Deau Eyes is Ali Thibodeau: Richmond, Virginia born and raised singer, songwriter, actress, choreographer, nanny, truck driver, waitress, construction worker, tour manager, baker, bartender, painter, Harry Potter World witch, tap dancing elf, camp counselor, journalist, Soul Cycle receptionist, puppeteer, open mic host, saleswoman, team building expert, free sample distributor, box office attendant, personal assistant, Zumba instructor, and dog walker.Ever since Thibodeau left high school early in her junior year, she has been working to support herself, her art, and her healthy appetite for adventure. Lifelong dreams of a career in performance brought her to live in New York, Florida, Idaho, and all over Virginia, to work in theaters, theme parks, studios, classrooms, festivals, and cruise ships.
Her debut album Let It Leave, set to release in May 2020 on Egghunt Records, was recorded in January of 2018 at Trace Horse Studios in Nashville, TN. The recording was funded by an overwhelmingly supported Kickstarter, meaningful proof to Thibodeau that people believe in her, and in turn, fueling her belief in herself. She called upon her longtime friends and co-producers Jacob Blizard and Collin Pastore, whose creative efforts show up on records by Lucy Dacus (hi, that’s me) and illuminati hotties, among others. The songs celebrate the joys and complications of a liminal life — balancing between freedom and stability, falling into and out of love, and trusting yourself through the noise of other people’s expectations.
(Photo Credit: Joel Arbaje)
It’s 2020… our year.
I was set to go to SXSW with my band and do more DIY touring for the remainder of the year. I’d signed with a label, a manager, a publicist, a booking agent, and had spent a couple of years on making sure my band was tight, right, and ready to rumble. We were hoping to land some support tours along the way and make connections that would set us up to have more opportunities and more listeners around the world via Spotify playlisting, networking, etc.
What I have found in the last month and a half is that the work I was doing buried me. And I was OK with that for the time being. I was OK with being buried in figuring out who’s couch we’d sleep on in the next city tomorrow night, and will I have enough to pay the band when we only made a hundred bucks with merch in Detroit?, and will my jobs have me back when I get home? All because it was leading to “somewhere.”
This “somewhere” isn’t shiny cars and fancy things. It isn’t having that extra 50 bucks to buy organic. It’s more like not having to worry about how you’re going to eat and pay rent and hustle two to five jobs when you get home while managing your music business and making it to every one of your friends’ shows so that you all have someone to play for when the time comes. “Somewhere” is about having time to create your art so that you can do what you are called to do for the betterment of everyone around you, and heck, the world.
Before embarking on what was set to be a highlight and major milestone of my career thus far, I had the most stressful few months of my life.
I had a job coordinating and choreographing 25 of my friends for a flash mob company (thank you) while working my usual jobs so I could pay for an Airbnb in Austin and gas on the road. Then I had to have a surprise root canal, and I didn’t go to Mexico for the fraction of the price ONLY because it became an emergency surgery.
I then had to figure out how to buy a tour van which involved me crying at Sako’s Used Car Dealership (great guy, highly recommend) when he told me my car was worth less than half what I thought. All this being said, I had figured it all out! With the help of many angels! Right in the nick of time! Ready to rock.
Then boom. World-sized monster truck rally COVID apocalypse. SXSW canceled. Then everything trickled down to having to cancel the whole tour and all shows seemingly for the remainder of the year, including my debut album release show that I’ve anticipated to be My Life’s Moment for several years.
But I have a van!
A couple of weeks later my precious beloved grandmother died in isolation. They say tough things come in threes.
I am fortunate enough to live in the same city with two of my five siblings. The day of her funeral, my brother and I remained good citizens and social distanced while drinking margaritas all day (dad’s recipe, aka very strong). Then suddenly, I couldn’t take the weight. And as with most things, I spontaneously combusted with, “I’m making a video for every song on the album. A video album.” My brother immediately dug in with ideas and we escaped the whole thing with this wild project of our dreams.
Right then and there, I could just hear my grandma saying, “It’s all just part of it. You just gotta keep goin’, sweetheart.” She is the reason for all the birds that spark creativity within me and all the simple things that bring me down to earth. This is all in her honor.
My vision when writing these songs is coming to life in a way I only thought possible with a big budget and crew, but it was still in the dream bank. We have an iPhone and my iMovie phone app. I have never done anything like this and I’m certain there’s a quicker way for everything I do on my devices. But as of this writing (April 22, 2020), it’s shaping up to be the truest-to-vision piece I’ve ever created. Five videos are completely finished, I’m ready to edit the next three, and then we have one more to film after that. I’ve covered myself in cake and flour and paint, we made a stop motion lyric video, built a set out of free Facebook marketplace items and destroyed it, made costumes, characters, pencil drawings, and today we flew our giant paper airplane into the sunrise. Now I can’t imagine life without this.
Everything is homemade and there are so many more things we’ve learned along the way with more heart than anyone could imagine. I can’t wait to put it out there into the “somewhere.”
As discouraging and tragic as things may be, times like these are the whole reason I chose to go after music in the first place. Music as a career offers opportunities for content control and multi-media unlike any other and the ability to create spaces for solace and community and entertainment in creative, out-there, impactful forms of self-expression. I was starved for this time to make.
In the thick of it all, earning enough money to spend on the way this business works was such a place for self-doubt and artistic fatigue/limitations. I am endlessly grateful and inspired by the helpers and givers out there right now. Everyone that has tuned into my weekly live stream and kept me and my musician friends afloat, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I hope we can reevaluate what’s important as a society, including the way that we spend our time/money as artists/humans, and I hope we can continue to find space to turn those visions into realities, to keep daring and dreaming, and to never ever give up on that spark inside us. This feels like the beginning.
Even when circumstances seem bleak, there is always a light right before your eyes. You just have to open them to see it.
Let It Leave is out May 8 via Egghunt Records.
(Photo Credit: left, Joel Arbaje)