While on a walk, local musician Alyssa Mattson was suddenly struck by something: a yellow monarch butterfly near a green bush. The sight made her think about the process of metamorphosis.
It was three months after the break up of her folk/bluegrass band Awkward Lemon and the experience inspired the theme she would pursue as a solo artist: “Morph.”
The next day, oddly enough, she lost her job, and she decided to take a 5-week road trip with a friend.
Now, a couple years later, she releases her debut solo record, which she calls appropriately enough: Morph.
“I didn’t start writing songs about butterflies. I think it was more like an image in my mind than anything else. It gave me focus,” Mattson says.
The road trip also did something for her, it gave her confidence as a solo singer-songwriter. In her Awkward Lemon days, Matton collaborated with Logan Phillips on the songwriting, and sang. After the band ended, not only did she have to brave writing music by herself, but she also had to learn how to play the guitar.
“I gained a lot of self-confidence and a lot of self-worth on that adventure and it changed my life forever,” Mattson says. “I no longer questioned myself, and I knew I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. I am inspired by the growing pains. Everything I’ve been and everything I’ve done has gotten me where I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing. And on the road, that all became clear to me,”
Mattson’s early solo shows were a little rough. She recalls going to an open mic in town at Goldfield in 2015 and performing a Mazzy Star and Lana Del Rey cover and feeling like she butchered the songs.
“There was a hundred people filling up the room. I just didn't care. I just needed to play. It feels good,” Mattson recalls.
With her new-found confidence the road trip gave her, she also found her voice as a solo singer-songwriter. Her vibe evokes a sound of ‘90s and 2000s coffee shop indie-folk. Awkward Lemon played a more traditional form of a Americana, bluegrass and folk music.
Her music, which is captured splendidly on Morph, is filled with aching and yearning. Mattson lays her heart bare for the listener to hear.
“It might not be happy music but it's not sad music," she said. "I'm very melancholy in my heart and soul anyway. I'm a true romantic. I think that comes out in the album, and that longing and that deep meaning.”
In the year she wrote the record, she captured the transitions in her life. Each song is different, but that theme of change is a consistent that links it all together.
She wrote “Red Moon Calling” during her first solo tour last year. She was heading home from Seattle and stopped in Weed, California. The sky was red because of the smoke from the wildfires.
“Nothing had ever felt so right, being on the road, and living my dream of being a musician, and I was doing it on my own,” Mattson explains. “But (I) had friends along the way, friends who gave me a place to stay, helped me book gigs, friends I met on the road who I shared unforgettable nights with in the rainforest in Washington, and strangers who were kind enough to stop and hear me sing."
Mattson has been a musician for a decade now, but this album represents something very special to her, a new beginning.
“I know nothing will keep me from making music. I will always get up and dust myself off. I will continue to write music and play and sing,” Mattson says. “It’s given me purpose, it’s given me a place in my community and I’ve never been a part of anything quite like it. And I’ll never let that go, it’s just too good. It marks the beginning of possibility.” Alyssa Mattson Music Release
When: 8 p.m., Friday, May 11
Where: Luna’s Café, 1414 16th St.
Information: 916-441-3931, lunascafe.com