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In 2009 Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Alisha Zalkin independently released an EP, Finally Free, featuring six tracks, including a cover of George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Aside from music, Zalkin is involved in several nonprofit organizations such as the Playing For Change Foundation, an organization that connects the world through music. "I want my music to shed a light on the amazing mission of causes that are making a difference in the world," says Zalkin.
Zalkin is set to release her debut EP, March To A Different Beat, on June 30. Ahead of the album's release, GRAMMY.com has your exclusive first listen of the song "Beautiful You."
Listen to "Beautiful You" below and read Zalkin's insights about the song.
What inspired you to write "Beautiful You"?
For a good part of my life I struggled with conforming to what I thought people expected of me in forming my identity. "Beautiful You" is the result of a long spiritual journey of discovering the truth that who we are comes from within us. It was inspired by a time when I came to appreciate the people in my life who encouraged me to let go of the obstacles I put in front of me and to believe in myself.
Can you describe the creative process behind "Beautiful You"?
Tina Shafer and I co-wrote this song. We were at her house in [New York] sharing experiences and getting to the root of what it means to truly believe in yourself — what it looks like and what it feels like. We all have those people in our lives who only see us as greatness, yet we have a hard time seeing that greatness within ourselves. This song came from a place of unleashing the inner beauty that lies at the truth of who we really are. We started with the chorus, to gather our main message of the song, and at the end came "you, you, beautiful you." But it wasn't enough to just sing it once. It was a mantra, something worth screaming at the top of your lungs and having a crowd of thousands of people singing it together. From there it took on a life of its own.
Is the lyric "Let it go and be proud to be you" autobiographical? Or is this a message for people in general?
Both. Having practiced yoga for many years, gone through my 500-hour teacher training, as well as other courses, I really began to understand how often I was the one getting in my own way. I constantly judged myself and never gave myself the opportunity to be me. People related to me in ways that I never related to myself. Once I began to learn how to let that judgment go, and unravel the human being I was meant to be, I learned to not only be proud of who I am but to own it. Inspiring others to find that place for themselves is the message of this song.
How would you describe your songwriting process?
Songwriting is a very spiritual process for me. I like to take situations and dig deep until I hit the truth of the matter. The way I know I've found that place is I'll instantly hear a melody that comes straight from just being in the space of what I'm feeling. Once I've found the emotion and have let the melody form from within, I just start writing down everything. For me, the melody informs where I want to take a song lyrically. Once I've written everything out, I go back and begin to edit and formulate my message. I also love to co-write. The beauty of co-writing is being able to feed off somebody and turn a song into something you wouldn't have created on your own.
How does "Beautiful You" fit in with the rest of the songs on your forthcoming EP, March To A Different Beat?
All of the songs on March To A Different Beat shed light on difficult situations. They are about listening to your intuition, owning what's unique about you, and not being afraid to share it with the world. This message is woven through the different experiences of each song. The experience that drives the message in "Beautiful You" is encouraging people to reach deep into themselves, not be afraid, hold their head up high, and believe how beautiful they really are. In essence, that's what it means to march to a different beat.
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