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Park City singer-songwriter Alicia Stockman thrives in Bonanza Town and alone.

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Somewhere in every musician’s story, they reach a crossroads. One path leads them to life as a solo singer-songwriter who connects with audiences through intimate narratives set to thoughtful fingerstyle guitar. The other leads to band life, where the priority is getting audiences on their feet for an evening of ass-shaking and bad decisions. Heber’s resident folk songstress Alicia Stockman dwells in both worlds. When she’s not performing her solo material around Park City, she’s getting loud and sassy fronting the rock/country hybrid Bonanza Town.

“The music we play in Bonanza Town is high-energy and focused on having fun and getting people to dance,” she says. “As a soloist, what I like to do is tell stories.”

Stockman, 31, grew up among the lush valleys and foothills of Midway, so she’s made the Park City area her musical turf. She started playing music in her junior high orchestra, and her interests deepened when she got her hands on her dad’s guitars. “That exposure led me to want to learn how to play something a little bit cooler than the clarinet,” Stockman says. Over the years, she scoured the Online Guitar Archive tablature database, teaching herself how to play some of her favorite songs.

It was when she joined Bonanza Town in 2011 that she seriously considered music as a career. The band made a name for itself by playing gigs at Park City music hubs The Spur and Flanagan’s on Main, and they released a self-titled EP in 2014. The following year, Stockman took a break from the band.

“I learned most of what I know about music from Bonanza Town,” she says, adding that her years with the group gave her the confidence to explore music alone. She embraced the fact that solo artists can only rely on themselves while performing. “I learned a lot about playing as a soloist and not relying on the band to cover up mistakes,” she says. Stockman proved a quick study by winning the Susanne Millsaps Performing Songwriter Award at the 2017 Utah Arts Festival—a huge honor for local musicians.

When Stockman plays solo, her folksy blend of country and soul drives lyrical narratives. “When I went off on my own for a while, I was trying to figure out what my sound was and what I was trying to do,” she says. “And I think my interests led me down the folk path.”

As the genre defines itself by its lack of boundaries, Stockman felt that her path to becoming a folk musician was often beset by uncertainty. She credits a Daily Show interview with contemporary folk artist Jason Isbell with helping her to find a bit more direction in her solo career. “He said that it’s folk musicians’ job to tell stories, and take that oral narrative history and pass it down,” she says. “He also said that it doesn’t matter if you wear skinny jeans or Wranglers, you can still be a folk musician. What your music sounds like isn’t the point; the point is how you capture the story.”

While Stockman’s solo material treads a different path than her work with Bonanza Town, it’s clear that they’re both cut from the same musical cloth. BT combines toe-tapping bass lines and howling guitar solos with Stockman’s dangerously sultry voice. When she’s on her own, she brings her audience in closer with her beautiful acoustic songs about loneliness and heartbreak. Listening to both projects, you hear an externally tough country woman—the type who would punch you for giving her a funny look from across the bar—who also harbors deep, soulful insights for those lucky enough to see her softer side.

Bonanza Town reformed early this year, with Stockman reprising her role as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist alongside lead guitarist Joe Woodward, bassist Nick Steffens and drummer Nick Price. Stockman says her experience as a solo performer has helped her become a better frontwoman for the band. “Even though Bonanza Town is more about having fun and getting people to dance, I still make it a point to try and connect with people, which is something I learned from being a soloist,” Stockman says. And it goes both ways: “Playing with Bonanza Town has taught my solo music to have better performance quality.”

Moving forward, she plans to write new material for both of her projects, but says, “I have a strict goal of trying to produce a full solo album.” The more immediate plan, though, is to book a full slate of fall and winter gigs for herself and the band. It’s shaping up to be a busy year for both projects, but despite her proclivity for writing sad songs, she couldn’t be happier. “I have an established solo career and a really fun band to play with. I have the best of both worlds,” she finalizes.

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Songwriter one of three Parkites in competition

Scott Iwasaki

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Park City singer and songwriter Alicia Stockman is enjoying the perks of winning the Susanne Millsaps Performing Songwriter Showcase competition held at the Utah Arts Festival on June 24.

“I won a RainSong carbon fiber guitar, which is pretty cool,” Stockman told The Park Record. “I also got the chance to sing a set on the Festival Stage before the headlining folk artist. That was awesome to play on stage in front of a whole lot of people.”

Highlights aside, Stockman said she was honored to be part of the competition.

“I was pretty excited the day I competed, because it was cool to be counted among not just the 10 finalists, but to be able to make the first cut,” she said. “It was great watching all of these great musicians perform and being amazed to be considered to be among the amount of talent that was there.”

