Alisabeth Von Presley
McGrath Amphitheatre — Friday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m.
Alisabeth Von Presley is arguably the living embodiment of “go big or go home.” And as her musical career continues to pick up steam, she has no intention of sitting around at home.
This Friday, July 7, is a big day for Von Presley as she performs at Uptown Friday Nights at the McGrath Amphitheater and releases her new record, Diamonds in the Blackout. Uptown Friday Nights shows are 21+; admission is $5.
She shared two tracks from the new album with me, and both are strong cuts.
“(I’m A) Wonder” is a hard rocking sister to Katy Perry’s “Roar” grounded in the iconography of a certain DC heroine whose stock has been on the rise of late. “Glow,” which Von Presley identifies as her favorite song on the album, is a power ballad that shows off her range. These songs auger well for the album as a whole and for Friday evening’s performance.
This Friday, you’ll perform your third concert as part of Uptown Friday Nights. By all accounts, last year’s show was epic. What are your plans to equal or top the success of that performance?
My memory of last year can be summed up into one note: my car was covered in glitter and I couldn’t walk for three days. No no — just kidding (but both of those statements are in fact true). Last year this kind woman came up to me after the show and asked if we were a “touring company” based on all of the set pieces, costume changes and choreography — but I kindly noted, “No ma’am, I just have a theatrical background and a color palette of a 10 year old. And no matter the venue or the amount of pay we try to provide an entertaining show for all ages.” I feel like we did that last year. Maybe we tried to cram too many costume changes into one show but with four hours to fill I was ambitious!
What will set this year’s show apart from last? I’ve grown up a lot over the past year. Went through heartbreak and fell madly in love, lost my father to cancer and found myself. The set has all of the “showy” elements of last year’s — costumes, props, dancers, a rockin’ band — but it has more of me in every song, more real. I’m not quite sure how to put it — more honest — more exposed — but still flouncing about in pleather and sequins. I’m most excited to share the original pieces with a crowd — no one has heard them let alone seen them live. It’s a little nerve wrecking trying to pull off original music to a crowd who’s never heard the song, but I am so up for the challenge. I want them to leave saying, “I was entertained but I felt something. And where the hell did this glitter on my cheek come from?”
Friday is also the release day for your new record, Diamonds in the Blackout. What excites you most about the album?
Oh man! Everything excites me about this album. It’s the perfect novel to the story that has been the past year of my life. Songs about losing your shit, not taking shit and holy shit I’m in love. Are we allowed to say shit? If not, then: Each of these songs exemplifies something impactful that happened to me over the past year. “American Blackout” is about my struggle with the current political scene and telling people to stand up and be heard. “(I’m A) Wonder” is about being a modern day Wonder Woman and touches on the power you hold within yourselves to bust out of your cage and turn it into something you can use in battle.
“Glow” is my personal favorite — it’s ethereal. You find yourself floating into space — complete with vocal glitches symbolizing getting further and further away from Earth — and then the bass hits on count one of the chorus and suddenly you’re grounded again. It’s a beautiful tune. All of the instrumentation is by my incredible producer Tim King. Tim was able to take the unwritten song in my heart and turn it into something real. This album would not have been possible without his brilliance.
You’ve had a busy performance schedule in the area already this summer, with more on the horizon. Do you feel like this area/region offers enough performing opportunities for you? Related to this, what keeps an artist with your ambition and talent in Cedar Rapids?
The Cultural Corridor has been my launch pad for four years now — sort of figuring out what works with all different types of audiences. The performance opportunities are there for folks willing to ask. I told myself I wanted to play Uptown Friday Nights three years ago — so I sent an email. I didn’t get a response back — so I sent another. Then I shot a music video thinking maybe they wanted to see me in action — and I included my idea for the show. Brian Hoel contacted me right away and said, “Yes! We want you for Uptown Friday Nights.”
I never look at any show like it’s “just another show.” I am always tweaking and constantly perfecting the element of entertainment. When folks heard about my vision for Uptown two years ago they laughed! Saying, “it’s just a bunch of drunk people – no one will respect a ‘show’ being put on stage.” But I couldn’t ignore my instincts to put together a fully choreographed four-hour performance. The audience response was overwhelming and I was asked back for the next year instantly after the show.
I used to put on a shows in my living room and charge one penny for admission. I’d do several costume changes using old dance recital costumes and would make my younger cousins be my back-up dancers. I’d take tablecloths and make stage curtains and I’d remix myself singing songs with nine other harmonies of myself via cassette. Who I am today most definitely stems from moments like this in my childhood. Also the fact that my family never missed a living room show and fully supported me then just as much as they support me now. The drive to entertain has always been inside of me. The living room shows are essentially what you see on stage today — just in a bigger way. And minus the tablecloth.
What are your next big goals for your musical career?
My long-term goals are to tour. I want to see the world through the music venues of America and meeting other musicians. I thrive on the road — everything you need in one suitcase. It’s so weightless. I am getting my bills paid off so I can leave at the beginning of 2018 and come back when I’ve run out of money.
Big Goals: I’d love to open for Lady Gaga or Joan Jett! I want to play Saturday Night Live and get to act in those fun skits they do. I’d love to play Maureen in the Broadway tour of Rent or Velma Kelly in Chicago. You can take the girl out of the theatre but …
What important thing(s) have I forgotten to ask you?
I have a puppy named Poptart — she holds my heart. I own a photo/video company called TINT // a visual co. I have an official CD release party at CSPS on July 29. It will be more of an intimate event where I chat about the details of the album, the stories behind lyrics, and perform the album top to bottom — complete with back up dancers and singers. People can find more info at www.AlisabethVonPresley.com.