Alana Springsteen is 20 years old, but given that she first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and signed a publishing deal at 14, she’s an atypical artist. As well, she also has a razor-sharp memory when it comes to being able to access stories from which songs like those that comprise her just-released EP History Of Breaking Up (Part One). Tracks like the lovelorn “California” highlight her blend of youthful exuberance with an earnest desire to create communities of fans with her musical output is endearing. While in conversation with CMT about the state of her life at present, her yearning for love, and lessons learned from the crafting of History of Breaking Up (Part One), a sense of Springsteen’s passion — as well as her potential for increased stardom — are apparent.
Marcus K. Dowling, CMT: There’s a story in your past about how you were gifted your first guitar that I want you to break down because I think it says so much about who you are as a person, and your work ethic?
Alana Springsteen: I was over at my grandparents’ house when I was seven years old. While my granddad was cleaning out the garage, for some reason, he had this dusty old orange classical guitar. This was strange because my uncle is the only other person who plays guitar. My grandfather didn’t play the instrument. [However, when I saw the guitar] I was drawn to it. My grandfather offered to give me the guitar if I promised him that I’d learn how to play it. It became one of my first entrances to understanding how passionate I was about actually wanting to succeed in the music industry. All day long, I’d sit and figure out chords, then beg my uncle to teach me what he knew.
CMT: So, what does the guitar ultimately mean to you now? As a singer-songwriter and musician, how has its importance evolved in your life?
AS: Playing the guitar is a form of self-expression that helps me think, plus never stops revealing sides of me to myself. It also allowed me to link my obsessions with words and storytelling, which has been my obsession since I wrote my first song when I was nine years old. Still, you’ll never see me in a writing room without a guitar. Keeping my hands busy searching for the right hook and melody is helpful, too. [On a deeper level], I play a lot in open D tuning, and those intervals pair so well with the songs I’ve been singing recently.
CMT: So, to this EP itself. If someone were, say, presented with a group of EPs to stream, why choose this one?
AS: I felt healed by the writing process on every song on this EP. The title of the EP, History of Breaking Up, hints at a journey while looking back at the past. These are far from the last songs I’ll write about love. It’ll be a story that will continue throughout my career. However, in particular, these songs helped me get emotions off my chest that I needed to get out. I’m thankful for the creatives who helped bring it to life.
CMT: This entire EP, as noted, is about love. In your journey to understanding how love impacts you, how was highlighted and transformed by the writing process?
AS: I’m a romantic to my core — I love getting lost in emotions and feelings — so love inspires me so much. However, I know I’m not the only person who writes about these emotions. But, I learn something new about myself, love, and how I love from every relationship I’ve been in. As I get older, processing those emotions changes. This EP takes you through moments where I’ve learned something new about love and about how I process my emotions, too. Love is [universal], so telling stories that — hopefully — everyone has experienced will connect people by allowing them to find a piece of themselves in a song that I wrote. Country songs bring emotions to the surface that we’ve all felt, to the surface, in a new way every single time.
CMT: I’m told that when songwriters dig just below what’s coming to the surface, they get their best material. What on this EP represents that level of writing and revealing to you?
AS: “God Must Be Mad At Me” is one of the most vulnerable songs on the project. I wrote it with my friends Lauren Larue and John Byron, who are incredibly talented songwriters. We sat down in the room with our guitars while talking about life, and we landed on the hook. We’ve all been in a situation where you feel like something that was meant for you slipped away. It’s difficult to come to terms with that. When faced with that, sometimes you’re emotionally at a place where you think, “god must be mad at me.”
CMT: I’d love to add that the hooks on this project — namely on “Girlfriend” — are rock-solid and so catchy. What went into writing a hook that asks about “[being] someone’s girl, but not their girlfriend?”
AS: [Foremost,] Country music writes hooks better than anybody else, the actual songwriting chops of everyone I’m working with in Nashville make me want to be a better writer. The challenging part of this project was finding a nuanced, detailed way to look at love — a topic everyone writes about. [Being someone’s girl but not their girlfriend] is a situation that I’ve been in, and the way I said it in that hook, it hits you. There are so many songs about being “the other girl,” or a guy getting with another woman, but you never hear a lot about the other girl being “the one.” It’s a heavy, hard thing to realize. But, I wanted [to reflect] the power that comes with knowing that it’s time to let go of someone when they’re not meant for you. It’s a mix of the truth, knowing what you deserve, and not settling for anything less.
CMT: Finally, where is the song on here that shows what you’ve learned about love so far and how you’d like to apply that moving forward?
AS: “I Blame You” is a song about meeting someone, taking them back to your hometown, and seeing people and places you love so much through another person’s eyes. Though I have yet to bring a guy home, I hope that it feels like this song when I do. I’m manifesting into my future, a relationship where I feel strongly enough about someone to introduce them to my parents, family, hometown friends, and things close to my heart.