My name is Allison Veltz, and I’m about to release my first album, Allison’s Wonderland. The title may borrow from somebody else’s book or movie, but the story in the 11 songs – is all mine. I grew up in a family that was always on the move. Since it’s the way I was programmed from childhood, it’s a go-to when things get tough to want to bolt on to the next thing and start all over.
When I first moved to Nashville, I had doubts about whether my solo career was going to work, and I honestly started thinking that maybe it was time to just leave and let this dream go. I was at a crossroads and I chose to take a leap of faith, look at the bright side and trust that I’m in the right place, and it's all going to pan out. But there’s a story behind how I got here…
I was born into a moving, musical dream. Mobile, Alabama was just the starting place of my story, but it kind of defined us – we were very “mobile.” The list of cities I’ve lived in includes Kansas City, MO; Ithaca, NY; Boca Raton, FL; Vienna, VA; Gaithersburg, MD; colonial Williamsburg, VA; New York, NY – not necessarily in that order. And that’s not all of them, either. But it gives you a sense of how transient my life was.
Music was always there in the middle of it. We had a family band – it was a pop/folk group, with a lot of percussion, and you can still feel that rhythmic influence in Wonderland. We put out an album or two on our own and even had a record deal. So as unstable as our address might have been, I was always completely certain of my destiny: I was supposed to be a singer.
I feel lucky because my parents fostered a life of fearless creativity. The tough thing was that we always lived on the brink. I remember one particular Thanksgiving, my parents had this big announcement to make: “Everything that's on the table – that’s it. We have no money left.” We always got by and things worked themselves out. All the way up until I left. I left home and I left the band. It was a dual break. And everything changed.
I stayed in New York and got signed to a publishing deal surprisingly quickly. It was enough to keep my hopes up, but not enough to pay all the bills. So, I ran through a whole bunch of jobs in a really short period of time. Receptionist, waiter for a catering company, barista, florist. I had ten jobs in about a year and a half. Oddly enough the most stable job, and by far the best, was at a restaurant called Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a tourist attraction in Times Square. It was a singing diner I mean, literally you sing and wait on tables…at the same time. It’s ‘50s themed and the managers want you to sing show tunes and oldies – but they let me get away with singing Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood.
Here's where the fluke of my life begins. I got a message on an old MySpace page from someone who’d heard two songs I’d written – “Lullaby” and “The Moon.” He was a producer, and he wanted to record an album for me if I could get to Nashville. At first, I thought it was spam, but when you work at a singing diner you follow up with anything and everything. Turns out it was Mark Bright. He produced Carrie and Rascal Flatts – whose music I was singing at Ellen’s – I was as good as gone. I found an apartment on Nashville Craigslist, saved all my waitressing tips during the holidays and flew one way to Nashville on January 4, 2011, just two months after getting the email.
In my mind, the plane would land in Music City and we’d go right into the studio, record, release, repeat. I wanted everything to be instant. Probably because I still couldn't believe what a break I had. I didn't want it to go away. Instead, I did what everyone does when they land in Nashville. I started writing.
After all this transient living it took awhile for me to let myself write my life story. I met and teamed up with Dan Muckala, who has become my creative partner and the album’s co-producer. A bunch of established writers – Luke Laird (“Pontoon”), Hillary Lindsey (“Jesus, Take The Wheel”), Billy Montana (“Hard To Love”), Kyle Jacobs (“More Than A Memory”) and Gordie Sampson (“Jesus, Take The Wheel”), to name a few – took a chance at writing with me.
At first, I was trying to figure out what ‘hat’ I should be wearing. What I should write. When I wrote “Runaway” with Dan Muckala and Jess Cates it all clicked. After an hour of pouring my heart out to them about my life the song fell out in a very real way, like it needed to get out. My father wrote from his heart and never by appointment. I finally understood the writer I wanted to be and needed to be.
And so it poured. “Wonderland” is about coming to terms with closed chapters, “Set You Free” is about wanting a love that slows down for you, “Pinching Me” speaks to any nagging force that tries to bring me down. The album’s closing track, “Alabama,” is me saying, ‘This is where I’m from.’ Out of all the places I’ve zigged and zagged, Alabama was where my story began. I didn’t live there very long, but it’s my home. And I’m happy to own it.
Finding the right words and melodies to capture who I am and how I got here has forced me to slow down. In fact, I’d been in Nashville for eighteen months before we finally recorded the first three songs.
Blaster Records caught wind of the recordings, and they ‘got me’ right away. At one of our meetings, someone at the label noticed the hummingbird pin I was wearing. I’ve always been drawn to hummingbirds. They’re quirky, and I’ve always identified with that. They move very fast, they stay short periods of time, they’re very colorful, but they’re tough to grab hold of.
They understood, and that means they understood me. There’s a hummingbird on the label of my CD for a reason. I am all those elusive things, but I’m also wanting to nest. And that’s a direct metaphor to the bird.
I have always been running. I ran all the way to writing Allison’s Wonderland. I like to believe that I’ve finally found some stability. I’ve found a group of people who believe in what I’m doing. In those moments when I have my doubts, I’m learning to throw my hands up and trust. And look to the bright side.