Kirsten Alicia, Houston native and senior at Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA

Kirsten Alicia is a Houston native who is making her mark in Boston, MA as a rising star at Berklee College of Music.

The 21-year-old singer-songwriter was recently featured in Berklee College of Music’s Two Track series. The song features Alicia’s cover of the Fugees and Lauryn Hill’s rendition of “Killing Me Softly,” and her original song “Slow Down.” Described as the “mini–NPR Tiny Desk concert” Alicia says these series gave her the opportunity to show her range as a young artist.

She is currently studying as a Professional Music major and is blazing local stages with group Kirsten Alicia + Friends. Through R&B and Reggae inspired songs and conscious lyrics, her group aims to step out of the conventional box.

The Defender spoke with the young rising star about her love for music and what she is learning about the music industry.

Defender: When did your love of music begin?

Alicia: According to my mother, it started the womb. She used to play music on her headphones. She played all of her favorite music from the 90s, the 80s, and she would put her headphones over her belly. From then on, every memory from when I was younger has to do with music, whether it was me banging on the keyboards or singing every song my mom played in the car.

Defender: Growing up in Houston, what genres of music influenced you?

Alicia: Definitely 100% R&B. My mom is a lover of that genre so I naturally became a lover myself. I listen to Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, and Whitney Houston. Other than the obvious, I would go into the city with my dad and listen to live music in the city.

Defender: Are you a self-taught musician? How did you begin to hone your skills as an artist?

Alicia: I’m very much self-taught. I didn’t start taking lessons until about junior year of high school because it was a requirement for class. I studied music from the 60s all the way to the current time. I listen and absorb different styles from my friends who are also musicians.

Defender: What’s is your creative process with making music?

Alicia: My process varies. Sometimes someone could text me a perfect sentence to go with a verse to a song I’m working on. It could come from a movie or it could be the way I’m feeling that day. I always write as few bars in my iPhone note, and come back to it when I have inspiration. Sometimes a song can take two days, sometimes it takes to years. It all depends. I’m a singer and songwriter. I’m very junior level at playing instruments. I’m working on getting better at teaching myself and learning from other musicians as well.

Defender: How has your experience at Berklee been for you so far?

Alicia: It’s been very beneficial. I’ve learned so much about the people you get to meet. A lot of my professors are people in the industry or who have had experience in it. You can actually see what it’s going to be like in the real world.

  1. The music business is to break into. What are you learning about the business?

The business is constantly evolving. The way someone broke into the industry 10 years ago is completely different now because we have so many platforms to get our music out there. It’s a lot more innovative now. It’s always great to find your niche. That is why most people get so popular, especially on great platforms like Instagram and TikTok because they have that personality that they’re selling through their music.

Defender: You are in a group called Kirsten Alicia + Friends. What brought you all together?

Alicia: I was contacted about gigs to do over the summer while taking a break from classes. It just came down to asking my boyfriend and a couple of friends if they would like to play together as a group. So, we started this group of five people earlier this year and we’ve been very busy booking opportunities in different venues. We like to express ourselves with no restrictions. We aren’t your average group that does covers. We allow for different arrangements to be played and just jam out.

Defender: What do you hope to accomplish as a artist after you graduate from Berklee?

Alicia: I want to keep growing in my artistry and get my music out there as much as possible. I want to focus on being an independent artist. I want to have creative control over my work. I don’t want to change my morals or ideals to fit the vision of a record label.

Defender: Where can we keep up with you?

Alicia: You can follow me on Instagram at @_kirstenalicia__

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...