Alison was born and raised in Petersburg, VA in a working class family that was void of musical talent. Alison is an only child and isn’t aware of any musicians in her family, (she thinks her grandpa looked at a guitar once,)but swears that she has been singing since she learned to talk. 

Alison plays a mix of honky tonk and old time country on the guitar. Her influences range from The Louvin Brothers and Kitty Wells to Roger Miller and Bessie Smith. She has a strong stage presence and her lyrics might make you cry, but you’re more than likely to laugh.

Sometime in 2006 Alison decided to buy a ukulele, by the next year she was playing small DIY gigs around Richmond VA and also spending a good amount of time busking on the street for tips.

Alison spent about 10 years based out of Richmond, Virginia where she was described as Richmond’s chanteuse “with a huge voice unlike any other female singer in Richmond” and until the end of her time living in the region (2015), became a well known musician who booked other acts in town, had side projects and toured the US.

Alison traveled west in a ’96 Oldsmobile with no working windows for most of 2015, with a stint in Southwest VA then Nashville TN, until her car broke down outside of Denver. She played some shows and worked for a few months, decided it was time to go and drunkenly bought a $20 plane ticket to Austin TX. Figuring she had nothing to lose she sold her car for $200 and got rid of mostly everything she had carried with her and made the move. She didn’t even take her guitar. Austin was home for Alison for the past two years until she decided to uproot once again and make the move to Portland OR back in October 2018. 

Alison was diagnosed with colon cancer in the winter of 2018, went through surgery and chemotherapy and finished all that in June 2019. Alison has been cancer free for almost 2 years.

Traveling and restlessness have been strong themes in Alison’s songs which are influenced strongly by her early 20s spent hitch hiking and hopping a few freight trains here and there. Simply put, Alison writes from lived experiences. Thematically her songs run along the same lines of most honky tonk singers, past and present: working class upbringing, death, trains, bad decisions and too much booze. 

CDs recorded:

Cowboy Coffee 2014

Fall Recordings 2013

Sweet Fern – S/T 2012

GR&TS- “Gas Aint’ Cheap” July 2012 

Alison Self- “Live At The Listening Room” February 2011

Alison Self- “Self -Titled” April 2009

Arise Sweet Donkey- “S/T” November 2009

Gail Ruby and The Sheik “I Already Got You” May 2006


photo by Beth Brown

Sweet Fern

Carter family inspired old time country outfit, with Josh Bearman (of The Hot Seats)

Gail Ruby & The Sheik 

“Hokum Jump” ragtime blues powerhouse duo with Brownbird Rudy Relic

image by Ian Graham

image by Ian Graham

and stripped down acoustic blues with harmonica player Andrew Alli, (of Andrew Alli and Last Night’s Blues Band & who has toured internationally with Tim Barry )

In addition to performing Alison also works on other music related projects.

photo by Matt Morton

photo by Matt Morton

RVA Squares

Alison Self partners with caller Grant Hunnicut to help organize semi-regular square dances around town. Voted ‘Best Way To Cure Nostalgia for Grade School Dances’ by Style Weekly.

Twangtown Thursday @ Balliceaux with Anna Roberts-gevalt and Elizabeth Laprelle

Twangtown Thursday @ Balliceaux with Anna Roberts-gevalt and Elizabeth Laprelle

Twangtown Thursday

Alison Self and Josh Bearman handle the details for this free 4th Thursday showcase that happens monthly at Balliceaux since Jan 2012. Sweet Fern opens the night and then the featured band takes the stage.


Festivals played: MacRock (2012), Fall Line Festival (2013), RVA UkeFest (2013)

Alison has shared the stage with notable acts such as: The Two Man Gentleman Band, Curtis Eller, J.P Harris & The Tough Choices, Jason Webley, The Hot Seats, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Blackbird Raum, Larry and His Flask, Paul Baribeau, Spoonboy and more, and loves them all very much <3