Hubbard)Photo by Fairlight Hubbard

Nashville singer-songwriter Ali Sperry has recently released an LP called “In Front of Us.” Working in her new home studio, the record was produced by her husband, Jamie Dick, whose debut effort as a producer was nothing less than outstanding. This record creates a sonically delightful mood with Ali’s gorgeous gentle vocals meeting the peaceful and mellifluous musical tones made by some familiar local names such as keyboardist Jen Gunderman, guitarists Audley Freed and Sadler Vaden and the all-around versatile Joe Pisapia.

Follow the words as you watch and listen and find yourself get captivatingly lost in this lyric video for the record’s first single “In Your Dreams.” Says Ali, “Don’t worry, don’t be sorry, say it’ is the repeating mantra of this song. It’s what I have endeavored to do throughout this record, and as I move forward through my life.”

You can find out more about Ali at alisperry.com and check out her Patreon page where she offers lessons on both songwriting and yoga. Thanks, Ali, for diving into these 11 Questions with such gusto!

Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?

I was born in Great Neck, NY. I like to jokingly call myself a New Yorker, but I only lived there as a baby. I lived in five different states by the time I turned seven years old, and we had moved to Fairfield, IA. My parents were very involved at the time in the Transcendental Meditation movement (which was the impetus for all of the relocating, as they were teaching at various TM centers) and Fairfield was the national hub for the TM folk, with a grade school, high school and even college that were all based on the teachings around this type of meditation and philosophy. We lived there for the next ten years, so it’s really the place I grew up. It was a small town and a close-knit community and, in many ways, an idyllic place to spend a childhood. We moved again for my last couple years of high school to Palm Beach Gardens, FL. It was a challenging time to leave behind the home I had known for so long, but I attended an arts school for those last couple years of high school and had a great time digging deeper into my love for the performing arts. The next move was to attend Syracuse University, which I chose for their theater program, and where I made friends that are still some of the closest in my life. After studying musical theater for four years, the natural progression for our whole crew was to move to New York and pursue big Broadway dreams. Once again, I didn’t stay long in New York, as working the 4am shift at Equinox gym and trying to squeeze in singing 16 bars of a song at an audition now and then didn’t really amount to the New York fantasy I had in mind. It was during this time that I got my yoga teaching certification, which felt like a pivotal moment. I moved back to Fairfield for a while to regroup, spent a year in Chicago for something new, and then through an out-of-the-blue phone call from family friends, I was met with the opportunity to audition for an all-girl band in Nashville. I joined the group, Sweetwater Rose, in 2009 and began my tenure in Nashville, a city I have grown to love deeply and that truly feels like home.

What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?

Oh my gosh, wow, hard to remember the very first. I remember joining the BMG Music Service CD club in the 90s when I was in middle school, where you could get tons of CDs every month for really cheap. The Fugees first record was one of my favorites that I bought through that club. I remember my girlfriends and I walking through the halls at school singing “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and doing all the harmony parts (thinking we were pretty cool).  My most recent music purchase was Erin Rae’s new record Lighten Up on vinyl and I love it so much!

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

The first concert that I actually remember was Trisha Yearwood with my mom and stepdad. It was around the time of her album The Song Remembers When that my mom and I listened to and sang along with incessantly and I was wow-ed by the whole experience.

The most recent live show I went to was Black Pumas at the Ryman. Holy crap, what a show! They had everyone in there losing their minds. I was especially into the backup singers who had exceptional dance moves and voices. There was an encore in which the band magically showed up in the middle of the balcony to play a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and then for the very last song they transported back to the stage and started pulling audience members up there to dance with them. Highly recommend seeing them live if you get the chance.

Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?

Sheryl Crow! Why does she not have one yet? I also nominate The McCrary Sisters, as they have sung on so many records in this town and supported many of the names who already have stars.

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

For coffee, my go-to is Ugly Mugs. I used to live in that neighborhood and be able to walk there, so it has a special place in my heart. It’s always chill and everyone who works there is so nice. Delicious beverages and snacks and never feels like you need to put on a cool outfit to go get coffee.

For pizza, I’m a big fan of Roberta’s Pizza at Urban Cowboy. It’s scrumptious. Also, I will forever love Five Points Pizza for more of the classic pizza joint experience.

What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?

Wow, a lot of incredible records have come out of this town. If I have to pick one, which is hard, I’m gonna go with Blonde on Blonde. It’s quintessential Bob Dylan and has some of the first Dylan songs I ever fell in love with. It’s a record that I have loved my whole life, as so many others have.

Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?

Gotta give it to Dino’s.  When you’re ready for a greasy burger or grilled cheese after a show, that’s the spot.

The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.

I would ask Jill Andrews, Kyshona Armstrong and Joe Pisapia. Mmm, that would be a fun round. Let’s do it!

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

The Five Spot is the venue I think of as home base. I love the energy in that room, and it combines a casual, familiar dive-bar ambience with great sound and audiences that actually listen. I have many musical memories in that room that I cherish. I also love playing the OG Basement and have had some really enjoyable shows at the City Winery lounge.

Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.

I’d like to see Elton John to move here, mainly because I just think it would be so fun and uplifting to see him pop up around town. Seeing Elton John grocery shopping at the Turnip Truck would absolutely make my day.

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Well, step one is releasing In Front of Us. I have a Nashville release show planned this April and am currently firming up other tour dates for the spring and summer, including a UK tour. I got to tour in the UK right before the pandemic and it was one of my favorite tours yet. I’m very eager to go back there and share the new record. Future plans include making a Christmas record one of these days and a record of children’s songs. My husband and I recently finished a major renovation where we turned our garage into a home studio—quite an upgrade from the guest-room studio set up that we made In Front of Us in. So, I am looking forward to digging into lots more recording from home. Beyond that, on the list of big career goals is to get songs placed in film and television and to someday perform on the Ryman stage.

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