The Soul of Witt
Actor/musician Alicia Witt finds her people in East Nashville
Over a 30-odd-year career, Alicia Witt’s been a lot of things: a cosmic, glowing-eyed “abomination” in Dune; a zombie-bashing badass in The Walking Dead; a honey-voiced country superstar on Nashville.
The first two: bit of a stretch. The latter role, of singer Autumn Chase, let Witt pull from her own experience: About as long as she’s been an actress, the now-East Nashvillian has been making music, growing up as a classical piano prodigy, and expanding into pop singing and songwriting — a career that’s grown alongside her IMDB resume.
Witt issued her first LP, Revisionary History, in 2015, produced here in Nashville by piano-pop hero Ben Folds. Her latest release, EP 15,000 Days, is another Nashville creation, helmed by Grammywinning producer Jacquire King (who’s worked with Kings of Leon, James Bay, and onetime East Nashvillian cover stars Moon Taxi, among many other bold names).
“They were such different experiences, but equally thrilling,” Witt says of those two Nashville-made projects. Both producers had a major effect on the resulting songs, she says, Folds playing drums, bass, and “lots of guitar” on Revisionary History, and King spearheading a thick, layered aesthetic full of loops and ’80s keyboard tones.
“I felt so honored to have him producing,” Witt says of King. “I really stepped back in terms of what I imagined the tracks sounding like, for the most part, and let him take the reins. For example, on ‘Blinkers,’ I never would have imagined that groove on it. But once I started listening to it in the studio and recording to it, it became hard to imagine it any other way.”
The delicate dance of leaning in and stepping back is one Witt’s had to become adept at, as she juggles set time and studio time, Hollywood and Nashville. On Sept. 9, she wraps a quick EP release tour with a hometown show at Nashville’s City Winery, then jets off to Connecticut to start filming a new Christmas movie, Hallmark’s Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane.
“And I just got back from [New York] where I was filming an indie movie for five weeks,” she says of Modern Persuasion, a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. “In May, I also filmed an episode of the anthology series Lore, for Amazon, in Prague, and I combined that with filming two music videos for my EP. So far it’s been an effortless balance. I find I need music to feel centered when I’m acting, and I also depend on the specific catharsis of acting to balance out the catharsis of songwriting. So that part is cool, too.”
East Nashville, conveniently, has helped provide some added balance.
“I had loved East Nashville for a while,” Witt says, “and had always found time to spend here when I was in town before. So when I was here in 2016 working on the show Nashville, I knew I wanted to find a place to rent over here. I ended up finding my now dear friend Fran [Patton]’s guest house, and through Fran I met this incredible infrastructure of dear friends who are like family now — just a real sense of, ‘Oh. My people.’ East Nashville feels like home in a way nowhere else ever has, and I feel so proud and blessed to live here.”