In an age of blurry lines differentiating musical genres, Ali Sperry & the Family Vacation are a Nashville-based conglomeration of friends, roommates and lovers who’s music one could describe as indie-pop-folk-rock. And you might as well go ahead and sprinkle on some Americana and stir it all up with some soul. The songs in their simplest form are stories of love, of hearts broken and healing, and explorations of human relationships with ourselves and one another. In layers of lush string arrangements, of rock & roll electric guitar with tender finger-picked acoustic, and drum tones that run the gamut from Ringo to tribal, these simple stories become evocative and visceral musical landscapes.
Ali had the good fortune in this life to be born to two musician parents who encouraged her innate desire to sing and create music from the time she could speak. The first "official" song of Ali’s was written and performed at age 7 in front of 2000 people at the Golden Domes in Fairfield, Iowa. These are the lyrics:
"It's in the sky, I see it fly
It's in the air, everywhere
I know that love has come, peace has come, a song has come
Lighting the light of everyone everywhere."
Music has been a constant in Ali’s life. Her childhood soundtrack was her mom’s singing and her dad’s cello playing, in addition to being well-steeped in their favorite music of the 60s and 70s—Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor. Once Ali discovered her mom’s vinyl copy of Song to a Seagull in 7th grade, she began to obsessively sing and harmonize her way through the whole album and then flip it over and do it again.
Her love of music, combined with a passion for theatre, brought her to Syracuse University where she studied musical theatre and got her BFA in acting. Writing songs only as a hobby during these years, she spent some time in New York after college to pursue acting. At a point when she had relocated to Chicago, and the music-creating side of her was gaining traction, Ali was granted the opportunity to audition for a band in Nashville, Tennessee. Family friends of hers were putting together the all-girl group Sweetwater Rose and Ali had a feeling that her life path was about to be altered. She literally drove the U-haul from Chicago straight to the first SWR rehearsal.
Now, nearly four years later, Ali has released her debut solo project Storybook and she and the Family Vacation are embarking full-steam-ahead to play this music in clubs, theatres, homes, coffee shops, bookstores and bowling alley’s all across the country. The band loosely formed in January of 2012, when this group of friends gathered together in the studio to record Storybook. When Ali was first preparing for the album, she had no plans of putting together a band, she just asked her most trusted and dear musical compatriots to get involved with the project, and they did. It was the force of their combined energy and creativity that made these songs what they are, how they are meant to be heard.
Violinist Kristin Weber and bass player Chris Miller go back to their first week of freshman year at Berklee College of Music. They became members of the band The Young Republic and toured extensively throughout college and after, in the states and abroad. Together, they relocated to Nashville and even after The Young Republic, Kristin and Chris played together often. Among other bands, Kristin has toured with the David Mayfield Parade and has played with Eric Church, Langhorne Slim, and Kree Harrison. Chris has also played with Ferraby Lionheart, Natalie Prass, Chelsey Scott, Molly Martin, and others.
Ali’s path crossed with Kristin’s via a craigslist add seeking a roommate. From the first shy meeting, in which the girls showed up to the designated coffee shop in matching pants, they knew they were soul sisters. Fast friends, Kristin and Ali would sometimes have “roommate jams” at home, and Kristin introduced Ali to her circle of musician buddies, which included Chris, as well as Wes Langlois and Sarah Wilfong, who also appear on Storybook. Both Kristin and Chris sat in with Ali’s band Sweetwater Rose on several occasions.
Producer of Storybook, and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Ryan, had also migrated from Berklee to Nashville , but he didn’t know Kristin and Chris until they had all moved to Nashville and had many mutual friends. When Storybook was first being conceived, it was a combination of friendship and intuition that led Ali and Kyle to confidently commit to creating it together. Ali had—and has—great respect for Kyle as a musician and suspected that he would be as tremendous a producer as he is musician and person. In the end, she couldn’t have been more thrilled with the arrangement. Kyle’s gentle but confident steering of the studio ship put everyone at ease and created the perfect atmosphere for this labor of love. While Kyle still appears with The Family Vacation from time to time, he is currently on a major national tour playing with Kasey Musgraves and opening for Kenny Chesney!
Jamie Dick came on the scene just in time. He and Ali met in December at a yoga class she was teaching and hit it off famously. He attended the class with his roommates, Brittany Haas and Kai Welch, who have since become Ali’s beloved friends and sometimes-members of The Family Vacation. Jamie, Kai and Brittany are musical collaborators with Abigail Washburn and The Village, and were freshly back from their latest tour in China. At a Christmas party they were hosting, Ali and Jamie discovered one another’s musical tendencies and Ali casually asked Jamie if he’d want to play on her record. Jamie agreed enthusiastically, even though neither of them knew anything of the other’s capabilities or style. Ali recalls the first time Jamie was over at her and Kristin’s apartment and with beet-red cheeks, she played and sang her song “Sweet Afternoon” for him, so hoping he would like it and be excited to play with her. The first time Ali witnessed Jamie playing drums it was accompanying Kai at a Tom Petty cover night at The Five Spot. She was moved by the strength and tenderness that came through in the way he played. She was also quickly falling in love.
Scott Hardin is the newest member of the Vacation, but he and Jamie have worked together for years and when there was an opening for a guitarist in the group, Jamie knew that Scott would be just the man for the job. Being the tight-knit group that they are, it couldn’t be just anyone taking this spot. It was crucial that the vibe was right. Everyone knew right from the get go that Scott brought the right vibe to the party. Having played guitar since he was 11, Scott has performed in many bands and now spends a great deal of his time as a recording engineer in Memphis.
“I can’t think of anything more joyful,” says Ali “than the act of making music with people who I love as friends and deeply admire as musicians. There is no company I would rather be in.”
Keep up with their music and adventures on…
Storybook is also available on Itunes, Spotify, CDBaby and Amazon.