Over the past few years, we have had the chance to see quite a few of our indie music friends take the national stage on American Idol and The Voice, including Brooke White, Tony Lucca, Katrina Parker, and Justin Hopkins, to name a few. However, this is the first time that we have become friends with an artist who has gone indie after appearing on one of those shows. Thanks to Patrick O’Heffernan for introducing us.
We had a delightful time interviewing Allison Iraheta, who appeared on season 8 of American Idol and was originally signed to Jive Records. Many of her greatest achievements, though, have been accomplished after she became an indie artist. Iraheta was the winner of the Best Pop/Rock Female Artist for the first half of 2016, primarily on the strength of her band’s single, “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena).” Iraheta and Halo Circus also finished second in the Fan Favorite category.
IVB: How long have you been performing?
AI: Since I was six years old when I got my first gig at an opening for a department store. I sang a ranchera song. I was also a big fan of Selena, but unlike her, I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and primarily spoke Spanish, being the child of Salvadorian parents. We were surrounded by a true cultural mix of music. I loved the emotion behind rancheras music, which in turn became the inspiration for our current music. I recently turned 24.
IVB: Who are your influences?
AI: My first big influence was Linda Ronstadt, especially her album “Canciones de mi Padre.” My dad also turned me on to Paul Williams. Other artists that inspired me included Amy Winehouse, Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee, PJ Harvey, and Radiohead This definitely led to our music being very diverse. We didn’t have to be stuck with one sound but were able to show a myriad of colors.
IVB: What made you decide to DIY?
AI: I didn’t really have much of a choice. As you know, I was signed to Jive Records just as the old music business began to fall apart. There were lots of job upheavals and a change in the rules, affecting the whole industry. I was actually dropped by Jive in the middle of my tour and found out about it via Twitter. I was only 18, but decided to finish out the tour. It was in shock, having gone from nothing to successful and then back again. Once I got back from tour, I didn’t know where I was musically, and felt lost, not sure what to do anymore. I did a few demos to make money and was very close to giving up on the industry. I felt betrayed and injured and was not yet aware of the DIY side of the industry. However, I don’t hold any resentments and am still friends with some of those same industry people.
I met Matthew (Hager) when I was doing a demo for a song he was pitching to Carrie Underwood. We started writing together and I returned to my roots to find inspiration. Everything we were doing sounded like it needed to be done by a band, which led to the formation of Halo Circus in 2013. The support we have received is what has propelled us to where we are now, and new opportunities are happening all the time. Everyone in the band is a veteran musician. Matthew was a No. 1 Billboard multi-platinum producer who crossed multiple genres working with the likes of Duran Duran, Scott Weiland, Mindi Abair, and Mandy Moore. Brian Stead was and is a relentless guitar aficionado who evokes energy and charisma. In addition to being an accomplished Cantonese and orchestral drummer, Veronica Bellino worked with Jeff Beck and DMC of Run DMC before leaving Halo Circus. She was replaced by Stead’s friend, Matteo Eyia.
Magic happens in this band. It happened when we were writing, when we were recording, and when we were failing. The only thing that mattered was keeping it honest and getting it right, whatever that meant. We may be inconvenient, but we continue to attract believers.
IVB: Do you want to go back to being a mainstream artist?
AI: There is a balance to moving on from the previous level of exposure to the creative freedom we have now. We believe we can return to that level, but on our own terms. We are doing it through the back channel and believe that is a better way for us to return. We love what is happening in the indie scene.
Last February, we shocked the music industry when we announced in Billboard Magazine that we would be embarking on the first fully crowd-sourced American tour ever to be attempted on such a large scale. With the help of our fans and Road Nation, the program that allowed this format, we reached full funding just nine weeks later, and confirmed a tour of 30 cities.
IVB: What are your future plans?
AI: We are definitely going back on tour in the not too distant future. We would love to revisit some of the places where we played on our last tour. We have some new stuff on the horizon and are so proud of those who have supported us from the beginning. There will be surprises and thank you’s and fun stuff for everyone.
IVB: Any good stories from touring/recording/performing?
AI. During the tour we were scheduled to play a show in Orlando during Hurricane Matthew. We played the show despite the weather. When we got to the venue under very gray clouds, there were about 30 of our fans waiting for us with signs proclaiming “End of the World” show. We lost our AirBnB reservation for the night due to the storm, and had no place to stay after the show. Consequently, we started heading out of Orlando, but couldn’t find anyplace open that had gas or water. We did finally find some gas, and just kept driving until we found a hotel where we could stay. It was a scary time and we saw cars driving on the wrong side of the road, trying to get away from the storm.
IVB: What is the significance of the rabbit?
AI: It represented humans for me during the writing of our first album Bunny. I seemed to notice them everywhere. The totem for bunny meant prey, with their fluffy tails for hawks to see, but they are also very cute, adorable and fast. I came to the conclusion that the prettier you are, the more different you are, the more likely you are to become prey.
IVB: What social media do you use?
AI: I have a Facebook page with a link to the band’s website. I also use Twitter and Instagram, and of course we have a channel on YouTube, all of which our fans can subscribe to or follow.