Name: Alli Neumann
Occupations: Singer, songwriter, actor
Nationality: German
Current Release: Alli Neumann's Madonna Whore Komplex is out via JAGA.

If you enjoyed this interview with Alli Neumann and would like to stay up to date on her music and creative endeavours, visit her official website. She is also on Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

My parents used to work as antique dealers and I started to collect vinyl LPs as a child mainly from the 50s and 60s. I always went for the ones with a cool looking woman on the cover. So, I started to listen to acts from the fifties like France Gall, Wanda Jackson and Connie Francis. When I discovered the instrumentals on their records, which allowed me to pretend I was the artist singing the songs, that was the moment I felt like I have to do this all my life.

The power that those woman radiated really lit a fire in my heart - and also the glam. Glam always had a very life-affirming energy for me.

And another important experience was making music with my family. It made me feel so connected to my family and I loved how free everybody was while dancing and singing. Growing up in Poland, my grandpa and my mum used to play Polish blues together with a mandolin and a trombone and we used to sing songs together from bands like the Silesian blues band or Czesław Niemen.

I highly recommend the song ‘dziwny jest ten świat’. It is so beautiful and intense even if you don’t understand Polish.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I was looking for my own voice for a very long time, before I even knew I was still searching. I was in Punk, Folk and Blues Rock bands, where I sang in English and always thought I was my purest self and that making music is the ultimate ‘being yourself’ experience always. I even felt that when I was playing the bassoon in the orchestra.

But in reality I only found my own voice, when I translated one of my English songs to German about 4 years ago. I never wanted to sing in German, because I thought it was uncool. But when I sang my own lyrics in German for the first time, it felt like a curtain was falling.It was uncomfortable because I couldn’t hide behind English and everybody could directly understand my own lyrics. Now, I think that kind of discomfort is necessary. The recipient should feel like they can free themselves when they listen to my music, but for that I have to present myself as an artist.

I was also afraid to be a pop musician for a long time, because I came from a family and musical environment that was very much into alternative music and anti pop. But now I really let my love for funk and pop bloom in my songs.

Still, I don’t think I will ever get rid of my distorted guitar sounds. But who knows ...

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

My album Madonna Whore Komplex is really about redefining my female identity. So it is not only that my sense of identity subconsciously influences my music, but that I use music and writing to help me redefine myself.

A very beautiful experience was when my management encouraged me to sing in Polish and Yiddish at my concerts. I felt so touched by the fact I was supported in showcasing my heritage. I was still a little scared of the reactions, but the audience was so appreciative and curious that it actually helped me with my identity issues and helped to actually become even more appreciative for my roots rather than feeling shame.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

In Germany we really love it when people write their own stuff. And that was kind of the first question I would ask when I heard about a new German artist as well - Do they write their own songs? I believed that everything I didn’t write on my own is fake and not myself.

But when I was in a very bad writer’s block I called an old friend for help. It was the best experience I’ve ever had songwriting wise. I am so thankful to be able to see that writing together with others is such an intimate and special thing.

I really had to let go of my ego and I really have to admit - I don’t miss writing full songs on my own at all. I still like to write by myself, because it is a form of therapy for me, but now I am not hesitating to call my friend for help so we can have a writing therapy session together.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument?

I started with a random guitar we had at home as a child. Since I visited many antique markets with my parents, I often found instruments there and I anyways always grew up with a feeling that these things could talk to me. That they have their own stories to tell. So, I just needed to get the instrument, so it could tell its story and open up its world to me.

That’s why musical instruments are a big songwriting inspiration for me. Once I wrote two songs on an old piano that I picked up for like 50 Euros in my neighbourhood and I needed it to be in the recording session so badly that I drove it to the studio, which was a 2h ride. There, I unloaded it with my sisters. Everyone that ever carried a piano can imagine what an odyssey that was. But it was worth it. It had the perfect detuned sound.

What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments / tools / equipment over the years? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

I was very much someone that believed in analog equipment for a long time and believed you could always feel the difference. I always wanted to record on tape and my dream biggest dream was to record in Jack White’s recording booth, a refurbished 1947 voice-o-graph, that Neil Young played such an amazing performance on the Tonight Show in. The voice-o-graph records you and immediately prints it on a vinyl. So that was my vibe.

But when I started playing my first tour as an solo artist I noticed that I had too many mid tempo songs and ballads for the kind of live show I wanted to play. So I wanted to try to write on beats instead of acoustic instruments or the Nord. I started to work with Machine by Native Instruments and using Ableton live. It is so much fun to dance around on loops while singing. It’s a breath of fresh air I needed for my songwriting. Now I am ready to play a funky, dancy life show with guitars up to 11 for my concert guests.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

The latest thing that shook my music system was splice.

I'd always heard of everyone using it, but I only downloaded it about a year ago in the middle of my album process and was blown away by the creative overload. It profoundly changed the process of making my album. Sometimes I looked for a certain tom and than suddenly, I listened to a sick loop with bongos and I fell in love with it and then suddenly I decided to have bongos in the production. I love how it surprised me so often in the production. It made us take unexpected directions.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

I had three collaborations with amazing hip hop artist.

For me every collaboration process has its own appeal. It means leaving your creative world and safe space and showing yourself as an artist in a different environment. With the hip hop collaborations, the beat was often already almost finished and the lyrics were, too. I was involved in the songs by talking to the artist. The challenge is to present my artistic DNA in another creative world. That challenge really influenced me on reflecting what my artistic DNA is. What is my music DNA without my guitar sounds and dirty drums?

So far, I never collaborated with a band in a studio. So I am very curios about that.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

When I’m on the road each day is different, but I have a routine when I am at home in the countryside. It starts with a vocal warm up and then I go jogging or for a lang walk with my dog. I try not to look at my phone or laptop before I start my business hours with email stuff and social media.

Then I try to do some creative work and in the evening I check out various art like music, movies, literature or have conversations. Sometimes when I’m brain dead I watch sitcoms. That happens very often. (laughs)

I don’t really try to separate my music from other aspects of my life. Music is so deeply connected to my emotions and my identity that I can’t separate it. Also I noticed that all the things that are good for me are also good for my music. Like connecting to your body, learning new things and moving out of you comfort zone and being in nature.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Since I started recording and writing music, for years I would play shows in front of 10 people.

So at one of the first festivals I played three years ago, where I was opening the festival (Kosmonaut Festival) at 2pm, I didn’t think anyone would show up, so I was quite nervous. My manager or ‘humanager’ as I call her, Misla Tesfamariam, organised a megaphone, because I wanted to pick up people from the camping area and let them know I was about to go on stage. And when I finally went on stage, it was packed. So I thought okay … okay… maybe someone crazy is playing right after me. But when I started singing the people sang along. And suddenly it clicked.

It gave me a whole new confidence, freedom and courage as a performer and creator when I saw people connecting to my music.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

My ideal state of mind is, when I am in another city by myself. There are some cities like Krakow or Vienna that really inspire me. Also museums often fill my notes with ideas. So I prefer to do that for writing lyrics, but if I don’t have the time or when there is a pandemic, I really have to be disciplined in regards to writing. I try to keep a certain writing routine and schedule, because anything can distract me. I feel like when I follow my routine, I also have a lot more ideas randomly popping up.

My relationship with writing lyrics is always a rollercoaster. I am constantly looking for strategies that help me to get into a creative state of mind more easily.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I see a very big potential in music connecting people and bringing them closer together.

I am very happy that there is more international music, representing different cultures and languages, that is successful on a mainstream level.  The world could be a better place when we would consider different cultures as a gift to others and not as something which separates us.