Interview: Alyson Gilbert from Nashville Star

by Emma Loggins

We had the honor of sitting down with the latest star to depart Nashville Star, and here’s what she had to say:

Last week the judges hit you pretty hard. I thought you performed pretty well last night. But I thought you looked like you were thinking that you might be going home. What was sort of your thought process last night?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, after I thought, you know, thought about that I was in the bottom two, you know, I just decided to just go with it. Go out and sing and try to take in the experience, enjoy the experience and not worry so much about anything else. Because, you know, no matter what I was either, you know, going to stay or go. And I just tried to just clear my mind of, you know, of worry and just go.

Right. The judges said that they thought you were missing something. I’m wondering if you think that’s true. And if it is true, I mean, what do you think that that missing part might be?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, I don’t know that there’s necessarily something specific I’m missing. I think, you know, they may just think I – I don’t – to be quite honest I don’t really know exactly what the specific thing is that they think I’m missing.

I mean I think it was more Jewel. I believe that, you know, Jeffrey and John have always said they thought I, you know, was the entire package. I just needed to, you know, hone in – hone the craft a little bit, I guess, maybe.

If you could give a critique or commentary on the three judges where their strengths and weaknesses lie?

Alyson Gilbert: Sure. I think that as far as John Rich is concerned his strength is really just being a straight talker telling us, you know, exactly what he thinks. You never have to wonder if he’s, you know, sugar coating it. A weakness might be that he sometimes comes across as, you know, maybe arrogant which I don’t think he is. But I know I’ve had people say that to me.

Jeffrey Steele – his strength is really just being, you know, a tough critic but doing it in a real, you know, kind way and non-offensive way. And, you know, I haven’t had as much time to work with him so I don’t know, you know, I can’t say as much about him as I can John.

And Jewel, you know, I think she just brings a unique – a uniqueness. You know, she’s kind of a, you know, new to the country scene with her newest album. And I think, you know, she brings an aspect of, you know, experience in the pop and folk industry. And that can be helpful when trying to, you know, possibly make crossover hits.

So I mean it’s a very diverse judging group. And I feel really honored to have been able to, you know, be critiqued by them because I think it’s going to really help me out.

What musical – what country music influenced you growing up? And what did you really love? What did you latch onto?

Alyson Gilbert: Gosh, you know, when I was little my mom listened to the Judds all the time. And I always really loved them. And then it kind of morphed into I’ve always been a huge Faith Hill fan. And Faith and Martina and – have been two big influences in my life. And really they were the voices that made me want to sing country music.

How tough was the experience for you?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, it’s a very high pressure experience, you know. You’re out of your comfort zone. You’re away from, you know, your intimate support system like your, you know, family and your friends. And you kind of have to go internally in yourself to find the strength to keep going.

And I think that you don’t always have to, you know, you don’t always have to do that in your everyday life because there’s people there to kind of encourage you and tell you – you did great.

And, you know, it was tough. But it was an experience that I feel very fortunate to have been able to have. And I think it’s going to make me – or I think it did make me a stronger person within myself for sure.

What was the most important thing John Rich gave you?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, John – the best thing about John was, you know, he said, you know, if you’re not tough enough to take my critique then you’re not tough enough, you know, to get beat up then you’re not tough enough for this industry. And you really need to think about it.

And I thought you know what? That is so true. And I tried to keep that mentality every time, you know, a judge gave me a tough criticism. You know, I just had to say okay and get knocked down and stand back up. And (he’s) been, you know, really just kind of brought that to the forefront of my brain. And I think that helped me out a lot.

Now did your mom’s presence help you – or did it give you added confidence?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, having my mom there, you know, she’s been at a lot of performances since I was a little girl. And for me it wasn’t added pressure. It was just great to have her there.

