Called to sing

Alli Battaglia’s musical dream has become her life

Paradise singer/songwriter Alli Battaglia.

Paradise singer/songwriter Alli Battaglia.

Photo by Dave Lepori

Alli Battaglia & the Musical Brewing Company CD-release party, Friday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m., at Chico Women’s Club. Eastwind Bellydance and Trevor Meneses open.
Tickets: $12 (at Chico Paper Co., and the door)
Chico Women’s Club
592 E. Third St.

It’s standard rock-bio cliché for a musician to declare: “Music is my calling.” But for longtime local singer/songwriter Alli Battaglia, the notion goes deeper than mere generic justification for rock-star aspirations. In 2004, before she put in her time at local open mics, or took classes from Berklee School of Music, or became one of Chico’s most popular musicians with her band, The Musical Brewing Company, Battaglia was driving from her home in Santa Cruz en route to Paradise to visit her parents when she fell asleep at the wheel and ended up at the bottom of a 15-foot ravine.

“No one saw me go off the road,” she said in a recent interview, “and when I regained consciousness, I realized there was no way to call for help.”

Battaglia managed to get out of the car, only to realize that she was surrounded by cement walls and apparently trapped.

“I began to pray, and then I heard a voice …. It was a male-sounding voice, and it said, ‘Come this way.’ I crawled towards it. When I got to the place the voice came from, there was no one there, but I could see a bunch of cement bags piled up that I was able to climb back to the road to flag down help. I spent the next two weeks in intensive care at Enloe following emergency surgery.

“The whole experience was profound to say the least, and during the weeks and months that followed, I felt a strong pull to begin writing and performing music. I began learning how to play guitar and started writing. I ended up staying in Paradise and started my journey as a musician. I started at open mic at Has Beans and moved forward from there.”

In addition to getting busy writing songs and promoting local shows (Battaglia founded the annual all-female Chillith Fair showcases that ran from 2006 to 2009), she pursued and acquired a master certificate in songwriting from Berklee College of Music. “I received excellent vocal training and a wealth of tools and techniques in songwriting,” she said of the Berklee program.

The latest artistic fruit of that experience is her new self-titled album—her third full-length—which will be debuted at a release party this Friday, Jan. 29, at Chico Women’s Club. Battaglia regularly performs in a variety of configurations—solo, three-piece or with her regular band of ringers (which currently includes guitarist Brian “Gravy” Asher and keyboardist Glenn Tucker). She also experiments with different styles, and the recording showcases the full dynamic spectrum—from funky rock to groovy folk, with Battaglia’s sandy-edged, evocative voice and soaring melodies tying it all together.

Sacramento-based Bruce Spencer produced the 10-song album and brought with him a wealth of experience as a drummer who has worked with artists ranging from Jackie Greene to Wynonna Judd.

“Recording this album with Bruce Spencer was a blessing,” Battaglia said. “He understood my music in such a way that I was able to feel comfortable giving him a lot of artistic freedom. He really put his heart and soul into the project.”

In addition to Asher, the album features contributions from Spencer and his band, The 77s (which includes guitarist/vocalist Michael Roe and bassist Mark Harmon), among many other guest players, including keyboardist Roger Smith (Tower of Power, Dave Matthews Band).

With the album done, Battaglia said she’s looking forward to getting on stage with the group and sharing the songs live. “The live performance is where it’s at for me,” she said. “There’s nothing like the feeling of playing your heart out up there. The energy exchange between audience and artist lifts you to new heights. There is a feeling of immense freedom. The earth sort of melts away, and I get to fly.”