Aliza Hava Discusses ”Emotion Tide,” Songwriting & Spiritual Realms
Reposted from Celebmix Magazine. Read it on their blog here.
Oct. 1, 2022
Photo Credit: Nachum Daniel
Award-winning singer-songwriter Aliza Hava takes us on a deeply personal journey with her soulful new single “Emotion Tide,” delving deep into the pain, subsequent healing after the heartache, and everything in between that takes place when we allow ourselves to fully feel and express the heartache of a ruptured relationship. A self-taught musician who turned to songwriting while seeking solace from a challenging childhood, Aliza Hava’s smooth fusion of folk, rock, pop, and R&B brim with messages of peace and universal love, offering us empowerment and comfort in equal amounts.
With a soothing soundscape of guitar riffs and appeasing vocals, the track is an effortless breeze while releasing oneself into the vast ocean of splashing emotions, which can sometimes be subtle and other times overwhelming; letting the tears come in waves, allowing ourselves to heal; and a transcendent moment of evocative bliss, where we find the artist ready to embrace their experiences and pour their heart into the world. Lyrically, the song embodies the spiral of feelings Aliza was going through at the time of ending an unhealthy relationship and finally expressing the feelings that she had bottled up inside for too long. She rejects the society’s idea of equating vulnerability with weakness. She is keen on sharing her wisdom that sometimes the greatest strength is in allowing yourself to be witnessed, to be seen, and true healing can only happen when we allow those tears to fall and cleanse us of the grief of a broken heart. One needs to feel all emotions instead of bottling them up inside in order to stay healthy and clear about your life’s path.
Speaking about the song, she quoted on her Instagram saying,
“When I think about the meaning of the word freedom, so many things come to mind… whether it’s political or personal freedom, the right to choose, the freedom to love who you want to love, to live without fear of persecution or violence, to breathe fresh air, to live in harmony with people of different faiths and cultures to me, this is the true meaning of life.” With intricate, genre-blended instrumentation, the track weaves the warm sultriness of Spanish guitars with the lush sensibilities of electric and acoustic guitars, alongside layers of keys and analogue sounds, punctuated by rhythmic beats – all brought together by Aliza’s sublime vocals, capturing a cathartic message that sees her emerge stronger after a difficult time. A fan favourite track that’s resonated with audiences every time she has performed live, the recording of “Emotion Tide,” has been imminent, as Aliza finally shares this emotive, uplifting number which features a roster of multi-talented musicians. We sat down with Aliza to discuss her new single, “Emotional Tide” as she walked us through her inspiration and creative process, how “music therapy” helped her, and hone her songwriting ability. We also got some behind-the-scenes scoop on her forthcoming album with a release date, musical influences, musical plans for the future, and an in-depth dive into the spiritual realms. So let’s dive right in!
Your newest soulful single, “Emotion Tide,” is an evocative anthem that draws heavily on sentiments with well-crafted lyrical innuendo. What served as its muse and what’s the message you hoped to get through with it to your audience?
At the time I wrote the song, I was getting out of an unhealthy relationship with someone to whom I felt a very deep connection but who was ultimately a narcissist. Sometimes, when there’s a deep connection like that, it can be very hard to break away, even when you know the relationship is toxic for you. I was also in a phase of life where I was starting to identify some learned behaviours from my family that were not serving me—specifically, stuffing my feelings down with the idea that they were inconsequential and that the best way for me to be strong was to put on a tough face and not allow myself to feel my pain.
I realized that holding back my feelings and stuffing them down was actually making me numb. I wrote the song when I realized that in order to heal, I had to let the tears flow. When I was growing up, I constantly got the message that my feelings didn’t matter, which can also happen when you are in a relationship with a narcissistic person who gaslights you. Nowadays, on social media, I see so many people writing about how they drew into a relationship with a narcissist who made them doubt themselves or their feelings. It is so much more common than I ever realized before people started sharing their stories publicly.
