If Tori Amos had a wild night with the Beastie Boys, Alyson Greenfield’s music would be the resulting love child.
Sitting on the steps of a Manhattan museum, Greenfield doesn’t embody today’s typical hip-hop artist, but the girl is well known on YouTube and other sites for her funky, unique covers of some of this generation’s most popular hip-hop songs.
Though her covers and creative original tracks are the forefront of her focus for now, Greenfield has grown into this sound over time and her initial music is nowhere near the songs on her new album, “Rock Out With Your Glockenspiel Out.”
“I have different styles, but when I started I was more singer/songwriter,” Greenfield admits. “I was always a little quirky, but it was more of what you would picture in a coffee shop or a listening room.”
The question is, how did this girl get from retro female power-vocals and piano to covering Coolio‘s Gangsta’s Paradise with glockenspiel accompaniment on Austin’s famous 6th Street at SXSW? Greenfield attributes some of this to her 90’s childhood.
“I think growing up in the 90’s inspired me to do these covers,” she speculates. “Gangsta’s Paradise I love and Mama Said Knock You Out, stuff that was really strong in a way and just kind of stuck in my head.”
Greenfield prides herself on the originality of her covers and the obvious presence of her own voice in her work. When it comes to covering songs, she lives by the creed that new versions should be a rendition of the original song with the covering artist’s spin, otherwise “it’s kinda like karaoke.” Her adherence to this idea is apparent when she recalls that some fans barely recognize the cover as a cover until the song is partially over, if at all.
These covers appeal to Greenfield for a variety of reasons. As she sees it, she doesn’t find the ideas and music. They find her. When the idea to cover hip-hop songs first hit her, she was exiting a train just after moving to the city and was suddenly struck by Inner Circle’s Bad Boys. Just a hip and a hop from that thought, her first rap cover was born. Greenfield also makes this music out of respect for the other artists.
“If people heard my original music they would think I’m doing it as a joke, but I’m not,” she explains. “I actually think these songs are really cool, and I like to put my spin on them. I think hip-hop energy I really have a connection to.”
Whether or not it’s her intention, her covers of this genre also help to broaden her fan-base. As she notes, one of the reasons covers seem to be so popular lately may be because they’re a way to draw attention to newer artists. In effect, fans will hear the remakes and move from there to the cover artist’s original music.
“They’ll search for Gangsta’s Paradise and they won’t expect to see some girl playing a glockenspiel,” she says. “I think me playing piano or glockenspiel and giving this very singer songwriter sultry voice with these hip-hop things is a good introduction to me.”
Just as hip-hop covers are a far cry from her musical beginnings, Greenfield still strives to find new sounds and projects and refuses to label herself as one genre despite the boost it would give her marketing efforts.
“Basically, I call myself an experimental singer/songwriter, because I experiment,” she expresses. “Since I’ve moved to New York, a lot of people have given me instruments or given me things to borrow. It’s just about experimenting and seeing how that new instrument inspires me and going with it and learning new things all the time.”
While there may be confusion around where Greenfield fits into the musical world or whether her sounds are marketable, one thing never lacks clarity for her, “I’m an artist, and I just wanna create.”