She’s always, you know, I know that she’s 100% behind me period, you know. And there isn’t any question. I never question whether or not she thinks I’m great. And that can really be, you know, a huge help in high pressure situations.

of the interesting things was last night there were several times where you started to congratulate someone before Billy Ray had actually said the name. So I got the feeling you must have been – you were able to read it off the teleprompter. Is that right or…

Alyson Gilbert: Oh well I may have – I probably didn’t realize I was doing that. But (it was just) – I would glance at the teleprompter sometimes. And I mean I know them. So if I see something I’m like oh it’s them, you know, before it’s (even up). Yeah I think a lot of us read the teleprompter.

The time limits was really different. Originally it was like 70 second time limit. And it seemed like as close as I could tell people got like 90 or 100 seconds for the first song. But the second song was only 45 seconds. Is that right or…

Alyson Gilbert: Yeah I think we had about a minute and 45 seconds for our first song. And I, you know, I think we got the longer time because there’s less people, you know. So you get a little bit more time.

And then the 45 second one was, I think, just an opportunity to kind of get up and do a little something different than – and give the audience an opportunity to hear you one more time. And I think they did that because next week it is a double elimination. And so they really wanted people to have, you know, a little bit of added time to, you know, see what everybody brought to the table.

What would your second song have been?

Alyson Gilbert: I was going to sing Angels from Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt/John Prime.

Are you actually thinking about going back to like veterinary science at school? Or what are your plans for the future?

Alyson Gilbert: Well, you know, my schooling was always my second thing that – I mean I’ve worked – I do gigs on the weekends. And but, you know, Thursday on. And I would just go to classes. And it was something that I wanted to finish my degree in.

And I thought if I didn’t do it soon I was afraid I would run the risk of never going back. And animals are something that I love. And so I wanted to get my undergrad in that. And I will finish it one way or the other whether it’s online or going back on a full-time basis.

I, you know, I’m really – music is really in the forefront of my mind and what I love and what I want to do. And I’m going to continue to pursue that heavily – especially now.

Now is there any like similarities between, you know, veterinary science and music? Which one is like tougher for you, you know, that kind of thing?

Alyson Gilbert: You know, gosh, the thing that is kind of nice about, you know, having the school and having music is, you know, it’s entirely up to me how well I do in school. And, you know, in the music industry it’s not always necessarily up to you how things go. And so it’s kind of been a good balance for me.

As far as similarities, you know, there’s pressure. You know, there’s pressures with tests and finals and doing well. And, you know, then there’s pressures with gigs and performances and doing well. You know, they kind of, you know, they have the uniqueness and – or they have, you know, obvious, you know, differences.

But, you know, there’s always pressure when you’re doing something that, you know, is difficult and not everybody, you know, does. There’s always that level of difficulty. And I think that’s a similarity in the music industry and going into, you know, the animal science field which is a very technical and difficult field.

Growing up, you know, loving animals and music were you ever like, you know, one of those kids who sing to animals?

Alyson Gilbert: Oh my goodness. Yes, well I have a cat, Basia. And she and I we – she’s a kitten – loves to – when I sing — whenever I sing — she comes running and I pick her up. And we – and I just – if I’m rehearsing for something I just carry her around and sing to her. And she puts her paw in my face all the time. And that’s really fun.

And I think animals very, very, very much respond to music. I know mine do. And, you know, I think they’re similar to people in that way if they’re stressed or, you know, it can – you can calm them down with music. It really does work.

So it seams like Gabriel Garcia is — Gabe Garcia — is kind of the preordained one that’s going – just from watching it and watching it every week. That’s my gut feeling. And I was wondering if that was your opinion or if you had a – if you wanted to go on record and predict the winner.

Alyson Gilbert: Gosh I don’t ever want to, like, presume or predict. But, you know, I do think Gabe is a very strong frontrunner, you know. He just is straight up country.

And I think that, you know, the audience of Nashville Star are country fans. And they want to hear, you know, country singers and country music. And he’s country to the core. So I think he definitely has a huge, you know, huge chance of winning.

Who else do you find compelling to watch and listen to that you really admire on the show?

Alyson Gilbert: I – well I love Melissa Lawson. I think she has a powerful, amazing voice. And Pearl Heart – I’m always in awe of their harmonies. They just have this sibling harmony. And it’s just incredible. It’s like one person singing but yet it’s, you know, these three little teeny, tiny girls.

