With her debut album Nightmares, Alex da Ponte crafted vengeful songs that were angry and incredibly personal. On her new album All My Heart, da Ponte enlisted an all-star cast of Memphis musicians to create a different kind of personal album, one filled with hope and self-realization. We caught up with da Ponte to find out more about All My Heart before her release show this Sunday at the Young Avenue Deli. –Chris Shaw
Flyer: Who was involved in the recording of your new album, All My Heart?
Alex da Ponte: I've been working with guitarist Robby Davis for years — he's an incredible guitar player that plays all over town. Rick (Steff) and Roy (Berry) from Lucero play on the record, along with Geoff Smith from Star & Micey. It was recorded at Music + Arts studio in Midtown, the building that Archer Records and Blue Barrel Records are run out of.
How would you say All My Heart is different from your first album, Nightmares?
It's definitely less angry. There are songs that are filled with hope and songs that build up with emotions other than anger. There might still be some anger, but there's more going on than just that. You can tell that I'm in a different place in my life than I was when I recorded Nightmares. My music is always going to be a reflection of what's going on in my life. Even if you just look at the covers for the two albums, Nightmares has a really dark, black and white cover, whereas this cover is filled with color.
Who did the artwork for All My Heart?
My partner and fiancée Karen Mulford, which I feel is very fitting. She's the reason the album has a bunch of color and isn't all black and white, because I'm in a better place now, and she's a big part of that. The songs about her on the album are probably the happiest ones. She's a big reason this album was a much happier one in general.
Have you been working with the same musicians since you wrote Nightmares?
Well, not really. When Nightmares came out, I formed a band and played with them for about three years, but that band dispersed, and the only person I stayed with was Robby Davis, so I had to basically start from scratch. Luckily the Memphis music scene is very supportive, so people would be like "Oh, you need a drummer? Try this person." I can tell the difference between when my last band played a song like "Nevermind" compared to when my new band plays it, because different musicians change the tone of a song. It's still the same song obviously, but you can hear the subtle changes where a new musician's influence comes in.
Let's talk about your song "Tell All Your Friends." It seems like a classic breakup song. Is that accurate?
Yeah, it definitely is. Who hasn't had that experience of hearing trash from other people about yourself? It ties into the last record, when I went through this terrible breakup, and you can still hear some of that in this new record because of how much it affected my life. This song is a great example of how that experience is still working its way out of me.
Do you think the songs on this new album have as strong of an overall theme as your first album?
Not really. The last one had such a strong theme that I wanted to move a little bit away from that and work on this album piece by piece. I was writing the songs at different times, and it was actually nice to concentrate on this project song by song, because with the first record, I felt so intense that I spit out all of these hateful songs, where as this time I was inspired by all sorts of different things.
When Paste premiered your video for "Nevermind," they compared you to Jenny Lewis and Karen O. Who are some other singers or bands that influenced you that your listeners might not expect?
I was listening to a lot of Shovels & Rope when I was writing the song "Come on, Boy," and I think that ended up making me write in a different way, even if it's not that noticeable. I also love Brandi Carlile, and I got back into the bands that I really liked in high school, even middle school. I got back into Eve 6, Nirvana, Gin Blossoms, and the Goo Goo Dolls. I loved all that kind of stuff, even bands like the Shins. There's a lot of stuff that worked its way in there.
Let's talk about your new video for "Nevermind." How did you link up with Laura Jean Hocking?
The people who run Blue Barrel Records suggested Laura Jean, and she came in with this idea to model the video after this movie from the '70s. It was really cool to watch her work and be able to work with another Memphis artist, and we were able to work through her vision together. It's really nice that we are all coming from a similar creative community. Memphis is exploding right now, and it's really cool to have all of these people around you who are willing to help.