Alison Sloan is sending a much-needed message of transparency about mental health and room for healing with her single “Alive.”
Alison Sloan is originally from Dallas, Texas, and moved to Oklahoma City in 2016. Now, she works full-time bartending in OKC and spends her remaining time working on her music.
She defies labeling and genre in her sound and lets the emotional weight of her message guide her art. She strikes a balance of musical harshness and lightness, playing with different tempos, styles, and instruments. Her influences range from jazz to emo to ballad, and she has no hesitancy about breaking boundaries with her sound.
Sloan’s music is a marriage of rebellion and sentimentality. She captures a childlike curiosity narrated by the bearer of a newfound maturity.
Sloan creates music for anyone who gets lost in daydreams, finds freedom in vagueness, uses art as rebellion, feels at home with worlds they’ve built in their minds, and anyone who needs to hear that they’re not alone. Her newest single, “Alive,” is no exception and delivers a message about just how hard it can be to keep going through the motions in the recovery process. Through that pain, though, Sloan shines with a certain maturity and sentimentality.
Oh, To Be "Alive"
Released April 20th, “Alive” is the first track from her third studio album. It’s everything Sloan’s fans could ask for. “Alive” is raw and doesn’t hold back. Sloan writes of the whiplash of mental health, the roller coaster of the ups and downs in recovery, and the struggle of both romanticizing and fatalizing certain aspects of recovery. The lyrics speak to a defeated feeling during the valleys.
“What’s the point in picking up the pieces / When I can’t even get my own self clean again,” Sloan writes in “Alive.”
Sloan wrote the single during what felt like setbacks in her recovery, when she was experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety. Like so many others, Sloan wasn’t sure what life was going to look like during and after the pandemic, and she wasn’t sure she was going to be back to making music.
She had been working on some material when she got a call from producer Johnny Manchild (who produced Sloan’s past two albums). Manchild was moving to LA and wanted her album to be his last project. She took this as a sign to make the project she was waiting for. This led to the production of Sloan’s favorite album to date.
When Sloan originally wrote “Alive,” she created it as a ballad, but the song took a different shape with input from producer Manchild and co-producer Ethan Neel. The pair experimented with the speed of the track, seeing what it would sound like if it were more upbeat.
Sloan fell in love with the newer version and found that she preferred the somber lyrics with the peppier music. For OKC music fans, “Alive” strikes a similar tone to much of the Poor Bastards’ music (of which Manchild and Neel belong).
Sloan perfectly encapsulates the mental strain of going back and forth from moment to moment and feeling out of control of one’s own recovery. Sloan described the track as a “shrugging.” The upbeat music and the heavier lyrics send exactly the message that Sloan wants to send to her listeners — sometimes the dark and light can coexist, and it’s going to be hard before it gets better.
Sloan writes, “Didn’t wanna polish all the pieces / When I’ll just fuck it all up by myself again / And this is what I get for letting you in / Oh it’s all the same. I’m stuck inside the movement / The cycles spin regardless of the bruising / So check the wheel. I’m stuck in the ruin.”
Sloan said a big part of her recovery was learning to feel through her emotions. She feels like she’s made it through to the other side, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still bad days. Recovery for everyone can be up and down, and part of her mission with this new single is to highlight the strength that forms through time.
“You’re not alone in it,” Sloan said. “Just go through the emotions. Go through the feeling. Then you’ll be able to see the light if you go through the shadows and actually acknowledge how you’re feeling.”
Call it “Fate” - An Album Built in Brutal Honesty
Sloan’s upcoming album release, Fate, is a beautifully detailed concept album that centers around the Seven Deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. “Alive”, like the other tracks on the album, centers around one of the sins in particular, but Sloan is leaving it up to the listener to decide which sin (or multiple sins) it is about.
Sloan didn’t stop herself at just one concept. She intricately weaved in other themes like heartbreak, chaos, mental healing, religion, and so many others.
Where some albums detail a moment in time like a focused flavor, Sloan’s Fate, has a different strength – a four-course meal, intricate, flavorful, intentional, and anything but one-note. It’s a life story, told through detailed metaphors and stark imagery.
Sloan described Fate as a “post-recovery album.” She doesn’t sugarcoat the extremes and isolation of mental health, but there’s also something refreshing about the album – unfabricated hope.
Perhaps the song that best shows that hope is “Alive.” It shows what it’s like to not know where one stands in the hamster wheel of recovery and the bravery in that Sisyphean day-to-day strength to keep going.
Sloan’s hope doesn’t look like feigned positivity. It’s complex and powerful, and it comes from a person who knows that things are going to be hard and has the strength to fight it, which is something the world could use…especially now.
“A lot of people pretend that they’re okay,” Sloan said. “They don’t really want to go through the shadows in order to see the light. But they have to.”
Sloan is an artist who knows exactly who she is, even as a newer artist. She doesn’t need labels to tell listeners what she has to say. With her new single “Alive,” she couldn’t have delivered a clearer or more needed message — you’re not alone in this, and it’s going to get better.
For anyone struggling with mental health, there are some resources available. All of these services are confidential, free, and open 24/7
Reach-Out – the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ hotline. For anyone needing help in crisis, you can dial 211.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – You will be connected with a crisis center near you to make sure you feel stable, safe, and heard without judgement. Call 800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected.
Nami Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor with 24/7 access.
Other resources –
Oklahoma’s Community Health Centers – access to therapy, rehab, case management, and more
Depression Bipolar Support Alliance OK – free support groups
Mental Health Association Oklahoma – programs for individuals and families impacted by mental illness
Oklahoma Citizen for Recovery and Transformation Association – peer-run, peer-led recovery