Indy: Your parents were both musicians, right?
AD: Yeah. My dad's a really great guitar player and my mom has an amazing voice. When I was young, they did a lot of traditional music — they were in a bluegrass band with my good friend Marie's dad. So they'd play all sorts of funky bluegrass jams. And a bit later on, my dad started a Grateful Dead cover band. But I didn't think it was all that cool — in high school I was like "Oh God! My dad's in a Grateful Dead cover band!"
Indy: So you rebelled by studying graphic design?
AD: I was rebellious in the opposite way of how most people are. Because my parents were a little more free-flowin', I took the road of trying to do really well in school and getting straight A's and that sort of thing. And my parents were like "God, Alela — why are you stressing yourself out? Why do you study so late trying to get good grades? Why don't you just go to bed and chill out!"
Indy: But you've turned into an amazing singer/guitarist on your new To Be Still solo set and The Silence Of Love from the other band you front, Headless Heroes.
AD: Well, I played a little bit of guitar in high school, and I was slightly interested in it, but really not any good at it. And then when I moved away from home to San Francisco when I was 19, I really picked up the guitar at that point and taught myself how to play. And I was teaching myself how to play by writing songs.
Indy: Was there a point you realized that music was your career?
AD: I was working at a breakfast café, and I was the hostess, so I would walk around filling up people's coffee and getting them water. And I kinda realized "Well, I'm spilling water all over people, and I'm a helluva lot better at singing than I am doing this!"
At the hi-dive in Denver, Nov. 20.