For a long time, the decision to abandon Calgary for the competitive entertainment mecca of Los Angeles didn’t feel like the right one for Jocelyn Alice.
The singer-songwriter had found herself to be a hot property after cowriting 2015’s “Jackpot”, and then watching it go from a YouTube sensation to a viral hit on Spotify. A record deal followed, with the strong suggestion that L.A. would make good business sense. Even though Toronto and New York seemed more her style, Alice packed up and headed down the coast, where she quickly felt lost. Los Angeles is filled with aspiring actors and musicians, many of whom come to the creeping realization they aren’t going to make it.
“There’s an anger and a desperation to the city,” Alice says, on the line from her home in California. “It’s very expensive here, very intense and loud, with a lot going on. People have a natural level of stress being in this city, and then you add on the fact that I’m in the music industry and the fact that I’m female—all these extra things are boundaries that we aren’t totally aware of a lot of the time. It was honestly hell on earth when I first got here. I really struggled and didn’t want to stay.”
Still, Alice has established herself as a heavy hitter, even though she’s not a household name. “Jackpot” has been designated platinum, 2017’s “Bound to You” went gold, and a Galloway remix of her smash “Feels Right” is at nearly 21 million listens on Spotify.
Those singles and more are bundled on her 2018 EP Little Devil, which touches on everything from calypso-tinted EDM to darkwave pop to acoustic trip-hop. The one constant is Alice’s world-beating voice; she’s a rare powerhouse who sounds as natural going the winsome and vulnerable route as she does showcasing a jazzy world-weariness or unleashing the soul-sister pyrotechnics.
A long-awaited full-length, due later this year, is a sign that Alice has figured things out in Los Angeles. A big victory was convincing herself—especially during the dark periods—that she was indeed a player.
“It was incredibly humbling, coming from a country where I’d built a career for myself,” Alice admits. “Walking into sessions in Canada, there’s kind of this immediate sense of respect. That’s an incredible feeling and something that I will never take for granted. That’s not the way it was for me here in Los Angeles. And that was really hard for a long time.”
As she continues to navigate an industry where everyone in the boardroom thinks they know best, Alice remains determined to carve out her own identity. Proudly, she notes she was recently asked to sing on a Chainsmokers track, but declined because she didn’t have a hand in writing the song. That’s a decision she doesn’t regret: even though she’s built a strong support network in L.A., she ultimately relies on the person who got her this far in the first place.
“I’m not someone who’s going to talk about all the accolades I’ve got and all the things that I’ve done, so people kind of underestimated me here,” Alice says. “But that’s taught me to stand up and be who I am. The reality is that I do have three gold singles, and I do have a platinum single, and I have a 20-million-streamed single on Spotify. All that’s earned—those are songs that I’ve written myself, and I’m proud of that. The reason I am successful because I was true to who I am as an artist. That’s just point-blank the truth. And you can see that in my career.”
Jocelyn Alice plays the Squamish Constellation Festival Main Stage at 5:20 p.m. on Saturday (July 27). For more information, visit the website.