As a teenager, Aly Spaltro had big career plans. As soon as she graduated from high school, the Brunswick, Maine native was heading off to a Chicago art academy to study her primary passion, film. Instead, she decided to take a year off to work with a children's charity organization in Guatemala — a trip that fell apart, last-minute, when she couldn't afford her pricey plane ticket there.
"I was faced with just living in my hometown for a year while everyone I knew went off to college," she sighs. "So I got this job at a video store, and that's when I decided that I needed something artistic to focus my time on."
A year later, everything had changed. The shop, Bart & Greg's DVD Explosion, was conveniently located in a basement, where Spaltro — with her boss' permission — began experimenting with various musical instruments, after hours. "I could be really loud," she recalls. "So I just fell in love with making songs. And when it was time for me to go to college — when I got the email about orientation — my immediate reaction was, 'I can't do that right now! I don't want to go to Chicago — how am I going to make more songs?'"
Instead, she christened herself Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (since shortened to a less-cumbersome Lady Lamb for her new Mom + Pop-label sophomore album After), began recording and performing solo, and never looked back.
On quirky After tracks like "Batter," "Milk Duds" and "Spat Out Spit," Spaltro displays a sharp ear for oblique hooks and offbeat rhythms, plus a warm, hearth-crackling singing style that adds further depth to her observational lyrics.
Her ideas occur to her in unusual places, too, she says. Like the bluesy opening ballad "Vena Cava," which starts as an anatomy lesson but quickly spirals outward into a clinical relationship analysis.
"I wrote the lyrics while driving on a Midwest tour I did two summers ago," Spaltro says. "I was alone, so I wasn't able to pull over and write things down — I kept repeating the melody until I remembered it."
While punching the video-store clock, the singer was furiously scribbling down every idea she could in a diary that she kept by her bedside, just in case inspiration occurred in a random dream. One morning she woke up to find the phrase Lady Lamb the Beekeeper scrawled in the book, but she couldn't remember writing it.
Coincidentally, she'd just recorded her first 10 songs; she promptly burned some CDs and stickered them with the anonymous moniker. Soon, she was confident enough to move to the larger Maine metropolis of Portland, then to New York, where she now resides. "I've been doing music full-time ever since," she adds.
Although Lady Lamb now tours with a backing band, she has to dial back her volume while composing in her New York apartment, to avoid noise complaints.
"Which was good for me in the long run," she says. "Because I figured out that my voice had some sweeter qualities to it, and that I have a higher range than I originally thought. I was used to projecting and yelling.
"And don't get me wrong — I still love that kind of singing. But it's nice to know that I can do both."