scorecardresearch Skip to main content

With another album in the works, singer Lizzy McAlpine has left Berklee behind

Lizzy McAlpine spoke with the Globe from a cabin in Oregon, where she is recording her second albumLizzy McAlpine

For Lizzy McAlpine, being productive during the pandemic hasn’t been a problem.

The 21-year-old musician has built a respectable repertoire of work in the past three years, releasing a lo-fi indie-folk project — drawing heavily from favorites like Dodie and Tori Kelly — before dropping her debut album, “Give Me a Minute,” in August. In months, the album propelled her to nearly 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

In tune with her fellow Gen Zers, McAlpine, who left Berklee School of Music last year, has become a star of TikTok. Over 300,000 users scroll through to watch the Philadelphia native strum a guitar while sitting on a bathroom floor, talk to her cat named Meatball, or jump on trampolines.


She’ll occasionally post snippets of songs in the works, but to the dismay of her viewers who beg her to release them, she’s blunt about her intentions — “i’m never releasing the 1975 song but i might release reckless driving,” reads her TikTok bio, referencing two of her compositions.

“I don’t like people telling me what to do,” McAlpine said recently in a phone interview from a cabin in Oregon, where she is working on her second album.

Notably inspired by Dodie and Sara Bareilles, as well as Phoebe Bridgers — who she hung out with in a park in London last fall — McAlpine finally found her groove and solidified her own sound as a prolific indie-folk-pop songwriter.

As with most college students, the pandemic had taken a toll on McAlpine. She was sent home in the middle of her sophomore year at Berklee — around the time her dad died — and couldn’t stand online learning. With enough momentum from the release of her debut album, McAlpine dropped out of school before her junior year and began to pursue her music career full time.


Though she wouldn’t leak too many details or an exact date, McAlpine’s second album is expected to come out within a few months. From the recording studio, McAlpine spoke with the Globe about her songwriting routines, TikTok’s impact on the music industry, and her upcoming album.

Q. For “Give Me a Minute,” you handpicked a few songs from more than 150 songs you’ve written. What’s your process for writing, and how do you write so prolifically?

A. Some people can sit down and force themselves to write, but I just have to let it come naturally. If I force myself, I either end up with nothing or I end up with something that I hate. Ever since I finished writing for my second album I haven’t really written anything, and it was kind of frustrating at first. But now I’m like, “OK, it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen. I’m just going to let the inspiration come to me.”

Q. “Over-the-Ocean Call (Andrew)” is very melancholic, whereas other songs on “Give Me a Minute” such as “Apple Pie” convey a very hopeful tone. What life experiences influenced the songs in the album?

A. I think of my projects as chapters of my life. I was dating this guy named Andrew, and then I went to study abroad in Spain and we broke up. I went through that breakup while we were across the ocean from each other and had to deal with that. Going back to Boston and meeting someone new — that was the journey of the album of what I was going through.


Q. Your songs seem to focus mostly on intimate moments rather than dramatic, over-the-top experiences. Why is that?

A. I really like writing about small moments. I like using details that you wouldn’t think would be a part of that moment but are. I have a really hard time writing about things that haven’t happened to me, and if I go through something, it takes a few months to sort out the feelings enough to put them on paper.

Lizzy McAlpine's debut album, "Give Me a Minute," was released in August.Lizzy McAlpine

Q. When you do sort out the feelings, what is that process like?

A. I’m of the opinion that if a song takes me longer than 20 minutes or half an hour, then it’s not good. I feel like the best stuff comes when it’s just a stream of consciousness.

Q. What was the experience like trying to record your debut album in the midst of a pandemic?

A. With “Give Me a Minute,” my producer and I did a bunch of sessions in his tiny apartment in Boston. We tried to record while his roommate blasted music in the other room, and it was really difficult. Then the pandemic happened, we were separated again and we still had stuff to record, so I recorded on my end and would send it through to him.

Q. You’ve amassed quite the following on TikTok. How does TikTok play into your career?

A. I have a love-hate relationship with TikTok because I posted that song I wrote about my ex-boyfriend ruining the 1975 for me, and it blew up — it has 8 million views or something like that. I hate that video. Everyone kept being like, “You have to release it,” and it wasn’t even done. I like to release music that I feel good about, and that song I just didn’t really like that much.


Q. Is TikTok good for the music industry as a whole?

A. I mean it’s great for the music industry because more people are getting discovered that may not have gotten discovered the old-fashioned way or whatever, but I don’t know. I’ve stayed off of it recently. I don’t know if I can deal with more people asking me to release a song I hate. But other than that it’s been cool. It’s just another platform to connect with people on and I like that.


the dangers of reckless driving aka someone who loves u way more than u love them... #fyp #original #recklessdriving

♬ original sound - Lizzy McAlpine

Q. What led you to drop out of Berklee?

A. For me, the most I got out of Berklee was the people I met there. The connections were the most important part. The actual education was good, but I don’t know. I started songwriting classes, and I was like, “This is not helping me in any way.” Then the theory classes all go over my head. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to theory and harmony, so they just confuse me even more.

Q. Do you have anything you can tell me about the [next] album?


A. This album will hopefully be more indie rock — that’s the direction we’re headed in. It definitely sounds totally different, and I really want that because I want people to listen to my discography and tell that my style has progressed and matured.

Q. On Instagram I saw that Phoebe Bridgers said she would collaborate with you. What was your reaction, and are there any features on the album?

A. When I was in London, we hung out at a park and it was really cool. We know each other, so it wasn’t that surprising, but no one really knows that we’re friends. And yes, I have a list of features for this album that I’m not going to tell you.

Matt Berg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.