The Old Soul Of A Teenage Songstress
Ava Earl Releases “Am I Me Yet?”
By Robert Foran III
Ava Earl, one of Alaska’s youngest singer-songwriters, just impressed a full room of fellow musicians and a diverse array of fans with her performance and release of her new album “Am I Me Yet?”
On July 26, Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe in the Spenard neighborhood of Anchorage hosted the release party where Earl’s new record was celebrated with opening acts Emma Hill and The Forest That Never Sleeps. The two musicians played enchanting sets and voiced their admiration for the young artist to set the proper mood for an intimate and often humorous performance from Earl and musical partner Andy Mullen—a longtime musician.
Her third effort holds fifteen courageous songs that soar through a variety of emotions and topics that anyone can relate to, despite Earl being fifteen years old. The album covers modern issues that today’s society and generation must face. Upon listening, one could be surprised that such a sophisticated voice and substantial songwriting was coming from the heart of a girl preparing for her sophomore year of high school.
After the show, Earl and Mullen mingled with the crowd. Mullen reflected, “Ava’s release was spectacular. The venue was well attended and the audience was appreciative. I am so glad to see that the heart of Spenard is still beating.”
The Writer’s Block proved to serve the right atmosphere for what Earl presented on stage. The event’s program quotes Earl saying, “There is something magical about a quiet room of listeners appreciating music—it is one of my favorite ways to perform.”
The release party was just the beginning of Earl’s Alaskan tour that continues through summer, making stops in Hope, Ninilchik, Girdwood, Palmer and Anchorage.
Tours are organized by Earl’s manager, well-established musician Julia Isaac. Recently, Isaac has put less focus on performing herself to arrange Earl’s tour in promotion of “Am I Me Yet?” Isaac is the front-line contact for any booking questions and plays the role of Earl’s mentor and main supporter.
“I am a source to promote her in large scale performance opportunities like Girdwood’s Forest Fair or Salmonfest,” Isaac said. “I like to think that, other than her family, I am her first and biggest fan.”
Earl is grateful to have Isaac in her corner saying, “Julia is a big advocate for me. She books me awesome gigs, but what’s most important is that she stands up for my opinion. I am super lucky to have her by my side.”
Regarding her direction and artistic choices, Isaac and Earl’s parents, Shannon and Howard, communicate about the details, but Ava controls the conversation about her ultimate vision.
“Ava is an enigma.” Isaac said. “From the first time I saw her she encompassed all of the things that you look for in a successful artist. She writes songs that are relatable to many different generations of people, she is an amazingly creative guitar player, and she brings a presence to the stage that is mature beyond her years.”
The title of the album prompts a fair question considering her age and prolific activity. “Am I Me Yet?” is fitting for this time in her career because she has already proven that she has got what it takes to earn a name for herself amongst the thriving Alaskan music scene. However, the phrase derives from her song, ‘Catalyst’—one of her deepest cuts from the album.
Earl called ‘Catalyst’ “the unofficial title track to the album,” where the lyrics ask, “Walking through the halls I see the faces that I used to have. But that’s not me. But it was then. But it’s not now. So, am I me yet?”
During a recent visit to the KNBA studio, Earl spoke about how she, and all people, are always growing toward their full potential. She said, “I think that’s a good theme about the album. We are always becoming ourselves every second.”
‘Quiet Eyes’ was chosen as the single to play on local radio stations and showcases her heavenly voice on top of the musicianship of each contributor on the album.
Earl’s vocal skills are evident on ‘If I Cannot Fly’—a song she wrote before transitioning from elementary school to high school.
“I remember writing ‘If I Cannot Fly’ after a bad day at school.’” said Earl. “I had the same kids in my class since second grade and by eighth grade, we were all a bit tired of each other. Going into ninth grade in a class of 400 rather than 30 has given me a bit more perspective.”
With ‘March 3.24.18’ Earl takes on a more serious but optimistic tone, raising awareness toward the school shootings that have been nationally reoccurring.
“I wrote it on the same day as the March For Our Lives event [a student-led demonstration in Washington D.C. supporting stronger gun laws].” Earl recalled. “There is no reason that students around America should feel unsafe at school. That’s why in the song I keep the focus on the beauty surrounding us; the children, the movement and the signs [of my generation].”
Writing in the manner in which Earl does comes from within the soul—and a little from outside influences. Growing up, Earl would listen to her parents’ favorite artists like Simon and Garfunkel, but eventually she found her own sources and fell in love with albums like Ingrid Michelson’s 2008 release “Be OK”.
“That’s one of my favorite albums ever.” Earl expressed. “I just love her music, past and now. She’s very inspirational.”
Earl also pays close attention to the local talent that keeps her creative. She said, “I follow a very wide range of genres, but definitely local music like Kat Moore and Emma Hill especially—I love them.”
During past memorable shows for Earl, she was also given the opportunity to perform with and meet other successful artists like Alaska native Jewel and Maggie Rogers.
Opening for Maggie Rogers in 2017 was the largest audience Earl has ever played for and one of the highlights of her growing career. Earl exchanged words with Rogers backstage where they shared how much they were both impressed by one another’s work.
Earl said, “Maggie told me that her music sounded a lot like mine when she was my age, and it was part of the reason she chose for me to open.” She continued, “Not only does her music inspire me, but so does her character. Maggie isn’t letting anything get in the way of her vision, and that is really important to me.”
Earl’s vision for her own music has always been straight as an arrow—which she clearly expresses to the ones working with her.
“Am I Me Yet?” was captured by Alaskan-rooted musician, Hawkins Wright at The Hallowed Halls recording studio in Portland, Ore. With the same location and cast of talent as her second self-titled record, Earl recaptured and refined the magic she was already familiar with and recorded her third album in one week.
Earl confessed, “It can be stressful to work all day in the studio, but it is some of the most fun I have all year.”
The meeting of Earl and Wright was a natural fit where she knew instantly that Wright’s experience and personality would allow her projects to blossom. In addition to Wright’s guidance and engineering skills, Earl lays down her guitar and vocal work as Andy Mullen provides his guitar and some bass lines to bring a fuller sound to the tracks.
“At this point, Andy, Hawkins and I work like a well oiled machine.” Earl declared.
Anna Tivel, a touring Portland musician, also came in the studio to fill the open spaces on some of Earl’s songs with her violin.
“Anna came in and overdubbed her parts after we had recorded ours.” Mullen said. “She had no idea what the tunes were, yet knocked out most of her parts on the first take. She’s a true pro and a role model for Ava—I appreciate that.”
Earl said she feels lucky to be in the company of such great musicians with so much enthusiasm for her work and goals.
“I’ve ended up with something I’m very proud of,” Earl said. “Part of this is definitely due to Andy.” She added, “I can’t speak highly enough of him, and I’m very lucky to have such a great musician backing me up.”
Earl is excited for all of her upcoming gigs promoting “Am I Me Yet?” August is booked solid, and beyond that, Earl’s creative destiny is an open road.
“The goal right now is to bring her voice to as many ears as we can.” Isaac said. “As the turn out at her CD release at the Writer’s Block Cafe suggests, she appeals to many ears, regardless of their age.”
Earl’s endeavors have no limit. She has the support team she needs to achieve anything and she is incredibly self-determined. She can sing and play. She can write and perform with an engaging stage presence. As everyone in her team agrees—Ava will go as far as she chooses
For booking and information about Ava Earl’s music and tour, please visit www.avaearl.com
Robert’s work can be followed through Foran Brand Journalism on Facebook & foranbrandjournalism.com