So, ultimately, the message in the song is to trust yourself, trust your feelings, and honour them so that you can be truly strong and healthy. We can’t let ourselves go through life numb. Emotional numbness is the kiss of death.
Letting your guard down and overcoming the grief of a broken heart isn’t as simple as it sounds. Do you have any advice for your audience and our readers who might be experiencing similar circumstances and feel stuck in their traumatic past?
If there is anything I can offer from my personal experience, it’s that you must learn to listen to your gut and trust yourself, follow your heart, and know that you deserve to be happy. It’s not selfish to want to heal, grow, live a good life, and be a better person, even if the people around you want you to believe that.
When you come from an abusive family or relationship, the people around you will use all kinds of tactics to keep you on their level, but you have to find the courage and strength to follow your own path and start the journey to healing. It’s not easy, but it is necessary. It can be very hard to find support when you are having this kind of experience, but I have found that if you genuinely ask for help from the Universe, God, whatever you want to call it—the help will come in all different ways, whether it be financial support from an unexpected source, an opportunity to move to a new place, a new job that is more suitable, finding a great healer, or beginning a new friendship that opens up a new, beautiful world for you. You really have to listen to yourself, pay attention to the signs, and take them. I don’t think I would have gotten through the most difficult times of my life if I hadn’t had some semblance of faith.
Photo Credit: Nachum Daniel
Well said. Personally, I can really empathize with this, especially at the time in my life, when I was looking for a support system to lean on and have some clarity in life, and felt drawn to a higher authority to preserve my faith in a better future and positive tomorrow…
I always felt [the presence of] a higher spirit in my life—which I know not everyone believes in, but having faith in a greater power has always been my lifeline. I’m not here to preach to anyone about spirituality or religion—but I have taken an interest in different spiritual traditions throughout my life—and have found that the similarities across faiths mostly point to the same thing; that we are all connected through love and that the little voice inside of us that tries to keep us out of trouble and steer us in the right direction for our own wellbeing is the voice of our soul or higher self.
That’s the voice we all need to develop a relationship with and listen to—and you can do that through meditation, getting quiet, journaling, praying, walking softly in nature, journeying with plant medicine in a safe setting—whatever it takes to build the relationship with the voice of truth and wisdom within. Once that relationship with the inner self strengthens, you will see signs in the outer world that will lead you towards healthier situations and people. For anyone going through a hard time and seeing no way out, I wish this for you—clarity, safety, and support in your healing journey.
So, tell me something about your sonic approach to crafting “Emotion Tide,” and who served as your inspiration? Did you find a naturalism or record different versions to get the single where it is today?
The sound of the song came together organically. I went to Dreamland Recording Studios in Woodstock, NY to work with Jerry Marotta, an incredible drummer who has played with some of my greatest musical influences, like Stevie Nicks, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, and Peter Gabriel. Jerry and I had met a few times when I lived in the Hudson Valley, and he had worked with my co-writer, Derek Olivero, the year prior. Derek and I booked the session with Jerry with very little preparation and just trusted the creative process. Dreamland uses analogue equipment, which gives everything a very warm, vintage sound. Jerry produced the track and called in Michael Visceglia (Suzanne Vega’s bassist and musical director) to play bass. Derek played the guitars, and the recording engineer, Ariel Shafir, threw in some ideas as well—particularly throwing down some Mellotron on the bridge of the song.
Once we had recorded the main instruments, I took the tracks to Mikal Blue at Revolver Studios in Los Angeles to record the vocals and mix the song. Mikal and I are [in the process of] recording a full album together, and Dean Dinning from Toad the Wet Sprocket was in the studio working with us on some other tracks. There was a vintage Hammond B3 set up for the other tunes, and Dean loved the sound of “Emotion Tide” so much, he jumped right in to record the organ part. I played the piano on it as well. Overall, I’m very happy with how it came out—it has a great groove and the players are all awesome people and total pros.
The introspective nature of your songwriting feels authentic and displays your storytelling prowess. What does your process entail, and do you usually draw inspiration from personal experiences and the surrounding stories? Or might you explore other art forms beyond the musical realms?
