By Catherine Kolonko
A hometown girl who once performed musical theater at Torrey Pines High School returns to San Diego this week to perform her life-inspired songs during an indie showcase concert July 27 at Humphreys Backstage Live.
Alisha Zalkin recently released an EP of five new songs that she co-wrote with friend and songwriter Tina Shafer. The pair met after Zalkin graduated from UCLA and moved to New York City. Shafer runs the New York Songwriters Circle and once penned a song for Celine Dion, Zalkin said.
“It really was a dream to work with her…so we worked together and created this new EP that was just released on June 19,” Zalkin said.
“You, Beautiful You,” is one of the songs from the EP that Zalkin has performed in several venues, including a benefit at the Bitter End in New York. The soulful upbeat ballad tells the inspirational story of breaking through emotional darkness to discover an inner light, says Zalkin. The 26-year-old sings it with a bold and soulful voice that evokes styles of power vocalists Celine Dion and Whitney Houston whom she has admired since childhood.
“‘Beautiful You’ is uplifting but it also came from a dark place of not knowing who I was and not having the courage or the self confidence to do what I was meant to do,” Zalkin said.
Zalkin lived for three years in New York where she initially pursued a musical theater career. It wasn’t long before her love of singing and songwriting pulled her in that direction. “I quickly learned that musical theater was not for me,” she said. She recently moved back to California and lives in Los Angeles.
Music influenced Zalkin from an early age. She began taking voice lessons at 8 and was exposed to differing musical genres given her upbringing as a child of a Jewish father and Mexican mother. Her Jewish grandmother was an opera singer and the youngest person to be admitted into the Vienna Conservatory of Music, but lost her chance to attend when she fled to the United States to escape Hitler and the Holocaust.
“I was exposed to a big voice when I was little,” Zalkin said, explaining that her grandmother sang in Yiddish for benefit shows and family occasions.
“I was singing, gosh, ever since I could speak,” said Zalkin, who grew up in Carmel Valley and graduated from Torrey Pines High School.
Zalkin’s parents also contributed to her musical taste and introduced her to the works of Carole King, one of her favorite singer-songwriters. She describes her own style as acoustic pop with a little bit of soul.
“That’s just the style that naturally came of out of me and came out of the music that we were creating,” Zalkin said.
“March To a Different Beat” is the title of her new EP and also the title of one her favorite songs on it. She wrote the song after a revealing conversation with her father about what it was like for him to grow up in the ‘60s and ‘70s as a child of immigrant parents who survived the Holocaust, Zalkin said. For the first time she learned how her father “struggled with his identity and fitting in,” and rebelled but then ultimately found his way in life. He graduated from law school and became an advocate for child victims of sexual abuse.