Alyson Greenfield is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. Originally from Ohio, she is also the founder of the Tinderbox Music Festival. She has an MFA in creative writing and is the co-author of the award-winning Sitting On Fire, a short film based on her story which was shown at various film festivals including the Philadelphia Documentary and Fiction Festival and the California Independent Film Festival. Greenfield is a former teacher and is presently based in Brooklyn, NY.
Since the age of 11 Greenfield has been composing contemporary classical pieces on piano. By the age of 12 she was putting her lyrics over her instrumentals. Her songs dealt with surprisingly adult issues such as the vast and overwhelming notion of time and family strife.
Two years later, at the age of 14 she would take up the guitar. Soon she was playing and writing guitar-based tunes as well. As the years went on she would add other instruments to her working repertoire including autoharp, beat boxer, chord organ, synthesizer and the soon-to-be-immortalized in-song-glockenspiel.
Her self-produced debut disc, Six Songs would hit the stores in 2006. The EP contains—duh—six songs. It included almost 25 minutes of indie pop/folk tunes that reveal more than the expected effort for “just an EP”. The EP opens with the carefully-crafted “My Honey” as Greenfield takes the listener through a quick journey of sound and story with tracks like “Good Looks” and an “Old Piano Song” only to leave her audience wanting more with “Sexual Identity Crisis of a Duke”. One online critic likens her work to that of Tori Amos, Caroline Downie, Sarah McLachlan and Thom Yorke in that Greenfield produces satiating and seductive songs on guitar and piano.
Initial reaction to her EP was enough to inspire her first full-length album Tuscaloosa released two years later (2008). While the material on this 10-track disc demonstrates the well-known struggle of an up-and-coming artist, the actual performance of the songs here show that she seems to be enjoying herself a tad more than some of her contemporaries. The lead-in here is the title track, “Tuscaloosa” which features a free verse intro and meandering yet purposeful Kate Bush-like keyboard work.
“Fruit of the Labor” follows with a catchy bass line and jazzy percussion. “Human Behavior” is next with a bit more of an airy, electronic tinge to it that differentiates it from the previous cuts. Already her vocals and lyrics begin to reflect the artistic honesty of Norah Jones, early Fiona Apple and the freedom of a young Alanis Morissette.
Indeed, this CD reveals some oft-times Tori Amos instrumental work and in its more inventive moments reveals traces of acts such as Bjork and Radiohead electronica. Critic’s choice, however, goes to the next number, “School”. Breaking out in a nursery rhyme, this coffeehouse cutie recounts some less than pleasant childhood memories while strumming away on her acoustic guitar. She seems to almost enjoy exorcising adolescent demons while exercising her arms adding handclaps to the underlying rhythm track.
One particular piece, “Young Girl in the Music World” tells a tuneful tale of her experiences as a “young girl in the music world” dealing with the pros and cons of the industry in a way which might make one wonder how much she may have to compromise when dealing with a business that is ready, willing and able to slap a label on her signature sound. Songs such as “Sometimes I” and “Glockenspiel” (complete with sly Ichabod Crane reference) further prove that Greenfield writes material that is both cutting edge and yet listener-friendly.
The sneak-previewed “Understand the Sky”, is reminiscent of classic Peter Gabriel while (one of her older songs) “Johnny” and the closing cut “Chiapas” are also evergreen as Greenfield continues to blend a bit of folk rock and piano pop with electronics and other eclectic instrumentation. The album is both original and inventive as Greenfield strives to prove her musical worth on her first full-length effort.
While some critics claim the work is layered with feministic undertones one might just as well chalk it up to Greenfield’s gender as opposed to her previous involvement in N.O.W. Her material is genuinely her own and that is simply reflected in her music. Her piano work is oft’ times passionate and even layered and her lyrics are generally witty and entertaining. Labeling her content as “feminist” subtracts from her sometimes simply sultry vocal stylings and her talent with various instruments. The CD stands on its own strengths and needs no obvious political posturing. Greenfield is just writing what she knows.
2011 would once more discover Greenfield obeying the old showbiz adage and left them wanting more on this solid albeit short EP, Only Silence. She has further explored the electronic areas of her audio interests in what others online assignate an overall appealing evolution of her signature sound. Considering the fact that Greenfield told your crusty chronicler that she “recorded and mixed (it) in (her) home studio”, she still managed to somehow blend her simpler acoustic styles with an electronically-produced, slightly sophisticated sound.
This four track disc runs slightly under 11 minutes and opens with the well-mixed and balanced “Cult Spell” which is followed by the acoustically-grounded “I Love Only Silence” from whence the disc gets its name. Literary-minded listeners might also catch the use of Anais Nin in this track as well. “Glitz and Glamour” and “Rabbit Hole” also appear here with Greenfield being a one-(wo)man band on piano, guitar, synthesizers and even drums.
This is not only a prelude to the new album but a fundraiser for it as well. “All proceeds from this digital album go directly toward finishing my covers album (which will feature an oddly entertaining cover of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” on a glockenspeil) and beginning my new electronic EP!” stated Greenfield. Despite the fact that this was a solo project, Greenfield does not spend all her time in the studio though.
She tours and exercises her other talents as well. She has appeared in such hot spots as Arlene’s Grocery, the Rockwood Music Hall and more recently The Knitting Factory and The Studio at Webster Hall.. (When she returns from performing on the road, of course, she washes up with her very own Alyson Greenfield Soap made by The Left hand Soap Co.)
Additionally, her songs have been included on Fox Television and Rubyfruit Radio, live from the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City to the Foyer de L’air in Mali, West Africa. Greenfield has also exercised her acting talents and appeared in Splitpillow’s The Alpha Project, Thomas Lisa’s “White Hot Dork Funk” music video, and ZWAN’s music video, “Lyric.” She is presently preparing for the official summer release of her covers EP, Rock Out With Your Glockenspiel Out. This multi-talented Tuscaloosa tootsie is definitely becoming a serious solo artist to keep an eye (and ear) on, folks.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.