In a culture that encourages us to airbrush our lives with Instagram filters and clever status updates, the emerging voice of pop/soul artist Alma is challenging this generation to pause and self-reflect. With a strong emphasis on message over medium, she sees art as a transformative tool and has made it her mission to teach listeners the value of honesty and vulnerability.
"Using songwriting to vent about breakups or whatever—there's definitely a place for that," Alma says. "But if you're gonna make music your personal therapist, I hope you're getting your money's worth. You don't go to therapy so that you can revel in your problems, you go because you want to understand and conquer them."
For her, understanding and conquering problems begins with asking "why?" and ultimately "what next?" Alma aims to kickstart this dialogue through her songwriting, most often by being upfront about her own shortcomings.
"I basically just put all my dirt out there," Alma laughs. "We all have this vague idea that 'nobody's perfect,' but until you actually put a name to your imperfection—jealousy, anger, whatever—you won't look it in the eye long enough to fight it. Honesty is power."
Alma's strong beliefs by no means come at the expense of musical creativity or spot-on delivery. Though she spent most of her teenage life as a self-described "closet singer," the now 25-year-old Wisconsin native is equipped with unusually good instincts for performing, arranging and bandleading. While honing her musicianship at Columbia College Chicago, the soulful stylings of artists like Amel Larrieux and Lauryn Hill captured her attention, and at that point, "I was done," Alma says. "I'd previously had this indie-pop thing going on—really quirky, bright—but once I found neosoul it was like I was finally enjoying music."
In 2012, Alma released an EP titled Pass It On which showcases some of those earlier stylistic leanings. Her 2014 release, Tactics, more fully realizes the singer's love for backbeats and basslines while also more clearly demonstrating her passion for meaningful messages.