There's a shocking intimacy to singer-songwriter Aslyn's debut album, Lemon Love. That's not to say that it's full of titillating sexual imagery or blistering diatribes. Listening to the album, which was produced by Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams, Jewel) and Eric Valentine (SmashMouth, Third Eye Blind, Queens of the Stone Age), you get the sense that you've stumbled across a trunk full of a stranger's letters and that at any moment you'll be discovered reading them. They reveal the stories behind breakups and betrayals, yet they are buoyant, intoxicated by life and love. They are pure Aslyn.
Raised outside Gainesville, Florida, Aslyn began studying classical piano when she was seven. Throughout her school years, she played anywhere she could - in talent contests, at weddings, at church. After graduation, Aslyn was faced with the decision that would eventually bring her to a new phase in her musical journey. She could use her savings to buy a cheap car, or leave home in pursuit of something more. Aslyn, without a second thought, took off for Atlanta, where she gigged around town and crashed on friends' couches. Eventually she did acquire a clunker of a car, which became an unusual metaphor for her love life, inspiring the album's title track, "Lemon Love."
"Every car I've ever owned has turned to be a lemon. Of course, that revelation would come only once I'd spent more on repairs than the car was worth!" Aslyn says. "My beat-up cars have, one by one, all fallen apart on me. And ironically," she chuckles, "love has done the same. The minute you aren't paying attention comes the breakdown."
Aslyn remained dedicated to her craft as a songwriter and performer, writing every day, playing the local clubs. She was drinking in all kinds of music - from Queen, Coldplay and The Corrs to The Beatles, Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder - while simultaneously discovering and developing her own artistic voice.
"Relentless pursuit" are the words Aslyn uses to describe her journey. "You just don't stop. You remain a student and learn and grow and never stop." In 2002, everything started to come together. Her approach to songwriting crystallized and out poured many of the songs that would form the foundation for Lemon Love. Her infectious hooks and passionate vocals stirred up music industry interest and Aslyn eventually went to Los Angeles to showcase for several labels.
At Capitol, she was asked to play her most recently written song, which at the time was "493-1023." The title refers to her childhood phone number. The song, which she co-wrote with one of her brothers, is a raw, spirited reflection on loyalty betrayed and friendship forsaken.
Capitol offered her a deal on the spot. Sensing it was a good match, she canceled all her other appointments and signed on. Soon after, she began recording with Guy Chambers. "I brought up Guy's name because I was moved by the work he had done with Robbie Williams," she says. "He has a strong song-oriented perspective with an English twist." She recorded eight tracks with Chambers and the remaining four with renowned Los Angeles-based producer, Eric Valentine.
"I remember showing up on the first day of recording with Eric and there were 10 different pianos in the room," Aslyn recalls. "I knew right off that we were going to get it right."
The result is Lemon Love, a dozen disarming songs that are the musical equivalent of a short-story collection, or as Aslyn puts it, "stories of love found and love lost, of loyalty ruined and masks mistaken, of the ironic freedom and glass box of religion, and of the desire and passion for an unknown tomorrow."
Every storyteller craves an audience, so naturally Aslyn's excited about taking her songs on the road. During her club days in Atlanta, people would often stop her on the street to ask about her songs, especially "Wally," a poignant, exuberant tribute to her grandparent's 55-year, 'til-death-do-us-part romance. Complete strangers would mention the song and even sing it back to her.
"That was what kept me going...the feeling that I had connected with someone through the offering of song," Aslyn remembers. "That was my fuel. And it still is."