By Terry Sartor
From her hometown beginnings in Mexican city Durango to hitting it big on the Atlanta entertainment scene, Alissah Brooks has come a long way baby – even being featured on big-time TV shows such as VH1’s ubiquitous hit Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and the very popular, cutting-edge Teen Wolf series on MTV. Her talent arsenal has indeed become very loaded over the years with varying roles as a singer, dancer, producer, DJ, actress and activist. Of course not resting on her laurels, Alissah’s star is shining even brighter now with the release of her latest single “Dope S**t
(featuring J. Tyler)” on the Big Snow Entertainment music label. Did we mention a very busy performance schedule showcasing her bold brand of performance drama at venues around Atlanta like Jungle, Blake’s and Burkhart’s??! Let’s dive deeper into the fascinating world of Alissah Brooks.
So Alissah, you’ve been on the music entertainment scene for quite some time. How did you initially get your started?
Just going out…I was sneaking out at 16 to Club Rush [on Buford Hwy in Atlanta]. I was just seeing shows and that’s when it all started. I was like I could be that.
What were the shows like there?
The shows were very high energy because you had Pheonix who now has a lot of pull in the scene of Atlanta. Back then was when she first got at the top of her game.
Going back to your Florida days in Panama City, how long were you there?
In Panama City, there was just one club in town and one on the beach. They were rivals and you had to do one or the other. So it was tough doing shows. I was there until 2009. I managed to work my way around through Pensacola, Tallahassee and Orlando.
What was the Orlando scene like? Where were you performing there?
I was in the Metro West area and back then it just seemed like a movie to me…like watching a scene of Queer as Folk. I did talent nights at Parliament House and guest spots at Southern Nights and at Pulse.
How did you work your way up to here in Atlanta from Orlando?
I grew up in Gainesville. So I’m from this area and would see my friends when I visit. The transition to Atlanta was just easy because I already knew everyone. I got my way in through the people I already knew and just worked my way around.
Where were some of the first places that you started performing in Atlanta?
The first place that I worked at was Chaparral. It’s called Club Rush now. It was an amateur night. Back then the Friday nights were very, very busy with a lot people that you were performing in front of. Of course Blake’s, Burkhart’s and Jungle have been consistent.
How would you describe your performance style?
I would be the girl you see in a music video. I like to be up to date with fashion. I love anything old school too like 90’s mixed with the club scene.
Where is your favorite place to perform in Atlanta?
If it is a bar, I would say Burkhart’s because of the energy. I’ve been there for almost 6 years now. I love the energy. It is 360. As far as a stage goes, I would have to say Jungle.
You were part of the all girl trans group Secret Girls. What was that like?
It was a learning experience. You have four girls that are different in every way and all have insecurities and flaws. You put that all together and the diva comes out to play. We grew a lot in the short time that we were together because we had different opinions. The group was in its early stages. I’m glad that I got to be a part of it, but decided that maybe it was not for me. I started on my first single and wanted all of my attention focused on that.
Your new song with Atlanta rapper J. Tyler is fierce! Where did the idea come from to do it and how did you bring it to fruition?
I was driving down the street and my producer [Ryan Snow] sent it to me. He thought that [“Dope S**t” ] would be great for me. I gave it a shot and fell in love with it. Me and J.Tyler had been talking about doing something together music-wise for a long time. So that transpired into this song.
You also directed the video. When did you get into video production?
I did that when I was in high school. It’s something that I was just so fascinated with. I was obsessed with the TV show “Making the Video” on MTV. When I saw all that goes into a video and all of the preparation, that excited me. Ever since then, I was like I want to try video production. I taught myself how to do it. I didn’t go to any school for it and I’ve been doing it ever since.
What about your other club banger “I’m That Girl”, how did that one come about?
That one just happened. I heard the beat and I kept saying “I’m that girl who makes the beat go boom” over and over again. I sat down with J. Tyler who helped me co-write it. We went back and forth on some ideas. I wanted to tell people what I like and what I like to bring to the party. As soon as J. Tyler said “I like high heels six inches” my ears stood up. That was the beginning of it. Our creative collaboration spiraled from there. My producer added on accents here and there. It was a collaboration between all three of us.
Today’s dance music scene is rapidly evolving with different genres emerging and existing ones evolving. As an artist yourself on the dance music scene, how would you categorize or describe your particular sound?
It’s pop-driven with a hip-hop flair. I’ve always been attracted to hip-hop and the sound of it. But pop music has always held a special place in pop culture. I would say hip-hop pop if you will with a little twist.
Who are some musical artists that inspire you?
Debbie Deb is one of my favorites. “When I Hear Music” and all that was just brilliant to me back in the day. It always stuck to me throughout the years. Another one was Salt-N-Pepa. That was one of my first tapes that I ever had when I was in third grade. I liked to listen to that kind of stuff. Of course Britney Spears.
Performance is obviously a big part of how you present yourself and your music. How would you describe your performance style?
I would describe it as controlled. I like to control every beat…every movement. I like to go through a story-line if you will starting off slow and then going through a build-up and then to a full out thing. I like to give my audience a variation of attention. There are moments when you have to pause and acknowledge the audience and then moments when you show out. If I go 90 the whole time, I can’t give the audience any attention. I’m very engaging with everyone. I like to acknowledge everyone to make sure that we’re all present and enjoying the moment.
You’re a DJ too?
I’m a DJ myself and understand that rush you get when DJing.
How does the rush of DJing compare to when you’re performing one of your songs live?
It’s a different rush. When you’re DJing, you hope that it doesn’t come out on the wrong beat. You worry about the music. In a performance, you have to worry about not only if the music skips but also if my costume is falling apart, the floor being slippery or my hair falling out of place. I’m so worried about a million things that it gives me a different type of adrenaline to be able to do that. Sometimes I tell people that I just black out. I don’t even remember performing. It’s a different rush for me. I have to literally push myself out into my number.
Your TV and movie resume has become quite impressive boasting features in MTV’s popular Teen Wolf, VH1’s very rowdy Love & Hip Hop Atlanta – one of my personal faves – as well as Tyler Perry’s hit movie Good Deeds.
How did all of that come about?
When I did those projects, it was all word of mouth. Casting directors came to the clubs. They asked around. It just all happened. It was just directed to me. I never once auditioned for anything. I was asked to do it and I did it. To me, it was another show. It felt consistent with my career and what I like to do.
LGBT activism has been a big part of who you are. Why has that been so important to you?
A situation happened to me where I was denied entry into a club. For the most part, that sparked my interest in being more active in activism. Raising money. Standing up. Marching with someone. You can’t just sit back and watch. At least that’s how I feel about myself. I have to somehow be involved in trying to spread the word.
What else is up next for you?
We’re trying to get the second single out and finish the album. I’ve been working on an EP and trying to put it all together. I want to make a party album. That’s what I want to do.