#LetTheGirlsPlay: Allison Veltz’s Strange, Heartbroken Road to ‘The White Room’
Allison Veltz wears heartbreak like an overcoat. Her pain is fresh and sharp, like blades of grass after a deep morning frost. Songs on The White Room EP were recorded in the middle of love’s fatal spiral.
“There was a piano part being cut on ‘Long Time Coming’ and I was in my room, on the phone with him,” January's #LetTheGirlsPlay artist of the month reveals. “So it was right then.”
It’s really hard to throw a ball through a window and the window shuts and it hits, and the windows opens and you don’t throw it, and the window shuts and it hits the window … that was just us.
Veltz says she’s an optimist, but she says it as if she’s trying to convince herself it’s true. Deep down, it’s there. Deep down, past the gnarly thorns of memories and disappointments from her past year, there’s hope.
She seems to be an expert on moving on — in fact, she wrote a song about it. Growing up Veltz was part of a traveling family band that included her parents and siblings. They moved around, a lot — like 26 cities and seven states a lot. Veltz admits this may have skewed her version of permanence in all facets of life. She doesn’t dwell, however. While she concedes to playing self-psychologist from time to time, she lands on the tools that life moving from one town to the next (often with no money) provided her.
“It’s an anti-complacent way of life,” she says matter-of-factly one Monday night, just after a Song Suffragettes performance at the Listening Room in Nashville. “You can’t really get stuck in a rut when you’re constantly on the move. And I think that’s an enemy of creativity is getting stuck in a mundane situation.”
Her father, Ken, would like this answer. He was the leader of a group of gypsies. "Class of ’69. Slept on the White House lawn in protest ... probably was the dude who put the daisy in the gun."
Advice from dad is never practical, it's more conceptual or Yoda-esque, Allison admits. But that's what her advice to others is like, as well. She doesn't quite fit your stereotypical image of a modern day hippie. She likes coffee black and wine red. Veltz gives tight, focused responses instead of airy ponderings only an artist would appreciate. She's found a middle ground, or so it seems to an outsider.
An opportunity from a record label executive brought her to Nashville several years ago, and since then she’s played writers' rounds, written with whomever is willing (except family, they don’t blur those lines any longer) and ripped through a record deal. Now an independent artist, The White Room was a crowdfunded album. The concept was simple: record in the white, public room where she often found herself writing and contemplating life and love. It’s here, in this room that connected several rental units of a Nashville house, that Veltz took her bleeding heart. The story is told succinctly in “Round,” a catchy, pop-friendly tormented love song with sharp lyrics, an infectious melody and the room's natural echoes and ambient percussion.
“Wasn’t Over Yet” explains how this guy is different from the rest. “I ain’t ever had an over that I wasn’t over yet,” she tweets, voice fluttering on the high notes. “But you got stuck in my heart / You got stuck in my heart this time / I ain’t ever had an over that I wasn’t over yet / So whatcha doin’ tonight.”
It’s possible the songs could be too personal, but Veltz hopes others can insert their own experiences into her tragedy. “It was so different than anything else I had ever experienced,” she says, “just in that I’ve lived so many different places, and every apartment I’ve ever lived it is so set up, it is so ‘home’ by day three because I know things can tend to be temporary when they’re mine. They have to be home. They have to be real. They have to be everything.”
“And that is the relationships that I’ve gotten into. At the very least, we’re trying. We’re real. We are everything to each other ... And I couldn’t get this relationship to a real place and it … was constantly devastating.”
Class of ’69. Slept on the White House lawn in protest. Probably was the dude who put the daisy in the gun.
“Kiss Him Goodbye” asks another guy to help her bury the memory, but the orchestration and backing vocals foretell the end.
“It’s really hard to throw a ball through a window and the window shuts and it hits, and the window opens and you don’t throw it, and the window shuts and it hits the window … that was just us.”
By November, when The White Room was being cut, she was attracting even more drama. Her room — the space she’d asked fans to give her money to record in — was suddenly inaccessible. Veltz's landlord decided to use it for storage and only by agreeing to rent that out too could Veltz get him to move the couches, lamps and tables from the space so she could bring her crew in.
“Home to You” was recorded live and is as raw as the version one hears in the video at the top of this story. “Long Time Coming” closes the EP. The acoustic ballad attempts to find resolution.
The funny thing is that while Veltz is used to traveling, she doesn’t run. In fact, she holds on, perhaps long past the expiration date. There are four Veltzes in Nashville now, including her mother, father and sister Laura Veltz, a talented songwriter of her own who’s written songs for Reba McEntire, Chris Young and more. One could almost say they've rooted.
Allison has tasted success, too. A record deal with Blaster Records fell apart, but the singer has nothing but kind things to say about her team and their belief in her. Prior to that she notched a No. 1 hit, in Japan. By the strangest of circumstances a song she wrote called “Mr. Taxi” was a chart-topper for Girls' Generation. In fact, it was a three-week chart-topper, and the music video has over 16 million views on YouTube. A dance version is nearing 110 million views!
“I have a car because of that song," Veltz says, laughing. "It’s a PT Cruiser, like a 2004 PT Cruiser, but still ... it’s a car.”
The song was penned in 2010, and released in 2012. When she wrote it she was a waitress at Ellen’s Stardust Diner in New York City, just out of her family band and somewhat lost.
A publisher saw her perform and worked to get her into a writer’s room. Two other guys joined in, eventually. “The dude is like two full hours late and I’m like ‘What am I doing with life?’ He shows up and we write this kind of weird song and I leave and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what this is?’”
Months later Universal Japan contacted the publisher for songs to be cut by Girls' Generation, they chose "Mr. Taxi" out of the 15 offered and bam! PT Cruiser.
“It’s the fluke of my life,” she insists, smiling. “It’s a novelty song. It keeps on showing up."
It's reason for optimism.
Find Veltz on Twitter and Facebook, and find The White Room on Spotify and iTunes. She can also be found on occasion at the weekly #LetTheGirlsPlay singer-songwriter round at the Listening Room in Nashville.