The Kid at the Grown-ups Table – WWD

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Alana Springsteen has always had confidence in herself and her abilities. That’s the reason she was able to walk into a songwriting session in Nashville at age 10 and have the adults in the room take her seriously.

“There was no part of me that asked, ‘Do I belong here?’ I never thought that and there’s a beauty to that kind of blind faith,” says the now-23-year-old. “When you’re a kid, you just don’t know any better. And to be in this industry, you almost have to have blinders on and not think about how impossible what you’re trying to do is. I’m lucky enough that I’ve always had these reckless abandon blinders on and crazy faith that this is exactly what I’m meant to do.”

And Springsteen is well on her way to fulfilling those childhood dreams.

The Virginia Beach, Va.-native learned to play guitar at seven and started writing songs at nine. She signed her first publishing deal at 14 and shortly after, her family moved to Nashville to support her burgeoning career. Since then, she signed with Columbia Records New York/Sony Music Nashville as an artist and released her first album, “Twenty Something.” The autobiographical album, whose tone is reminiscent of her idol Taylor Swift, was released in three installments: “Messing It Up,” “Figuring It Out” and “Getting It Right.” She cowrote all 18 songs, coproduced most of them and plays guitar and piano throughout.

Springsteen, who has opened for such country music powerhouses as Luke Bryan and Tyler Hubbard, recently wrapped her first 15-city headlining tour and has amassed more than 125.8 million streams globally.

And while her life has been a whirlwind of late, she still manages to find the time to soak it all in.

“We probably could have played a bigger venue because it was sold out, but we’re never going to forget these moments or get these venues back,” she says of her New York City appearance at the Mercury Ballroom in early December.

“I’d dreamt about having a headline tour since I was a kid writing songs on my bedroom floor,” she continues. “My first concert was Taylor Swift when I was nine and I remember being so inspired by her.”

Although they have yet to meet, Springsteen says Swift is “one of the few examples I have of somebody so young doing what I was trying to do. Her concert changed my life. I saw the way she connected with the fans, and the way they connected with her. And sitting in that arena, I felt seen, I felt understood, I felt known. I felt like I was a part of something. And that’s what made me want to pursue music. She got her first publishing deal at 14, too, and I thought, there’s no reason I can’t write songs right now about what I’m going through.”

There’s actually an homage to Swift on “Twenty Something” — track number 13, a subtle wink to the star’s favorite number — called “Taylor Did.”

Much like Swift, Springsteen’s music is also a window into her life. “The way I communicate with the world is through music,” she says. “There are things that I can say in my songs that I can’t say to my closest friends or my parents, and it’s a special thing to get to put music out into the world and realize that I’m not as alone as I think I am.”

Springsteen has been writing songs since she was nine years old.

Gina Di Maio

While she admits that launching a music career at such a young age is not easy, she’s determined to make it work. “In your 20s, you’re figuring a lot out and it’s messy and a little unhinged. And you’re kind of just feeling your way through it,” she says. That sentiment is referenced in the first third of the album.

“I realized the songs I had been writing fell into three separate categories: ‘messing it up’ songs about making mistakes and falling for the wrong guys and not trusting my gut. Then the ‘figuring it out’ phase where I come face-to-face with my self-defense mechanisms, and then the last phase, ‘getting it right,’ where I see the dreams I’ve had since I was a kid start to become reality.”

Alana Springsteen's album cover.

The Twenty Something album cover.

Courtesy

Deep thoughts for a 23-year-old, but that’s Springsteen. She describes herself as an “old soul,” and says she was always “the kid at the grown-ups table.” Unlike many of her peers, she blocks out an hour every morning to do yoga, meditation or journaling; follows a diet focused around fruits, vegetables and salads, and is determined to carve out some alone time while out on the road.

Even though her singing career has taken off — her duet with Mitchell Tenpenny, “Goodbye Looks Good on You” is a radio favorite — Springsteen says deep down, “I’ll always be a songwriter. I love communication. I love stories. It unlocks a whole new world for me. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t end up singing a voice memo into my phone, or writing down like a lyric that just popped into my head. It’s just how I live my life.”

In addition to Swift, Springsteen grew up listening to Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, John Mayer, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston — artists that offer up “big, deep songs” similar to those she wanted to write. She also credits songwriter Liz Rose as a major influence. Rose cowrote some of Swift’s biggest hits and has won two Grammy Awards.

When preparing the “Twenty Something” album, Springsteen spent time at Rose’s beach house where together they finished the title cut, which lays bare the challenges of young adulthood. “It was a little piano voice memo that I had started months ago at my house, and it wasn’t fully fleshed out yet, but I knew the weight it carried, I knew what I wanted to say. I just wasn’t brave enough to say it until that moment. And after we wrote that song, it framed the way I wanted to release the album and I knew it was going to be the title track.”

Like her music, her personal style is also well thought out. “Fashion is something I’ve always loved,” she says. “It’s kind of like music for me because it’s storytelling. I like telling stories with what I wear, whether it’s in a music video or on stage, and I want my clothes to reflect that.”

On her album cover, she sports a pair of Dickies, a brand she likes to personalize by painting them, but she also likes Alexander Wang and Jean Paul Gaultier. “I love to find pieces that make people lean in,” she says.

She’s a self-professed sneakerhead. “I can’t talk about fashion and not talk about my sneaker obsession,” she says. “I love Jordans and we now have a contact at Nike who supplied me with Jordans for my tour, so it’s been fun at the end of the night to sign them and give them away.”

Although she’s already played a few shows internationally, she hopes to one day headline her own global tour, much like her idol Swift. And she’ll continue to pen songs. “I just want to continue telling my story and finding people that feel the same way that I do and build that family. I think the dreams you inspire in people is your biggest legacy.”

And maybe someday she’ll stop being asked if she’s Bruce Springsteen’s daughter. “I get asked all the time, but we’re not related,” she said. “But I love his music.”

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