My songwriting process definitely takes different forms. Mostly, I write by myself—both lyrics and music—but lately, I’ve been doing a lot more co-writing, which has been very fun and rewarding. When Derek and I wrote “Emotion Tide” together, it was the first time I had ever written with another musician, because the songwriting process has always been very personal for me since I wear my heart on my sleeve in my songs. I have since found that co-writing can be a very bonding experience, especially when you find someone who taps into their own vulnerabilities to flesh out a song that is truly meaningful to you both. I draw my lyrical inspiration from personal experience. Song ideas will come to me after I’ve been through a challenging time, or sometimes a random melody will come to me when I’m walking down the street or driving. I often carry a small notebook with me wherever I write lyrical ideas for the moment, but more often I pull out my phone and record voice memos, which in some ways are more effective because I can capture lyrics and melody together. But nothing beats actually putting a pen to paper and letting the lyrical stream-of-consciousness flow. I compose on both guitar and piano, while playing a hand drum, or sometimes I will hear something in a dream and wake up and record it right away if I can recall it. But always, I try to instil some bit of wisdom, truth, or hope in my songs, because it’s my intention as an artist to say something meaningful that will hopefully resonate with others.
Can you recall the moment that sparked the passion for music inside you? Tell us about your journey that led you here and to whom you owe a big thank you for inspiring you to grow as an artist and an individual.
Although they weren’t great at parenting, my parents were huge music lovers, and there was always music in our home. There were hundreds of vinyl records in our basement and the radio was always on—so it exposed me to all the greatest music of every genre from the 50s to the 90s, especially R&B, Soul, and Classic Rock.
I always loved to sing and was in my school choir, but didn’t get much encouragement at home and often felt very alone and misunderstood. There was a lot of violence in my household, and never a moment of peace. I instinctively started writing my own songs when I was 9 years old, to find some [semblance of] normalcy and process what was going on in my inner world. But the song that sparked my interest in performing on my own is by an 80s rock band called White Lion. Their album, Pride, was the first record I ever bought because of the song “When the Children Cry.” The first time I saw the music video, I felt like the lead singer was talking directly to me. In the opening lyric, “Little Child, dry your crying eyes/how can I explain the fear you feel inside?”, I could relate to the lyrics, the soothing melody, and the guitar in a way that no other song ever touched me.
Although it is a sad song, it speaks to the truth of what goes on in the world and how children are affected by it, but also gives a message of hope in the lyric by sharing a vision of a better reality, ending with the promise that “When the children sing, then the new world begins.” I asked my friend from school to teach me how to play it on the piano, so she figured it out by ear and taught me to play it. The first time I ever performed by myself in front of an audience was in a school talent show, where she played it on piano and I sang. I suppose you could say that was the beginning of my journey as an artist. So, thank you to Kristin Codlin for helping me get started!
Photo Credit: Derek Olivero
How challenging is it for an artist to strip off and tap into their most vulnerable selves for such reflective songwriting? What do you do to set boundaries to safeguard yourself while exposing your emotions to the world through your music?
Great question. This has been an ongoing learning process for me. Often, when I’m up on stage singing, I wonder why I’m spilling my guts out to a bunch of strangers—and it all comes back to the same answer—because this is the way I was born. I don’t know how else to be. When I don’t sing, I feel lost, and when I sing, I have to put my entire self into it. I do what I have to do because it is how I was created. It’s not easy to get up there and lay it all on the line—especially as a solo artist who often plays alone without a band. There are some techniques I use to create healthy boundaries, [including] visualizations where I create an energetic ball of protective light around myself, or where I imagine myself as a tree with roots reaching deep into the earth and branches towards the sky. This is a great visual exercise for performers in general, but it also helps to keep one grounded and connected to the source of inspiration at the same time. It keeps you centred, and when you are centred, it is much easier to keep healthy boundaries in place. I also set an intention that whenever I perform, my songs will reach people’s hearts and souls—so the intention itself sets the stage for the performance and an environment where people’s hearts are open and good vibes are flowing.