You were Miss St. Paul at one point. Now were you going to University of Minnesota at that point or…

Alyson Gilbert: No. I was not. I went to University of Minnesota-Morehead for a few years which is, you know, a sister school. But the way that pageants — or at least in Minnesota — work there’s locals — which are like Miss St. Paul or Miss Thief River Falls or Miss Something.

And as long as you’re a resident of the state of Minnesota you can go and, you know, compete in the pageant. You don’t necessarily have to be from that town. And so that’s kind of how that worked for me. But, yeah, I was Miss St. Paul when I was 19.

When you came down to – did you come down to Tennessee specifically to be near the music and then you were just studying (in) your spare time?

Alyson Gilbert: Yes. I mean my husband switched jobs. And we moved to Tennessee so I could pursue music. School, you know, was something that I’ve always wanted to have my college degree. And I think it’s important, you know, to have. And I think you never, you know, lose anything by educating yourself. And I love animals.

And so I thought (it) would be, you know, a great way – I kind of feel like it makes me a more rounded individual just to kind of have a balance between music and my education. And it’s worked out for me. But it’s definitely, you know, my second priority behind music.

Okay you’ve been down in Tennessee how long now?

Alyson Gilbert: I’ve lived in Tennessee for six years.

You have a smile which shows up — occasionally people think — at the wrong times. In other words you’ll be singing a serious song but you’ll be flashing this great smile. And you got criticized for that a little bit. And then when you lost last night you were beaming like mad – big smile on your face. Is that just an instinctive thing? Do you tend to smile a lot? Do you sometimes smile at the wrong times or…

Alyson Gilbert: Gosh, you now, I think that maybe every once in awhile like the smile just might be, you know, my way of getting nerves out. But, you know, last night I was sad. But, you know, I’m just like I’m not going to go out, you know, having a nervous breakdown on national television, you know?

And to be honest the smile at the end was completely genuine. I was so happy to have had that experience. And I was happy that if I was going to go out I got to go out and my mom was there. And I, you know, I knew that I was going to be able to see them at the end.

And, you know, it was very bittersweet. But, you know, I like to smile in my life. I think, you know, too many times people don’t smile enough.

At this stage of the dream, how do you make this experience work?

Alyson Gilbert: Gosh, you know, I think you just have to, you know, any opportunity that comes your way take (a) full, you know, 100% advantage of it. And that’s what I intend to do.

I really, you know, want to hit the ground running and, you now, work every angle that’s handed to me. And, you know, do every interview I can and really just continue, you know, getting as much exposure as possible. And I think that’s how you make it work. You know, just stay in the public eye as much as you can.

Now what did you feel about Jewel’s comments when she said go somewhere and find your soul or find some – feel some hurt. Is that what she said?

Alyson Gilbert: I – well – I’ve felt plenty of hurt in my life. And, you know, I think that, you know, Jewel doesn’t know that much about me personally. I think she’s just, you know, basing it off what she’s seen. I respect her opinion.

And I think she’s an amazing musician. But, you know, she doesn’t know me, know me. And so I think that, you know, it’s just one of those things. (I’m) like okay. I’ll go do some soul-searching I guess.

I don’t, you know, everybody likes, you know, people like different things about people for different reasons. And I, you know, she just didn’t, you know, like me. And that’s okay.

You guys just didn’t click I guess.

Alyson Gilbert: I don’t – I think that probably we would get along just fine (in) a daily basis. I think we just — as far as musically — we don’t quite connect, no.

When you become successful and famous would you ever consider coming back and being a judge on a show like this?

Alyson Gilbert: Yeah. I think that I would because, you know, it’s a tough job. But I think if you can go into it sincerely — which I do think all the judges are there sincerely to try to benefit our careers — Jewel included in that, you know. And I think that if I am able to have the level of success that any of those individuals have, if I can lend, you know, knowledge that I’ve learned then I think that would be, you know, that I think would be an asset to somebody who’s trying to come up in the business then I would definitely consider doing it.

Nashville Star


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