Ali Wadsworth unleashes her voice on a classic at a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
No matter what genre of music you prefer, there is no denying the power of singer-songwriter Ali Wadsworth’s voice. You bathe in its all-encompassing force and get caught up in its roaring sound. The Philadelphia howler injects raw passion into each phrase and every note. It could be on local stages, during a bartending shift at Fergie’s Pub, or last season on The Voice, NBC’s top-rated entertainment competition, starring Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. But nowhere is her talent more obvious than on her new debut album (at press time, the title was still under wraps).
“Music has always been the goal,” says Wadsworth, who compares her experience on The Voice—from which she and her sister Claire were ultimately cut (they performed as a duo)—to a “real-life Hunger Games.”
At the mention of Claire, Wadsworth leaps into a loving discussion of her biggest influence: her family. She mentions her sister’s knack for the piano, her mother’s amazing tapestry weaving skills, and her father’s passion for songwriting. His job designing chemical plants took the family all over the globe while Wadsworth was growing up, from Louisiana to Sweden to Texas and finally to New Jersey. “I studied opera in Moscow, was all about musical theater in high school, and then got really into being a big band jazz singer in college,” she says. “It wasn’t until I discovered my true path as a rock ’n’ roll singer that I understood what the training was meant for.”
The beautiful bottle-gray-blonde (“My outfits look better with blonde hair than my normal brunette,” she explains) has been fully ensconced in Philly’s music scene since she arrived a decade ago, singing in much-loved bands like Unlikely Cowboy. But meeting producer Bill Moriarty—who has worked with popular local indie acts like Dr. Dog—was a turning point. That’s when her dream of crafting a solo disc finally became a reality.
Although Wadsworth is calling it a hard-rocking affair, the album shows off her pop and R&B influences with pride. There’s a little Harry Nilsson (“so rich, big, and honest”), some Whitney Houston (“a voice that certainly was a gift from God”), and a bit of Joe Cocker in its mix. While her favorite song on the album currently alternates between the dirty “Hurricane Blues” and the haunting “Still Not Over You,” she confesses that “choosing one is like asking me to pick the child I love most.”
After the album is released, Wadsworth will play her usual run of Philly bars—as well as the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August—before hitting the road for the fall. Mostly, though, she’ll concentrate on her newest goal: getting focused. “There are just too many fun things to do in the world,” she says. “I want to do everything.”