Stockman was one of three Park City musicians who were selected to be part of the competition. The other two were father and daughter, Bill and Molly McGinnis.
Molly, by the way, won second place.

“Even though I didn’t win anything, it was a proud papa moment for me,” Bill McGinnis said.

Stockman said she has the upmost respect for the competition judges.

“A song competition is such a hard thing to judge, because everyone is so good at different aspects — whether it is songwriting or guitar work or singing,” she said.

This was Stockman’s second year in the competition.

“I was more or less asked to be in it last year, because I think there were some people who had to drop out,” she said. “I was performing at the Utah Arts Festival the day before the competition was to take place and the people from Intermountain Acoustic Music Association, who puts on the competition, came up and asked me if I wanted to compete.”

Stockman was honored but caught off guard.

“I was super nervous and completely unprepared,” she said with a laugh. “This year’s competition was different, because I was notified a month out, so I was able to work on my music and be mentally prepared.”

Stockman performed two songs: “Flood Song” and “Raining Wedding Day.”

“They are two of my more somber and melancholy songs,” she said with a laugh. “One is about a guy I had never met and the other was about a friend.”

Stockman said she doesn’t like writing or singing about herself.

“I do like to tell stories and create emotional experiences through those stories,” she said. “I think it’s harder to write about myself outright, because it puts me in a vulnerable situation on stage, singing about my problems.”

With each song she writes, however, Stockman can’t help but add a little bit of herself in the lyrics.

“Although ‘Flood Song’ was inspired by a news story about a guy whose home got flooded in Louisiana and I have never experienced that, I wanted to think about what would I do in that situation,” she said. “When I write stories about other people, I put myself in their shoes and try to figure out what they would feel. So, I guess, the song is kind of about me. I think that’s what makes it fun. The songs are a masked way for me to sing about myself.”

Stockman, who minored in dance at Southern Utah University, grew up in Midway and surrounded herself with music.

“I started with the clarinet in sixth grade and picked up guitar in high school,” she said.

Stockman didn’t take the guitar too seriously until she was asked to be in a band called Bonanza Town, which plays around the greater Park City and Salt Lake City area.

“Bonanza Town was the catalyst for me to take music more seriously and be more professional to actually practice and learn stuff,” she said.

The band took a hiatus two years ago before getting back together this past spring. Stockman used the time off to focus on music as far as what it means to her.

“I explored songwriting and the folk, Americana and singer-songwriter realm,” she said. “It was really fun because I learned that I have a completely different voice than what I do with the band.”

Bonanza Town, Stockman said, is a a rock band.

“We’re loud and we jam out,” she said. “When we play at The Spur, things get sweaty and noisy. So, it was fun to sit down just with me and my guitar and find what my voice was.”

Stockman found her voice and realized that she writes a lot of sad songs.

“But that’s all right,” she said with a laugh.

The reason she enjoys writing sad songs is because they are stories.

“After I started to write and experiment, I heard a great interview with Jason Isbell not too long ago where he said folk music is not too different than country music in that it tells stories,” Stockman said. “Folk music has a tradition where people tell stories and pass them down from generation to generation. So, whether you’re a bluegrass musician who does a lot of fingerpicking or a folk-rocker, there is still a lot of storytelling. And that’s what I like to do.”

Stockman’s favorite aspect of music is singing.

“I love how it feels to sing and sing well,” she said. “It’s like skiing powder. It just feels good. So, when a song is written in a way that creates these emotional opportunities, it feels way better to sing something that I can connect with.”

Stockman also likes singing in front of an audience.

“If I’m singing and I’m into it and the audience is into it, it’s awesome,” she said. “I have a large background in playing live. I don’t have a CD and I don’t spend much time in the studio. So, that live experience connecting with an audience live is the most fun and rewarding experience for me.”

While winning the Millsaps Showcase was a great career highlight, Stockman knows she still has a lot to learn when it comes to songwriting and performing.

“As I listened to the musicians, I was inspired by the way they put their songs together,” she said. “There was always something to learn stylistically and lyrically. I also learned new things listening to their stage banter.”

Being a member of Bonanza Town has also helped Stockman push herself.

“I’m lucky to be in a band with the most talented musicians around, because they always keep me on my toes and push me to the next level,” she said. “I have to do my homework and practice, because there is so much to learn.

“I also participate in a songwriters circle every month, and their feedback is so helpful. I’m lucky to have friends who are musicians or who are musically oriented who can share their knowledge and help me improve my songwriting.”

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© Alicia Stockman Music 2018