Mental health

Alli Walker Opens Up with Conscious Country

Posted by Cassandra Popescu on September 20, 2019
Alli Walker press photo

Country artist Alli Walker is creating music with a message with the release of her debut album The Basement Sessions: What I've Learned So Far. Calling her brand of country “mindful music” or “conscious country,” Alli draws on her experiences with her own personal mental health journey to create music that encourages vulnerability, and makes listeners feel less alone. We sat down with Alli to discuss the inspiration behind “conscious country” and how sharing her story has helped free herself, and others.


You recently released your debut album The Basement Sessions: What I’ve Learned So Far, and you refer to it is “mindful music” or “conscious country.” What does that mean to you?


I call my music mindful music and conscious country. It’s all about mental health subjects, empowering messages, and the questions we ask ourselves throughout life. We don’t talk enough about finding our purpose, or finding who you are, and how that can play a role on your mental health. Especially in the music industry, where you have to stand out. And you have to have something special about you. I was writing about everything that everyone else is writing about, which I’d say is “boys, booze, and break-ups.” Which is what country music seems to be about.


Now I’m happily married and I don’t drink anymore, so I just started to write about my mental health journey, my personal development, self-love, being a perfectionist, dealing with anxiety, and the comparisons on social media. I didn’t think that anybody was really doing that, especially in country music. And I didn’t plan on doing that at all, it just kind of happened because I was sick of writing about partying. So I just started writing songs for myself that I didn’t expect anybody else to listen to.


What were some of the things you learned about self-love and mental health during your personal development?


I became more and more vulnerable with my audience on social media about self-love because I have really bad acne and I had to find a way to love myself despite what I saw in the mirror. Once I shared that, I shared the struggle I was going through, I realized that there is a need for people having more conversations about the things that go on in our head, what we think about ourselves, what we say to ourselves, and the negative self-talk we engage in. And that’s just how I fell in to mindful music and conscious country. It feels like this is my path, this is my journey. I feel like I can keep doing this for the rest of my life because I’m always going to be learning something new.


I’m currently working on surrendering. I just finished this album and now it’s out in the world, so there’s always going to be something that I’m working on and can share.


Do you find that it was hard to take that first step to be vulnerable and write about something new?


Well the first step of posting my face with a full face of acne was hard, and I know it seems silly, but my world changed after that. I went into hiding for a few years because of my face, I was just so ashamed of what I looked like. So to take that first step not only opened me up to just being more myself, but it also helped other people maybe go to the grocery store without makeup, or be less ashamed of a scar they have, or not be ashamed of their weight. So for me it was freeing from that moment on. And every time I post something or put out a song, I say I get a “vulnerability hangover.”


I have a song called “Sunny Day” and it deals with how people handle depression and anxiety in different ways. I had no idea how it was going to be received, but I realized a lot of people deal with anxiety and depression, so it kind of brought it to the forefront in a way that I don’t think people talk about in songs. I heal through listening to podcasts or listening to conversations, but a lot of people heal through music. So if I can bring that aspect of music to them, that’s what I want to do.


Can you elaborate on what “vulnerability hangover” means?


It just means, wondering if you are being too vulnerable and if it’s going to make people uncomfortable. As soon as I put something out in the world it’s like “holy crap, was it too much?” You just get that second of “what are people going to think of what I just said?”


But you know, it’s needed so it goes away pretty easily. Especially if people are connecting with the message, it makes it feel a lot better. But I’ve had posts about not drinking anymore, or about anxiety, where I’ll have family members reach out and be like “Why are you sharing that? That’s too much, that’s too personal,” but it’s like no, you don’t realize the hundreds of messages I’m getting of people saying “thank you for being vulnerable, because it helped me be just a little more aware of what’s going on in my life.”


What do you do to ground yourself if you’re feeling anxiety after you’ve posted something vulnerable, or after you’ve released a really personal song?


I know now that people are connecting in some way with someone who is willing to say those things, so I don’t get vulnerability hangovers as much anymore. But taking care of my mental health is always something that takes many steps. So there’s a playlist I listen to, which kind of gets me in the right mood if I’m feeling anxious, or I take a look at what I’ve been eating the past few days. I look at if I have mediated or if I’ve listened to podcasts, you kind of build your tool belt of things that get you back to the space you wanna be in. A lot of people use working out as a stress reliever, and it’s so easy to forget about working out, but then you remember how amazing it feels when you’re in that moment. What I’d say to anyone dealing with things like that is just start practicing what you have in your tool belt to get you back to that grounded place.


What’s on that playlist that brings you into that peaceful space?


There’s like a lot of Lauren Daigle, she’s a Christian artist but it’s just inspiring music. And then there’s music like “Front Porch” by Joy Williams, and Maren Morris, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. A lot of, like, girl empowerment songs.


Music can be a powerful healing tool, but sometimes we need more than your favourite songs. Unison’s Counselling & Health Solutions are available to support the mental health of Canadian music-makers. If you need someone to talk to, register with Unison and call 1-855-9UNISON to receive help.