We had the good fortune of connecting with Alison Tavel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alison, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have taken risks my whole life, but I should say I have had the privilege to take risks my whole life. I switched high schools between sophomore and junior year so that I could attend a music festival that landed on my old school’s first week back from summer. I dropped out of college (with one year left) to move across the country and work as a PA for a music supervisor. I quit a 7 year run of touring to finish producing a documentary film on my own. The risks I have taken have always turned out well for me. I think that risks are necessary because had I been too afraid to do some of these things, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That being said, I have lived a very privileged life that has allowed me the opportunities to take risks – so while I think risk-taking is good practice, it’s more realistic for some people than others. I knew that if I failed, or made a mistake I could always come back home to my parents, I could always find other work, I could always find another way. I do think that risk taking, however large or small it may be to each individual person is good practice though. It challenges you to take a chance, get out of your comfort zone and see what happens. I am making a film that involves reaching out to a lot of musicians who I don’t know personally. Some of the reach outs have been tough – I was afraid for a long time to get a “no” and then I finally just sucked it up and started my outreach. I got a lot of noes and what’s even more frustrating is that I got a lot of non-responses, but I also got some yeses. And that’s a win.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the last 5 or so years the project I have been most focused on (and quit my job that I loved so much for) is a documentary I am making about the resurrection of a synthesizer invented by my late father in the ’70s. While on tour working for Grace Potter I was inspired to dig it out of my grandmother’s attic. Unearthing the synth and bringing it back to life opened up a whole new perspective of my father that I’d never known before, since he died in a car crash right when I was born. This story has morphed into a journey for me to learn about him all the while getting his synthesizer back out into the world as he intended. It has created the highest of highs, and some pretty low lows and I’m grateful for all of it. It’s currently on pause due to COVID-19 shutting down productions, but I’m hopeful I’ll get to resume soon and release the film in 2022. When I first started filming in 2014, I thought I would have a film released in 2016. This project has taught me patience like nothing else. But the lesson to be learned here is that had the film come out when I thought it would in 2016, the story would have been pretty dull. Over the years it’s turned into this beast that when I watch some of the footage back – I can’t believe it’s my story, and it’s real.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
One of my favorite things to do in LA is to get out of it. But truly, that is why I love it so much. You are a short drive away from the ocean, mountains, desert, lakes, snow, forests, and major cities. However one spot in the city that is worth mentioning is the PRS library in Los Feliz. It’s an esoteric library full of books like The Buddha In The Robot, Music from the Hearts of Space & the Philosophy of Fire. A friend of mine recently had a show/lecture there about the Alchemy of Sound and I immediately fell in love with it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Whenever I’ve taken risks, I’ve been able to do so with confidence of knowing that no matter what my mom will support me. I know I can fail, mess up or even not try something out of fear and I will still have unwavering support from my mom. Having that confidence has helped me attempt new jobs and situations that I would never have otherwise thought possible. My mom has told me in the past she could never do the things I have done but she’s wrong – because I learned it all from her. She taught me how to communicate and how to be relatable to people. I believe the most important traits you can have are personal accountability, self-awareness and an ability to communicate effectively. These were taught to me, in some form or another, by my mom. If you can’t tell, I love that woman.