Alisa Amador
Premier Concerts and Manic Presents:

Alisa Amador

Doors: 7:00 pm | Show: 8:00 pm
All Ages
Space Ballroom
Hamden, CT

General Admission Standing Room Only

ALISA AMADOR

The day Alisa Amador decided to walk away from her career in music was, ironically enough, the day her career truly began.

"I was burned out and dealing with all this personal grief and trauma, and I finally just came to the conclusion that I couldn't go on the way I was anymore," she reflects. "And then as I was walking through the logistics of how I would break the news to everyone in my life, I got a phone call telling me that I'd won the NPR Tiny Desk Contest."

Now, two years later, Amador is an artist reborn, both spiritually and sonically, with a stunning full-length debut to show for it. Recorded with co-producers Tyler Chester and Daniel Radin, Multitudes finds the bilingual singer/songwriter formally introducing herself with a bold, captivating self-portrait, one that serves not only as a testament to how far she's come, but also as a celebration of where she comes from. Slipping effortlessly between Spanish and English and featuring guest appearances from Gaby Moreno, Madison Cunningham, and Quinn Christopherson, the songs here are raw and vulnerable, at once steeped in devastating loss and uncertainty, but also laced with the hope and resilience of young woman learning to find her voice and stand her ground in the midst of a personal and professional maelstrom. Certainly, Multitudes is a beautiful record — the way Amador's crystalline voice cut through the album's lush synthesizers, dreamy guitars, and cinematic string arrangements is nothing short of spellbinding — but more than that, it's a fierce work of discovery and affirmation that reveals new secrets with each repeated listen, a profound, revelatory meditation on triumph and loss, endings and beginnings, identity and belonging, all delivered by a songwriter convinced she would never write again.

"When NPR called, I genuinely considered asking them to give the honor to someone else," Amador recalls. "I felt like a fraud because after the death of a close friend in 2020, I'd completely stopped writing. But in that moment, it felt like something was telling me to surrender to the reality that music is and always would be my purpose."

Amador's passion for music is no coincidence. Born to a pair of Latin folk artists, she began singing with her parents' band, Sol Y Canto, at the age of five, and spent much of her childhood traveling the country on an endless series of tours along with her twin brother, Zia. She spent extended periods with her grandparents in Puerto Rico and New Mexico, as well, before attending college in Maine, which enabled her to study abroad in Buenos Aires for a semester.

"From a young age, I saw exactly how insane and difficult it was to make a life playing music," Amador recalls. "But I also knew I'd be lying to myself if I tried to do anything else."

Fresh out of school, Amador began touring and recording as a solo artist, releasing a pair of well-received independent EPs and crisscrossing the country just as she had during her childhood. But over time, something about her experiences began to feel off, and the purpose and meaning she'd found in music began slipping through her fingers.

"Looking back on it now, I realize that I was just trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be," Amador explains. "I was saying 'yes' to everything and working so hard to not make other people uncomfortable that I couldn't hear myself think. I lost touch with what I wanted, and suddenly this thing that had been so rewarding and so healing was putting me in situations that made me feel unsafe and disrespected as a Latina woman."

When she got word from NPR that she'd taken top prize in the prestigious Tiny Desk Contest, Amador decided that the only way she could accept the honor and carry on professionally was with a complete and total reset.

"I realized that if this was going to work, I was going to have to really start listening to myself and advocating for myself and making other people uncomfortable," she explains. "I was going to have to start respecting my boundaries and saying 'no' more than 'yes.'"

Standing on the precipice of letting it all go had made Amador fearless. What could they take away from her, after all, that she wasn't already willing to walk away from herself? And so she headed to DC, taping an arresting set for the Tiny Desk Concert series that had NPR's Bob Boilen hailing her as a "powerful voice whose tender performance commands attention and fosters connection" and Cyrena Touros calling her "a pitch-perfect rendition of my wildest dreams." In the year that followed, Amador would go on to land dates with everyone from Hozier and Brandi Carlile to Lake Street Dive and Hiss Golden Messenger, but first, she headed west to Los Angeles, where she cut the foundation of Multitudes live in the studio.

"I wanted the 100% realness that comes with live performances, but I also wanted to take the music to another level," says Amador, who brought the recordings back home to Boston for overdubs and extensive production work. "My roots are in Argentina and Puerto Rico and New Mexico, so magical realism has always been a part of my culture and my writing. I wanted to create a sound that could transport you, that could move you through time and space."

That immersive sense of magical realism is palpable from the outset on Multitudes, which opens with the exquisite "Extraño." Tender and aching, the track (which features a guest appearance by Gaby Moreno) showcases Amador's enthralling vocals atop a spare acoustic guitar as she navigates the liminal space between cultures and reckons with 'the perpetual outsider status she's faced for most of her life.

"In Spanish, the word 'extraño' can mean 'strange,' but it can also mean 'I miss,'" Amador explains. "When you're the daughter of immigrants, it's easy to feel like the strange one, like you're always missing something. I've struggled to hold on to my native language, and sometimes when you feel it slipping away, it triggers this sense of existential loss, like you don't really belong anywhere."

Amador wrestles with the notion of belonging throughout the record, blurring the lines between languages and genres in a reflection of her own personal search for self. The driving indie-rocker "Love Hate Song" grapples with a life full of catch-22s, while the lilting "Nudo de raíces" looks for the beauty in the in between, and the hypnotic "Woke Up Today" offers a heavenly dose of chamber folk as it finally lets its guard down.

"'Woke Up Today' is the song that helped me realize that the things that I'm most afraid to say are the things that are the most important for me to say," Amador explains. "It's the first time I'm openly singing about my experiences with depression, and I just hope it makes people feel less alone or crazy or wrong, that it helps them feel okay exactly as they are."

Learning to hold that kind of compassion is at the core of Multitudes. The soaring "Heartless Author" (written with Amador's brother, Zia, and featuring Madison Cunningham on vocals) makes peace with the unknown in an effort to be kinder to the face in the mirror; the hushed "A Million Ways" revels in the simple joy of truly being seen and loved by another; and the tenacious "I Need To Believe" (featuring past Tiny Desk Contest winner Quinn Chistopherson) refuses to give up, even when hope seems impossible to grasp. But it's perhaps the songs Amador wrote for her late friend — the graceful "Pasajeras," which extends a helping hand in a time of struggle, and the buoyant "Enough," which makes room for grief in everyday life — that are most affecting, not only for the poignancy with which Amador delivers them, but for the fact that she was able to deliver them at all.

"After you lose someone, you can get this sense that nothing will ever be enough," she reflects. "In grieving my friend, I went through a period where I couldn't write or even pick up an instrument at all, but now I sing these songs to her every night. I sing them with a broken heart, but also with a grateful heart, and I hope they hold space for anyone else out there who's lost a loved one, too."

Reconciling such juxtapositions — love and loss, grief and gratitude, pain and purpose — are essential to Amador's songwriting, and ultimately why she decided to call the record Multitudes.

"The word is a cognate, meaning that it's spelled identically and has the same meaning in both Spanish and English," she explains. "It took a long time to find a title because I didn't feel like any one word could contain all the emotions, all the ambiguities, all the searching in this record. When I landed on Multitudes, I knew I'd found what I was looking for."

It's only fitting, then, that the album concludes with "Milonga accidental," a track full of contradictions and the first Spanish language song to ever win the Tiny Desk Contest.

"I originally wrote 'Milonga accidental' as an act of mourning how out of place I felt," she recalls. "Over time, though, it's transformed into a celebration of being out of place."

And now, as Amador stands at the threshold of her most compelling chapter yet, it's the reason she's finally found where she belongs.

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