Alysia Kraft can keenly use nature as a metaphor in her music. But in the case of “Little River,” a song with rich layers of meaning and potential interpretations, the inspiration was frighteningly literal.
“I almost drowned in the river by my parent’s ranch in the summer of 2020,” Kraft tells BandWagon. “It was a freak accident. The railing snapped on a bridge I was standing on and I was instantly tossed into a very high, very debris-choked river raging with freshly thawed spring snow. I got trapped beneath a debris pile for what felt like forever and then pushed beneath it by the current, right as I was about to lose consciousness.”
She lived to tell the tale. And in turn, make some of this year’s most resonant music.
A Wyoming native, Kraft’s is known in Colorado as one third of folk-rock favorites Whippoorwill and the voice of The Patti Fiasco. With therapeutic guidance, she came to an epiphany following the river trauma. She realized she could choose to leave her life’s emotional baggage in that riverbed, sunken beneath the flotsam and jetsam. Here, essentially, the song and a solo path was born.
Kraft says the event was the catalyst for a lot of self-work. “I needed to change,” she said, “to let myself become something new rather than being defined by everything I had been and done. The river changes every minute – it’s never the same river – this song is about the personal liberation that comes with staying inside the stream . . . experiencing change and reinvention.”
Kraft’s reinvention includes the forthcoming release of First Light, her debut solo record, and scripting the gorgeous video for “Little River,” each markers of uncharted waters for Kraft as an artist.
“I love bands. I love teams,” Kraft says, admitting that learning to steer the ship was a tough lesson to learn and a challenging role to accept.
“It took me time and experience and a lot of music-making to realize I could drive the creative vision and still collaborate with others,” she says. “I think Patti Fiasco will be a band forever, and I hope Whippoorwill will be able to make some music together again someday. I feel incredibly inspired and prolific right now and excited about making more music under my own name.”
Owning it, all of it, is the current flowing through First Light. Kraft says she wrote about the big moments in her life: the first time she kissed a girl, celebrated a full year sober and accepted the possibility of being a new person. But inspiration also came from back home in Wyoming, a landscape she loves but which she says “didn’t always love back.”
“I think I do draw inspiration from challenging environments,” Kraft said. “The feelings I associate with growing up in Wyoming are longing and struggle. The longing for a life that felt true to myself and truly connected to others, has always been just strong enough to defeat the struggle. Longing connected me to a loving, supportive queer community; it eventually pulled me into sobriety and recovery, and I think it will continue to pull me in the direction of whatever I’m supposed to be doing in the world.”
First Light by Alysia Kraft is out June 17. Hear “Little River” and the new single “Hamilton Pool” on 105.5 The Colorado Sound now on the air and at coloradosound.org and see Kraft live June 4 in Denver at the Skylark with The Stilltide and Nina de Freitas, and in Fort Collins at The Lyric June 18 and at Music City Hot Chicken (FoCo Pride Party) June 25. More show dates at helloiamalysiakraft.com