Alicia Witt Goes A Little Bit Country
Posted On Apr 14, 2016
Prolific, prodigious actor and musician Alicia Witt joins the cast of Nashville, reuniting with her Friday Night Lights costar Connie Britton and wowing audiences with her inspired sound.
There are many routes by which you’ve likely become familiar with Alicia Witt. Well, prepare to know her in a whole new way, as she makes her presence known on the hit ABC show Nashville. Regarded as a musical prodigy since childhood, Witt is a world-class concert pianist… a talent that now and again gets the chance to shine within her very accomplished and diverse acting career. She’s blossomed as a recording artist, all the while, releasing two studio albums (including the Ben Folds-produced Revisionary History, from 2015) and a live album.
This multitalented beauty from Worcester, Massachusetts can claim a mile-long acting resume that dates back to projects such as David Lynch’s Dune and includes the TV shows Twin Peaks, Cybill, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Walking Dead, Justified, Friday Night Lights, and Kingdom. On the big screen, she starred in Fun and gave notable turns in Two Weeks Notice, 88 Minutes, Vanilla Sky, Last Holiday, and Cecil B. Demented.
In 2013, she bore her soul in Cold Turkey — delivering a performance that was widely praised. Meanwhile, she’s wowed on the theatrical stage in LA and London, embodying several notable Neil LaBute characters and rightfully displaying her pianist power in Piano/Forte.
Needless to say, this is one busy lady. Which is why we’re thrilled to have had the chance to bend her ear.
NEW YOU: Alicia, you’ve joined Nashville, which seems like an inspired bit of casting, considering your background.
ALICIA WITT: I’m so thrilled, having been a fan of the show since day one. I actually auditioned for the pilot, knowing full well that I was falling between ages in terms of characters. I sang one of my songs acapella and did a few scenes, and they said they would keep me in mind for something in the future. After four years, I didn’t think that was actually going to happen… and now it’s actually happening. I’m delighted to be a part of this show, since I truly am a fan who looks forward to it coming on each week. It showcases new songs every week, and it’s just a great show.
NY: You’ve recorded albums yourself, and the city of Nashville is the epicenter of that industry. How tied do your feel to the city?
AW: I’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville, including the work I’ve done with Ben Folds as well as writing sessions and just being amongst some great friends. It’s one of my favorite cities.
NY: Given your musical background, what kind of fun does playing Autumn Chase on Nashville allow you?
AW: It depends on what the scene is, and what is required of me. My first song is a duet with Connie [Britton, Witt’s former Friday Night Lights costar]. I don’t get to play the piano in that, but to be on an arena stage is a fantastic thrill. The production values are so high. We go into the studio ahead of time and record everything, and so we always know the song is going to be great.
NY: Does your role shake things up on the show?
AW: I shake things up a little bit. I play a well-known singer on the show, in the business for twenty years after having been discovered on Star Search! That said, she’s been a successful arena-selling concert artist for two decades, and the vibe is along the lines of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crowe. The sound’s less “country-country,” and more pop-rock-country. She has a really cool sense of style; very laid back and all about jeans and t-shirts instead of diva looks. She’s definitely single and pretty open about a number of relationships that didn’t work out so well. There’s definitely someone she’s interested in.
NY: Now, you’re a true artist, and very highly regarded for your musical acumen. How is the music element of this part feeding your concurrent disciplines?
AW: The role on Nashville is thrilling, getting to combine acting with music. It feels like a part that wouldn’t have come to pass if I hadn’t been spending so much time on my music. I’ve been booking shows, putting out music, and insisting that I want it to be more a part of my life.
NY: Tell us a bit about the place and meaning of music in your life…
AW: Well, it’s something I do because I feel like communicating with people in that way is more truthful in some ways than acting. If I’m playing a role, I’m playing what’s required of me and not always indicative of the way I am.. My music, especially music I’ve written, is so truthful. And I get to work with amazing talents like Ben Folds, who was one of my favorite artists before I ever met him. Writing and recording the theme song to [Witt’s film] Cold Turkey together was an amazing experience, and we began working together more after that. Revisionary History is the result of our growing collaboration… and the fact that he ever listened to my songs and turned them into these recordings is just incredible.
NY: Are you a Country Western fan?
AW: I have always been. Country music is so universal. So many genres have country roots. I was a baby in the ‘70s, and the songs that I loved the most were those of Ann Murray, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow… The easy-listening stuff my mom liked. The heart of country is really good storytelling. Of course, there’s the “driving your truck down the street, singing about drinking beers” songs and those are fun, but to me some of the greatest love songs and best heartbreak songs are country.
NY: You’ve been in front of the camera since you were very young, in a wide spectrum of roles… What would you consider new opportunities to express yourself?
AW: I think my experience has always been this: People might think they know me or are familiar with me, and I’ve tried very hard not to play the same part over and over. I knew I didn’t want to be typecast from an early age, and I can slip easily into lots of different types of roles. I think I’ve accomplished that, and yet it can be frustrating. Over the last ten years, and longer, there have been parts that I wanted a chance at, and depending on who you’re talking to in the business, there are some preconceived notions that I am one way or another based on prior roles. I’ll hear from one week to the next different opinions about who I am based on what I’ve done. Now, I have had fun playing very different roles. Don’t get me wrong. But I’m excited about the idea of more people knowing that I do everything at once, and I’m not just going through phases.
NY: You’re obviously very healthy, and take great care of yourself because you look amazing. What’s the key?
AW: There’s a number of different things I do. I try to stay physically fit. There’s a yoga studio I go to, and I joined a gym here in Nashville. It’s really important to keep my body moving… Just go onto the elliptical and listen to music. And then just get outside. I’m about to take my dog, Ernest, for a walk. He’s a rescue… I can’t believe this little boy was returned twice and only ten months. He just wasn’t trained or paid attention to. But now he’s doing just great.
Other things I do… Although I’ve fallen off a bit, I am a big fan of transcendental meditation, which helps me focus on the areas where my brain power is really needed. Beyond that, I’m just really conscious of what I eat. I make sure there are always lots of organic fruits and veggies around. That’s the first thing I do when in a new town, stock some healthy foods in the fridge. There’s a great vegan restaurant down the way from me, so I’m quite content.