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Letter from Nashville: Alyssa Jacey on Southern cooking, personal improvement, and flying insects

"Let me just tell you what I'm looking at." Alyssa Jacey calls late on a Saturday morning from her new digs in Madison County, in Nashville Tennessee. "I'm on the patio and there are these beautiful trees blowing in the breeze. There was a hail storm yesterday, and today? It's 74." Jacey, a singer/songwriter relocated to the ground zero of all country music from her native Rancho Santa Fe in January.

One wonders if she is in touch with her southern cooking yet. "You know what? The second I started going in that direction I pulled back and said I'm not going to start eating like a southern person," meaning grits and lima beans and corn bread and meats that are pan-fried in bacon drippings. I'm thinking about the glorious peach cobbler they make down there while she says this: "I had a frigging salad for dinner last night." She teaches a hip hop dance class Wednesday nights.

"And, I'm working out. I have biceps now. I don't think I've ever had those before."

Even though her savings are all but tapped out, she maintains that the move to Nashville was the right thing to do. "Oh my god! If I'd stayed in San Diego I wouldn't be where I am today." To have a career in music, she says, you have to leave home. "Doors will open, but you gotta make the decision to move." As proof, perhaps, Jacey offers that she now has a manager.

"Eight years in San Diego, I never had a manager. He's great as far as connections go in New York and in Nashville. He's getting me in front of a lot of people and setting up meetings with producers and songwriters." She says they just finished 48 hours worth of non-stop meetings with music industry types. But then again, the competition in Nashville is legendary, is it not?

"Everyone here is badass. They play in their sleep. When they wake up, they're even better."

Then, there are the flying devils.

"They're huge. They're like dragon flies. I just dodged four of them while we were talking." Do they sting? "Like a bumblebee or a hornet. They'll kick your ass." Did anyone warn her about the southern bug problem before she moved to the South from San Diego, a relatively insect-free part of the world? "They did not. I was warned about tornadoes. I was warned about snow. But not these."

The last time Jacey and I spoke was October. There was an album in the works. "I'd recorded seven songs in Nashville. When I got back here, I recorded three more. I was going to put out a CD, but I have since changed my mind." The new plan is to release a single a month, beginning with "Gush," now available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and the usual sources for downloads.

Jacey is a dancer by training. She told me her music career began as a joke. "I was forced onto a karaoke stage in 2004 by friends who’d heard me singing to myself.” She sang karaoke on and off for the rest of the year. She taught herself to play guitar and later, drums. “I now have written over 250 original songs,” or, enough music for six albums.

She'll be back in San Diego beginning May 13 and on that day she will hit the ground running: "I'll be on KUSI TV in the morning, then I'll play the House of Blues at 6pm and I'll be on FM 94.9 after 8." But the larger reason behind the hometown stopover is to play a benefit concert May 17 for the Alzheimer's Association of America.

"If you wear blue," she explains, "one dollar from either a ticket sale or a CD sale will be donated to the Association."

Jacey's grandmother passed from complications related to Alzheimer's in 2005. "She never got to see me perform. She died in February. I started recording in January. She's on my mind at least once a day. I don't know if I believe in reincarnation, but I'd like to believe she's around and happy."

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"Let me just tell you what I'm looking at." Alyssa Jacey calls late on a Saturday morning from her new digs in Madison County, in Nashville Tennessee. "I'm on the patio and there are these beautiful trees blowing in the breeze. There was a hail storm yesterday, and today? It's 74." Jacey, a singer/songwriter relocated to the ground zero of all country music from her native Rancho Santa Fe in January.

One wonders if she is in touch with her southern cooking yet. "You know what? The second I started going in that direction I pulled back and said I'm not going to start eating like a southern person," meaning grits and lima beans and corn bread and meats that are pan-fried in bacon drippings. I'm thinking about the glorious peach cobbler they make down there while she says this: "I had a frigging salad for dinner last night." She teaches a hip hop dance class Wednesday nights.

"And, I'm working out. I have biceps now. I don't think I've ever had those before."

Even though her savings are all but tapped out, she maintains that the move to Nashville was the right thing to do. "Oh my god! If I'd stayed in San Diego I wouldn't be where I am today." To have a career in music, she says, you have to leave home. "Doors will open, but you gotta make the decision to move." As proof, perhaps, Jacey offers that she now has a manager.

"Eight years in San Diego, I never had a manager. He's great as far as connections go in New York and in Nashville. He's getting me in front of a lot of people and setting up meetings with producers and songwriters." She says they just finished 48 hours worth of non-stop meetings with music industry types. But then again, the competition in Nashville is legendary, is it not?

"Everyone here is badass. They play in their sleep. When they wake up, they're even better."

Then, there are the flying devils.

"They're huge. They're like dragon flies. I just dodged four of them while we were talking." Do they sting? "Like a bumblebee or a hornet. They'll kick your ass." Did anyone warn her about the southern bug problem before she moved to the South from San Diego, a relatively insect-free part of the world? "They did not. I was warned about tornadoes. I was warned about snow. But not these."

The last time Jacey and I spoke was October. There was an album in the works. "I'd recorded seven songs in Nashville. When I got back here, I recorded three more. I was going to put out a CD, but I have since changed my mind." The new plan is to release a single a month, beginning with "Gush," now available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and the usual sources for downloads.

Jacey is a dancer by training. She told me her music career began as a joke. "I was forced onto a karaoke stage in 2004 by friends who’d heard me singing to myself.” She sang karaoke on and off for the rest of the year. She taught herself to play guitar and later, drums. “I now have written over 250 original songs,” or, enough music for six albums.

She'll be back in San Diego beginning May 13 and on that day she will hit the ground running: "I'll be on KUSI TV in the morning, then I'll play the House of Blues at 6pm and I'll be on FM 94.9 after 8." But the larger reason behind the hometown stopover is to play a benefit concert May 17 for the Alzheimer's Association of America.

"If you wear blue," she explains, "one dollar from either a ticket sale or a CD sale will be donated to the Association."

Jacey's grandmother passed from complications related to Alzheimer's in 2005. "She never got to see me perform. She died in February. I started recording in January. She's on my mind at least once a day. I don't know if I believe in reincarnation, but I'd like to believe she's around and happy."

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