by Carole Verona
Ali Wadsworth has accomplished a lot in her 34 years on the planet. She’s skated with the Philly Roller Girls, created her own graphic designs, rafted down the Delaware River, sang at a Phillies game, competed on TV’s “The Voice,” mastered archery and even taught duct tape art at a summer camp. “I have ADD (attention deficit disorder), so I can always find interesting things to do,” she said, “but music is the constant in my life.”
Ali will perform at a free concert at Pastorius Park on Wednesday, July 1, 7:30 p.m. Backing her will be Satellite Hearts, a three-piece band with Justin Pellecchia (guitar, vocals, and harmonica), Lucas Rinz (bass, vocals) and Keaton Thandi (drums, percussion, and vocals).
If you’ve never heard Ali Wadsworth sing, be prepared for what Philly Weekly described as a “huge, unmistakable, Adele-by-way-of-Janis voice that rips through the noise like a comet.”
“I know that I’m very loud,” Ali admitted, “but I’m going to do some quiet, sweet and beautiful songs as well as some big, loud rock ‘n’ roll songs where I’m wailing. I’ll do a few covers and a lot of original songs from my CD. There will be a lot of ups and downs as I take you on a little journey. I love singing beautiful ballads, and I love screaming at the top of my lungs. I can’t stick to just one genre. I truly love it all.”
Ali, who currently lives in Fishtown, grew up in a musical household in Texas. Her father, a chemical engineer, was also a rock musician who had a recording studio in the garage. Ali and her sister Claire often sang along when her father’s friends came over to jam. Her father’s job with Exxon required him to travel all over the world. He lived in Moscow for a few years, and Ali and Claire spent several summers there with him. While in Moscow, Ali studied opera at the Gnessin Institute.
Learning to breathe properly is a huge part of operatic training, and as a teen, Ali quickly got bored with it. “So much time was spent doing these warm-ups and exercises to stretch my voice out. I was just a kid and wanted instant gratification, but through it all I learned patience, that you can’t just open your mouth and sing.”
As a teenager, she also studied musical theatre and was nominated for a Barrymore Award in New Jersey for best supporting actress in a high school musical. “When people hear me sing today, they might think that I’m not singing in a proper way because my voice is loud and gritty. But I’ve learned something from everything I’ve studied. I know I’m breathing properly, and I’m not going to sing something that hurts my voice.”
Ali attended the University of Vermont, where she met a few musicians from Philly and ended up in a band with them. They all moved back to Philly in 2003. “Since then, I’ve sung with a bunch of bands here. I fell in love with Philly and its people.” She also taught herself to play the ukulele.
Singing and performing her own songs is a relatively new endeavor. “I just didn’t have enough faith in myself. I was surrounded by so many amazing songwriters, and I was scared to play my songs for them. I didn’t trust the fact that I was good enough. I finally said, ‘Who cares.’”
When it was time to put out her first CD, Ali organized a Kickstarter campaign. A highlight of her career was singing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park in 2013. That was the largest audience she ever sang for except for being on “The Voice” in 2012 and singing on TV before millions of people all over the world. “I didn’t want to do it, but Claire did, so we auditioned as The Wadsworth Sisters. We auditioned on the last day.
“The only spots left were on the teams of Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera. We made it onto the show, but unfortunately we weren’t chosen for either team. I was devastated, but I felt that we didn’t really have a good chance. Nobody was going to pick a duo. In fact, Adam Levine said, ‘Why do we have duos on the show? I’m not going to pick a duo for my team.’ It was a strange and wonderful experience that not many get to have.”
More information about Ali Wadsworth at aliwadsworth.com. More information about the concert series at chestnuthill.org. If it rains, the show will take place at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 8000 Cherokee St.