MP3 M'Lisa Alonso - M'Lisa Alonso
The fundamentals – a golden, full-throated, multi-octave voice, a deep well of soulful feeling, and a rare ability to connect with the story of the lyric and bring it to life – are evident throughout the sensational young singer M’Lisa Alonso’s debut.
12 MP3 Songs
URBAN/R&B: R&B Pop Crossover, URBAN/R&B: Soul
The fundamentals – a golden, full-throated, multi-octave voice, a deep well of soulful feeling, and a rare ability to connect with the story of the lyric and bring it to life – are evident throughout the sensational young singer M’Lisa Alonso’s debut album, M’Lisa Alonso.
We hear her sultriness as well as her playfulness, her sophisticated yet carefree essence, her confidence and her vulnerability, and a spiritual subtext that can be discerned even in the sensuous intimations that may have come to M’Lisa from her father’s Spanish lineage.
But there’s more.
This extraordinary debut isn’t just a showcase for M’Lisa’s talent. It is, from start to finish, an experience beyond the surface of the music. Whether flaunting her assertive yet seductive appeal on “Wastin’ Time” and “Lip Service,” whispering a come-hither call on “Overrated,” or expressing a simple love for enjoying what life has to offer on “Everyday’s the Weekend,” M’Lisa’s message is clear.
She is what she sings. Her personality, like our awareness of her gifts as a performer and interpreter, grow through the course of our listening. And once heard and seen she is impossible to forget.
Some of this comes from a childhood spent on the road, never settling long in one place but tasting constantly what each station on her journey had to offer. Her father was – and still is – a pastor with a preference for ministering on the move. As a result the family moved far and wide, and M’Lisa grew up calling wherever she happened to be home, from Kansas, California, Illinois, New York and points between and beyond.
“I look back at it now and I’m thankful that I got to experience these places,” she says. “When you’re young it can be difficult to adapt to new environments, but I’ve always been the kind of person that can go with what’s dealt to me and see the best in it.”
Her travels ended eventually in Orlando, Florida, her home for the past 11 years. She arrived with a fully developed knack for adapting to changes and challenges, a winning combination of looks and personality that drew people naturally to her, and most important, a musical sensibility that was rooted in the church but flavored by her Spanish roots and an openness to new music, wherever it came to her attention.
“I grew up liking to be the center of attention,” M’Lisa says, laughing. “I definitely love to be in front of people and I’ve always loved to sing. But then one day, when I was 12 and singing in my dad’s church, I had an a cappella solo on ‘Amazing Grace.’ My dad stopped me and asked me to sing it again.
He listened real carefully, and then he said, ‘What just happened? You’re a little girl, but you’re singing like a woman!’”
Her father may have been surprised as this sudden flowering in her performance, but he reacted quickly and supportively. “He told me, ‘Get out there and sing it again!’” she remembers. “And right after that he bought me The Bodyguard soundtrack by Whitney Houston and said, ‘Listen to this. You are going to love her.’”
M’Lisa did indeed love Whitney – and also Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera, Gladys Knight and a wide range of singers who inspired her as she found her own identity. Developing her stage persona through school and community theater, M’Lisa was ready to dedicate her life to making music by the time she’d entered high school.
“There was no other option,” she insists. “By the time I was 15 I knew I would be a singer. That’s what I was made to do.”
M’Lisa began to perform in clubs throughout Orlando and beyond. Yet even as she expanded her base, her musical home remained her father’s church, where she continued to sing – and where she made an important professional connection.
Thomas Michael Dale, recently relocated from a busy session career in Detroit, had taken over as music director for Saturday evening services. A mutual respect and working relationship grew immediately between the transplanted producer and the future star.
“M’Lisa sang just a couple of verses and I was hooked,” Dale recalls. “Eventually we got really comfortable with each other, so the idea of doing an album together was really a no-brainer.”
Aside from heralding the arrival of a sensational new talent, the fruit of their labor, M’Lisa Alonso, proved a turning point for M’Lisa in stimulating her songwriting. Up to the beginning of her work with Dale, she hadn’t thought much about doing original material.
“I had worked with producers in the past who insisted on writing for me,” she says. “I never got to be part of the process. The problem is that I like to be involved in developing the songs I sing. So when Tom gave me a lot of creative control and asked for my input, it was awesome.”
M’Lisa focused mainly on lyrics and melody in the early stages of M’Lisa Alonso, with Dale adding chords and arrangements. By the time they’d gathered a group of musicians culled from her band and from Orlando’s top session players, their collaboration had become seamless and their results consistently successful in combining the accessible with the personal, the universal with something unique to this emerging artist.
Vocally, the key to M’Lisa’s performance is her ability to adapt her range and unforgettable sound to the stories told in each song. “I love to interpret each song,” she says. “To do that, I have to pull from a different place. That’s why I’m totally in character, so to speak, from the moment I step into the studio. I have the big picture in my mind, I know who the woman in the song is, and I see in my mind how I’m going to build from that.”
But there’s something even subtler in her approach. It’s in her motivation for singing in the first place, which comes from a place that’s more about service than even stardom. Maybe that’s a byproduct of being raised in the church. Certainly it reflects in her mentoring of young girls through a church program called Adrenaline; even as her schedule fills with sessions and shows, M’Lisa keeps every Wednesday night open for this commitment.
“Whether I’m spending Wednesday nights with Adrenaline or singing in a spotlight, I do it because I want to share the gifts that God has given me,” M’Lisa sums up. “That’s why I do what I do: It’s about living out a purpose.”
She means it. You feel it. And the magic of M’Lisa is already changing the world, heart to heart, song by song.