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Alecia Aichelle: An Artist of Determination, Faith, and Unbridled Talent

Alecia Aichelle in 2019. Image courtesy Amy Allmand Photography

Alecia Aichelle started singing as most performers often have in school. Her first performance was a Christmas Eve service singing “Away In a Manger.” During the service the pastor had called all the kids up to the front and asked who among them knew the second verse of the song. Aichelle was quick to say she did and minutes later, with a microphone in hand, she was singing to a crowd of about 2000 people.

She was only four-years-old.

“That was my first time singing in front of a crowd,” recalls Aichelle. “And I think from then on, I knew I loved singing and performing. I carried that passion from very early on.”

It was from that young age she realized this was what she would always want to do. As a kid, she was always entertaining her family by singing into fake microphones. At seven years old she fell in love with country music and artists. When she was 12, she even began singing at her local church entertaining not just her family but members of her community of Kelowna, B.C.

“I loved Shania Twain. She was the first artist that really got me into country music. I remember when her first album, The Woman In Me, came out, and I was singing ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?’ I’m singing it and the kid in me, I don’t know what that lyric even means. And my parents were ‘that’s great, but maybe don’t sing that one at church.’

Today she counts not just Twain but Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Terri Clark, Paul Brandt and Dolly Parton as her inspirations and influences.

Aichelle was a bright student who gained acceptance into several colleges, some of which offered her scholarships. She decided on Red Deer College in Red Deer, Alberta, where she would study in the music program as a voice and piano major. Her family was very supportive and encouraging of her musical interests. In fact, it was her parents who introduced her to country music when she was a kid. They enrolled her in music lessons at a young age, first in piano and then in voice lessons. “I’m definitely very blessed to have had that support growing up and still have that support.”

Shortly before her move, just before she graduated high school, doctors discovered a tumor on her thyroid gland. They administered tests, yet they couldn’t tell if the tumor was cancerous or not, so they removed it as a precautionary measure. It was during this delicate operation that the surgeons accidentally severed the nerve which made the teenagers vocal cords move.

Aichelle woke up without a speaking voice. She only had the tiniest brief whisper. “I couldn’t talk, let alone sing,” she recalls. “At first, they said, Oh, it’s just swelling. They didn’t realize they had severed the nerve. They said, give it a few days, give it a week. Three weeks later, I moved from Kelowna, BC out to Red Deer to attend college and I still had no voice.”

Aichelle’s voice coach at the college put her in contact with a throat specialist, at which point they found that the nerve had indeed been severed, and that her right vocal cord had been completely paralyzed. She was told she would never sing or talk again.

The doctors told the young music student there was nothing she could do. Once a nerve is severed, it’s done. Aichelle was completely devastated. With nothing but her faith to comfort her, she now admits there were times early on where even that was a struggle. “I have a really strong faith, but I was mad at God at first. I asked him why would you give me this gift and this passion and then take it away? But early on I gained peace about it. I just felt I needed to have hope, and I needed to believe and have faith that this was not the end of my singing.”

She went three months without talking and eventually her speaking voice came back. When she went back to see her throat specialist, he said the recovery was unexplainable and that medically it made no sense. Aichelle’s response was simply she had a strong faith and believed in a miracle. She wasn’t the only one. Thousands of people across Canada were praying for her, people she didn’t even know, which she says now was “pretty amazing.”

She returned to the specialist after another three months passed, which by then, her vocal cords had healed completely. That specialist then said the words she’d been waiting over half a year to hear: that she could start singing again. She now does so every day and looking back on that potentially fatal obstacle drives her passion as an artist and as a singer. “I just know how it feels to have something you love taken away just like that, so I don’t take it for granted.”

Alecia Aichelle poses outside
Alecia Aichelle in 2019. Image courtesy Amy Allmand Photography

Aichelle puts her recovery as nothing short of a “miracle from God,” as her faith never wavered. “It was a test of faith and of patience and perseverance. I really believe what happened was for a reason, so I could share it and bring hope to others. It strengthened me as a person and made my faith real to me.”

In college Aichelle discovered and enjoyed listening to other music genres such as jazz, reggae, funk, hip hop and old rock. But it was country music that has always been her number one passion. Another genre she responded too was Christian music, which she says resonated with her because it had a wonderful message and was one she found extremely uplifting. The combination of country and Christian music, the music from the heart, is what the singer relates strongly with. “Country music is real, and it’s very honest. They’re story songs. So that’s why I love country music so much, because it’s always been relatable for me. Growing up, I just loved the stories behind the songs.”

Aichelle completed the music program, and music continued to be a huge part of her life. She works extremely hard at her music career, including making trips down to Nashville a few times a year to write, perform and work with some of the best in the industry. In 2020, just before the COVID pandemic, she lived in Nashville for nine months, but ultimately, the pandemic brought her back to Canada.

Listening to Aichelle sing now, one can almost hear the appreciation to sing in every note and word. No matter what topic she is singing about, she not only sings capably, she does so beautifully. “It was devastating to not be able to sing,” she says. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. But I think that the hard times we go through in life really grow us. It’s in those hard times where we learn lessons we need to learn in life. It makes us thankful, and I hope that comes out of my singing and in my songs.”

Telling personal stories through music is a reason Aichelle writes all of her own songs. In fact, she either wrote or co-wrote every song she has released to date. She is also never short of material as she writes a journal most days and many times, ideas for songs arise from those pages. Like any sensitive artist, she is open and welcoming to hear another writer’s ideas and stories. Therefore, she treasures collaboration so much.

“Sometimes I have a co-writer and they’ve got a great idea. Sometimes it’s something they’ve been through. I love the writing process. I think writing is therapeutic and I wouldn’t be able to live without songwriting. I love creating and writing and just seeing the songs come to life.”