Your discography usually explores the human emotional spectrum surrounding hurt, grief, enlightenment, subsequent healing and reclaiming the peace, and all the in-between times. Have you found catharsis in explicitly revealing this side of you and saw any tangible results of “music healing”?
Absolutely. I think music is one of the most powerful medicines in the world. The first time I ever heard the term “music therapy,” I was applying to college in Upstate New York. Music Therapy is defined as “the prescribed use of music for therapeutic purposes,” and it is used professionally in clinical settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and for helping people with special needs. I ended up becoming a music therapy student and was enthralled by it because I had been doing my own form of music therapy since I had found solace in my own early childhood attempts at songwriting. The environment I grew up in forced me to turn to music in this way, as personal expressive therapy, and so I see it as a huge blessing that I had this natural gift of musicality.
The album I’m currently [in the process of] writing and recording is all about that cathartic process. During the lockdown, there was a lot of time to reflect on life’s purpose, direction, etc. Many things happened to me over the past few years that made me realize I needed to be more honest about my past in my songwriting—and that has been so powerful and cathartic for me. I think this next album coming up is the best songwriting I’ve done to date, and I’m excited about putting it out into the world, hoping it will also help others going through similar experiences to heal.
As you’ve mentioned about your album, is there a release date set yet, and what can we expect sonically and lyrically from the record? Do you feel that with this record, you’ll be evolved as an artist and individual?
I’m very excited about this new album, which is currently being recorded with an anticipated release in March 2023. My producer, Mikal Blue, is an incredible human being with a heart of gold, and he and I work together with such a flow of ease that the tracks are by far the best I’ve ever created sonically. Lyrically, the theme of the album focuses on walking through the proverbial fire to heal from trauma and rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
There is also an aspect of breaking the cycles of abuse to heal from transgenerational trauma, which I think is something so many of us overlook when we think about why the world is in the state it is in today. Taking personal responsibility and having a spiritual perspective on life is also inherent aspect of this new album. It’s weighty stuff, but who needs another love song, eh? After all the loss and challenges we’ve experienced as a global community since 2020, I think this new album is something many people will relate to, and it is by far the most honest work I’ve done to date.
In what ways have your heritage, surroundings, and personal music taste that you grew up with inspired your style and creativity, and how do you incorporate those influences into your music?
I grew up in a very liberal home with a lot of exposure to different [kinds of] music, so my influences have been quite broad in terms of genre. I think that’s why my specific genre is so hard to identify. There are rock, pop, folk, R&B, soul, jazz, and classic rock influences in my sound, yet my heritage is Jewish and my family background goes back to Eastern Europe and Israel. As a child, I learned many Jewish songs, and as a teen, I visited Israel and started being exposed to more Middle Eastern and Oriental musical styles. This has definitely had an influence on my songwriting as well, as I [tend to] enjoy writing in minor keys. I think you can best hear the mix of influences in my song, Natural State, which is the title track of the album I put out in 2020.
Which artists do you think are dominating the contemporary music scene? And are there any dream collaborators on your bucket list?
I have really enjoyed watching Brandi Carlile’s rise to glory over the past few years. She has such a beautiful spirit, and her voice is incredibly expressive. Seeing her play with some of my favourite artists, like Joni Mitchell and Indigo Girls, this past summer has been like watching someone else live my dream, lol. I admire her for her perseverance over all the years she was relatively unknown to now being one of the most beloved female folk artists of this generation. I would be thrilled to collaborate with her one day.
On another note, I really love the music of Hozier. His Irish roots bring so much soul and a well-rounded social conscience that is still so rare these days. I really enjoyed his podcast in partnership with Global Citizen, Cry Power, where he interviews his favourite socially conscious artists on their perspectives on the power of music and social change. The name of the podcast is based on his song about Nina Simone, Nina Cried Power, which is such an epic track. I would absolutely love to work with him one day.