Alyssa Day: Taking Metal to the Next Level

Photo provided by Jackson Guitars

As seen in
Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 22 – Winter 2022

Alyssa Day is a Jackson Guitars artist taking metal to the next level. From a young age, Alyssa has always loved metal, regardless of the naysayers. She continued to pursue her passions and now has over 120k social media followers. When she’s not working on her music, she teaches guitar and uses her platforms to inspire and empower the next generation of female guitarists in metal.

In this interview with Diversity Editor Guitar Gabby, Day explores the importance of setting the boundaries between work and passion and finding your sound.

So what got you into playing? How did you start?

I must have been five or something; my uncle was playing a 12-string vintage Martin guitar. It wasn’t impressive, but it piqued my interest to learn about developing my guitar sound. I asked my mom for a guitar around seven, and she got it for Christmas. It was a horrible guitar, but it was good to start on.

So your passion for guitar is sparked, opening the door for you to begin learning. How did you learn to play; were you self-taught, or did you study with a teacher?

Yeah, so when I was a kid, very young, I started taking lessons when I was eight or something, but I’m not going to count that because I didn’t like that teacher (lol). But I remember trying to teach myself some stuff, which was just so tricky; my family members got me these guitar books and these theory books. And to like a little kid, that was just so overwhelming and hard to understand. And I remember feeling like, “Okay, I need somebody to walk me through this; this is too much.”

But I also spent a ton of time in my room trying to figure things out, mentally working through what notes sound good together. I was very repetitive, but repetition is critical in learning. Of course, having somebody experienced to guide you is helpful, but having the time and space to absorb everything and understand at a granular level what’s going on and how to make those notes sound good is essential.

You mentioned a vital life principle: having space to be alone to learn and reflect. Often, female musicians have to learn the art of being alone in a male-dominated industry. This can be challenging, but have any aspects of that principle played out so far in your journey?

That’s a super insightful question. I’ve never even articulated that thought, but it’s so true. It’s also something that I didn’t know other people also experienced. After all, I’ve always felt like I’ve had to do everything alone and on my own. But I don’t know. It’s essential, though. It strengthens your character to feel that you have to prove yourself. It’s not the worst thing to be a female guitar player in metal; it’s pretty empowering despite the hardships that come along with it. It can be hard to gain people’s respect immediately. But going out there on your own, having to win over people’s respect, really strengthens your character. So that’s an important thing people go through.

Metal guitar is such a unique genre. It often requires a lot of technical skills. How did you get into playing metal? Did you start like that, or did you progress through different genres?

I don’t know what was up with me when I was a kid, but I dove straight into metal and always loved it. And my family thought I was so weird, and so did the kids at school. I got picked on; all the preppy kids would say that I was goth and worshiped Satan, and I was like, “Dude, I just like Pantera.” So I don’t know what it was despite everybody telling me it was a dumb genre to like, but I always liked heavy and technical music.

What is your approach to creating music, instrumental progressive metal music? Talk a little bit about your tone and what you are drawn to.

Those are great questions, and I’ve been thinking about the first part of that question that you just asked a lot lately. How do you create new sounds that people have never heard, like a Steve Vai or something? How is that even possible? And I used to want to be so different because that’s the kind of music I liked. Things caught me off guard and came out of nowhere, but now it’s like a gut thing. I’ll chase the idea if it makes me feel an emotion strongly. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in making things so different to the point where it’s nonsense, and you don’t connect with it. I overuse the word balance, but there is a balance there. It should not be so predictable and something like you’ve heard a thousand times. But if you’re being true to yourself, you’ll have some sort of unique take on things because you’re producing what is the amalgam of all these different things that you love and absorb.

Mixing all those things will create something unique because there’s so much different stuff. So as far as the writing process, I try to avoid being overly consumed with sounding too distant or trying to be something that’s not me or doesn’t make me feel strong. I’m one of those that think that so much of the tone is in the hands. So this sounds cheesy, but I sing through the guitar.

I’m like a vocalist trapped in a guitar player’s body because I can’t sing. So I try to be as vocal as I can through that. And hopefully, the way that I play the notes will be unique enough to create my unique sound, if that makes sense.

Switching gears to education, why is education, and more specifically, music education, important to you? Is any level of education necessary for folks looking to enter the music industry?

On the importance of education, of course, we must arm younger generations with the tools necessary to succeed in life. We should foster an environment that allows kids to think critically, solve problems, be exposed to various perspectives, and the list goes on. Music is a great way to explore all of those things, especially for kids who feel disenfranchised from some school systems’ typical sterilized learning environment today. It’s highly engaging and teaches you how to troubleshoot technical issues regarding playing an instrument, managing frustration, and so many other things. I know that, for a fact, I would be an entirely different person if I hadn’t found music at a young age. I needed something to channel my curiosity, emotions, and self-expression through.

I feel like people largely equate music education to music theory knowledge today. In my opinion, I don’t think that music theory knowledge is necessary to have a career in music. Some people have a great ear, can brand themselves very effectively, and can circumvent learning music theory or studying music in a traditional academic sense. I do, however, feel that continually educating yourself is the key to not being stagnant musically. I believe you can’t have too much knowledge about any aspect of your craft. To summarize my point, I don’t think that traditional education in music is necessary to have a career in music, but continual learning is essential for musical growth.

Is it important for kids to learn different aspects of music education from a young age? What is one thing you wished you would have learned at a young age that you now know as an adult?

It’s super important to consider and study all the different aspects of music, and the younger, the better, of course. As for things I wish I would have learned at a young age, that list is enormous. I wish I had done more ear training and practiced techniques in a more focused manner, and so many different things, so it’s hard to choose.

Why is access to general and specific music education important to underrepresented communities?

This is such a great question. I mentioned earlier that we must arm younger generations with the tools necessary to succeed, and I don’t just mean to succeed financially. I mean to get through adulthood confidently, acquire skills, navigate personal and professional relationships, and instill resilience. I think that having equal opportunity, or as similar as we can get it, is something that almost everyone agrees on and that we should strive for much more than we currently are. Music can be a gateway to realizing one’s love of learning or pursuing a skill rigorously. I know it was for me. We must boost underserved and underrepresented communities as much as possible. If more of the kids living in these areas had access to instruments or music education (or the tools to explore their interests in any subject, for that matter), who knows how many of them would go on to have fulfilling, lucrative careers in their field of choice.

Alyssa Day’s newest single, “Dread and Dream,” is available on all streaming platforms.

~ By Guitar Gabby, Jennale Adams, and Fayola Waithe