In 2018  Aichelle and her band opened for Canadian country music artist Lindsay Ell at the Canadian Finals Rodeo CFR 45 in Red Deer, Alberta as well as played a second show on the mainstage for CFR 45. In May 2019 she and her band opened for the Bellamy Brothers during their Canadian tour, also in Red Deer. “They were the nicest guys and were incredible to work with,” Aichelle says of the famous country duo. “We hung out with them backstage, and it was just such a great experience. They gave us a 45-minute opening set, which is a long opening set. So my band and I really got to showcase what we could do at a show. We got to do a mix of cover tunes and original songs of mine. It was an awesome experience.”

Those were the moments where Aichelle realized her dreams were really happening and that these were the opportunities that she and her band found themselves blessed to experience. It reminded her of their first arena show at the Enmax Centrium opening for Aaron Pritchett. She remembers walking off stage and immediately wanting to get back out there. “You just feel so alive on stage,” she says. “And for me, the stage is the place where I feel the most alive. I’m definitely blessed to have those shows and have so many opportunities down in Nashville too.”

Aichelle was living in Nashville, writing and recording in early 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit. The lockdown put performing on hold, but she could still do a lot of writing and get into the studio and release music. It forced her to be creative as they couldn’t perform on stage. She was able to perform at some Drive Up shows in Nashville and a few outdoor venues in Central Alberta in summer 2020. She is definitely missing connecting with a live audience.

“My band and I have been missing performing. We haven’t practiced since November because they have really locked everything in Alberta down. But now things are opening up. So we’re actually practicing again in early April, and we’re ready to hit the road running when shows start up again. We just can’t wait for that.”

While Aichelle is expecting a return to the road and stage, she’s been busying her time by teaching young music lovers much like the teacher who inspired her back in her college days. While the lockdown has kept her students inside physically, their creativity has soared free. “I think lockdown has allowed people to be more creative in different ways, for sure,” she tells us. “We can continue doing a lot of the things through FaceTime and Zoom and Skype, and that’s how I’m teaching most of my music lessons to my students right now is mostly online.” She admits she instructs a few students in-person (everybody wears masks!) but teaching online means she can teach students who aren’t local. She says that is one positive aspect of the pandemic.

In late March, Aichelle took time out from teaching to release one of her most personal works yet. The song title “Household” which is definitely an apt song title for our moment in time. Its a song with quite a story behind it; before Aichelle moved to Nashville, she was in a long-term relationship where the couple built a house on a farm. Literally.

“We bought a chunk of land 25 acres and built a house from the ground up. We did the work ourselves and we put a lot of love and hard work into that house. And unfortunately, the love that held that house together fell apart. And it was very devastating. It was very unexpected. I thought I had my life planned out and my future and everything with this person.”

Rather than see this as a chapter closing, she saw it as an opportunity to begin a new one, and with that, she picked up the pieces of her broken heart and moved to Nashville where she turned her heartbreak into songs, one of which is “Household.” It’s a song she co-wrote (in two hours) with Kelly Seidel, which was their first time writing together. After Aichelle performed it for friends, their feedback was encouraging: everybody said that it was a song that had to be recorded and released.

The song, intended to be recorded in Nashville, was recorded in Canada, at MCC Studio in Calgary. “It was such a great experience working with MCC and working with Johnny Gasparic and I’m really excited with how the song turned out.”

Alecia Aichelle cover for the single Household features the singer in a leather jacket smiling on the deck of a house

Still, Aichelle admits there was a little of fear in releasing something so very personal to her. With “Household” she says she’s sharing her story and her heart to the public and that can be a vulnerable place to be, but she feels ready to write and sing honestly from within her, especially given everything she’s been through.

“I’m at that place where I needed to share this story and share hard things I’ve been through and be honest in my songwriting. I think people will relate to that. I always hope when I write and release songs that people will relate and that maybe a song can help someone and can encourage someone or even if it’s a sad song, like “Household” is, that it will resonate with others.”

Since its release, the song is resonating with listeners. “Household” has received air play on country music radio stations not just in Canada, but in the United States and even overseas. It has also been praised from other writers and artists in the world of country music. That meant that the song needed a music video, which was filmed just a few days before this interview. Alecia was honored to team up with Randy Rich Films and Sorento Custom Homes to film the music video in their brand new 2021 Red Deer Hospital Lottery Dream Home. Fans can expect to see that in early April and it’s one video fans are certain to love especially once they see a cameo by the singers French Bulldog, Cash, named after of course the man in black himself. “Yeah, Cash got to make a couple appearances,” beams Aichelle. “That was pretty fun. He’s a famous little dude, he even has his own Instagram page.”

While this journey has not happened exactly the way Aichelle may have envisioned with the different hurdles and things life has thrown at her, she says it’s all happening the way it was supposed to. She believes the trials and hardships she’s been through were for a reason. And “Household,” is the song which reflects that. Her faith remains as strong as ever, and she takes comfort in knowing God has a plan for her. “He gave me back my voice for a reason so he’s got a plan for me,” Aichelle ends with. She’s happy and excited to see how the plan unfolds each day and that not knowing the plan, might be the best part of it all. “If we knew our future, our lives wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. My life is not exactly what I pictured, but I think it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be, and this is the journey that I’m supposed to be on.”

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Written by Jason Sheppard

Entertainment reporter living at the end of very cold Canada. Proud owner of a diploma in journalism and just about every CD by John Williams ever released. Favorite directors are Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino, Fellini, Lynch and Fincher. Twin Peaks, Sopranos and Six Feet Under are the greatest TV dramas ever crafted and I love 90s sitcoms such as Spin City, Sports Night, Newsradio, Seinfeld and even that one with Deadpool working in the pizza place. Click linkies below to follow me.

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