Q&A: Pop duo Aly & AJ discuss artistic inspiration and opening for Ben Platt

Sept. 29, 2022, 7:18 p.m.

Live music for the school year is back in full swing, as Ben Platt’s “Reverie” tour landed in Stanford on Sept. 11. Sister duo Aly & AJ, consisting of Alyson (Aly) and Amanda Joy Michalka (AJ) — known for their acting work in Disney channel TV shows in the 2000s, and music featured in various series — will open for Platt at all tour venues. The Daily had the chance to catch up with the pair before their performance at Frost Amphitheater.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Describe your music to someone who has never listened to it.

Amanda Joy Michalka (AJM): I think that if somebody never listened to our music before and they listened to it for the first time, it would make them feel good. Somehow we’ve been able to write music, starting from a young age, that’s really connected with people and made them feel accepted or hopeful for their future.

TSD: What are your main sources of inspiration? What are your processes for coming up with concepts and writing songs and albums?

AJM: For Aly and I, it’s the things that are currently happening in our lives. Whether we’re on the road or at home, the goal is to ultimately complete a song every time we start a writing session together. We don’t always accomplish it, but we try.

Alyson Michalka (AM): We don’t have one formula. It’s always different every time, but we just know that the thing that works best for us is being really open-minded when going into a writing session.

TSD: What do you both like best about being a duo?

AM: Not being alone. I know it takes the pressure off of having to be a solo artist and the decision-making being solely by yourself. I think there’s something nice about sharing the spotlight and that you have somebody up there that can carry the load in multiple ways, in a performance aspect, in business decisions and being out on the road. I think that’s always made us enjoy the road more than most people probably because of each other … that really helps.

AJM: Nancy Wilson once said something really sweet to us: that it’s kind of like being in a show, and the tap dancer has their tap moment, and it must be their moment. But it kind of lightens the load on the other sister when it’s like, “All right, it’s your turn to tap dance.” And that’s kind of what it is like to be on stage: at some point you might be a little tired, and it’s like the other sister can kind of shine in that moment and take over for you, which I think is really cool.

TSD: What makes you most excited about touring with Ben Platt?

AM: The fact that Ben asked us to be out with him was very flattering. We were very excited because we think he’s such a talent, and he’s obviously been doing this for a very long time. I think that we’ll have a new friend, too, at the end of this, which I’m looking forward to. We’ve already got a text stream going between the three of us!

TSD: What song are you most excited to perform?

AM: I always get really excited for “Pretty Places,” we actually moved it around in our set so it no longer comes first. We’re also playing a new song too!

TSD: How do you both practice self-care as musicians on and off tour?

AM: We have a lot of different things that we find to be relaxing on tour. You sleep a lot. That’s our number one, getting a good 10 hours of sleep. Just because the amount of energy that we’re exuding night after night is a lot, we need those batteries to be recharged at night. Drinking lots of water, getting a massage if we can every three or four weeks. We’re big into reading. I brought three books out with me, whether I finish them or not we’ll see!

AJM: For me, it’s all about grooming. My favorite self-care moments are taking care of my skin, hair, body, reading a good book, stepping outside for a walk with Bixby (Aly’s dog who’s on the road with us).

Kyla Figueroa ‘24 is a Vol. 260–262 Managing Editor for The Grind and a staff writer for Arts & Life. She is a junior from Stockton, California studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and minor in CSRE. Ask her about the indie rock and pop music scene, the coming-of-age genre, and Slaughterhouse-Five at kfigueroa ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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