Vertel is not your average artist, this bitch can do it all. From songwriting to producing to engineering to singing to acting, the all-around entertainer is a fireball in her own right. If you’re fortunate enough to meet her IRL, it’ll be an everlasting memory. Her outgoing, positive energy is not only contagious, but it’s appreciated.
While Minnesota serves as home, she didn’t have a lot of family growing up. Born and raised in foster care from 18 months to 17 years old, what she describes as “long-term foster care,” real name Alisha Vertel Mandel quickly fell in love with the keyboard. Every time she had to move, which was very frequent, she carried the instrument around — which is how her music career came about.
“I had multiple foster parents, up to five or six different foster parents. Fun times! I don’t have a relationship with any of them back home. Just one of those weird things. Damn, didn’t know we were gonna get all deep into it! I’m sweating.”
Vertel’s sense of humor and ability to turn a heavy situation into a light is every reason she was able to flourish here in Los Angeles. Moving to the West Coast on February 14th (Valentine’s Day) of 2009, her decision was ultimately fueled by her own journey into motherhood and parenting.
She summarizes a long story short: “I got knocked up and wanted to make a decision based on my kid’s future. I was in my second year of college at the time. I just had her and had to make the decision to stay in school and be broke, or try my hand at something I’m really, really good at — in a different environment and potentially make a career for myself and my family.”
“I literally Googled where to make it as far as acting and music, I bullshit you not. It said California or NY are the places you need to be.” Two weeks later, she was in Cali.
“Never thought I’d be in California ever, until two weeks before I moved here.”
V was no stranger to the acting world, attending college for Theatre Arts. While she had been doing music her entire life, it was the reality of being a mother and having to support two humans that she quickly resorted to pursue something she knew she could obtain.
“I didn’t think doing music was even possible. I basically moved here to act and threw music to the back-burner for a minute because I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence in that. I said ‘if music is for me, it will present itself and then I’ll take it from there.”
Which it did. Within her first week in the city of Angels, she found herself in the studio with Chris Brown, Tyga, Polow da Don literally in one day — something she took as a major sign. Now, she’s heavy, hardcore back into the music but also getting that check in commercial acting, with her eyes set on film acting.
And her skillsets do not go unnoticed. For one, let’s talk about the lack of female producers/engineers in the industry. Vertel herself can literally count on one hand how many female producers she knows.
“Maybe two of them are actually getting acknowledgement for what they’re doing. There’s a huge lack of females in the music industry propelling producing and engineering. Every time I see that, I’m super excited because we’re taking steps. The music industry is so male-dominated, it turns females off to even want to walk those lines to be honest, like I get it.”
On top of that, producing and engineering is really fucking tedious. A lot of people say you have to pick between one, but V believes you focus your energy on one thing, things will follow and fall in line.
“I honestly don’t know how I balance it, I just do it. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, because the music and acting industry are equally rejection-based. [laughs] For the last 10 years, I’ve been getting a lot of no’s and a few yes’s that mattered.”
A monumental yes came when she signed to Pulse Recordings four years ago. They signed me on like no market value or anything, just based on the fact I could go in and create a record by myself, and not have one person help me with it. I guess Scott [Cutler] really liked that.”
She spent the next three three years in the studio every single day, pounding out music. In the beginning, she didn’t know what she was doing. In fact, the only reason she started engineering was because she kept being put in the studio with really shitty engineers.
“I was tired of having to deal with that. Tired of having to wait for people to put me in sessions because I had to wait for an engineer, so I just started engineering myself. Pretty much just blossomed into this whole other realm. Now, I have a problem handing over any of my music to people.”
While she’s put out a couple releases with Pulse, the majority of the time was spent producing for herself. Unfortunately, V was signed just before the publishing company flipped its attention from pop to urban, resulting in a neglect of her artistry as a whole.
“When it comes to record labels and publishing companies, what matters is who’s making you fucking money. When I signed there it was all pop. No urban, no hip-hop, nothing. That’s what I did, was pop. Six months later, A&Rs started switching around. Ashley came in there and Pulse blew the fuck up. My pop music didn’t make the cut.”
Her entire catalog resides in her iPhone in front of us. With her daughter now at 11 years old, she reminds us she’s a bi-coastal mother.
“I’m doing it from afar, 2,000 miles away. I basically raised my child on FaceTime, which sounds crazy to the average person, but I was super young when I had her. Me and her grandmother had a discussion before I left. I told her ‘this is what I want to do, I know I can be successful in this. Give me a couple years.’”
As her daughter gets older, she’s learning “how to be a parent at the same time, doing all this extra stuff on the side. While it gets sticky at times…” she can’t even seem to articulate it into words. She states, “I’m just doing what I can and doing what I need to do as a mom.
Her message is loud and clear: you can do anything you want to do. Giving the disclaimer it sounds cliché as fuck, she stands as a testimony of someone who came from negative to nothing — no parents, no family, no support system — to now living out her dreams. This is the story of a Midwest girl who came out her not knowing one person, and worked her ass off for her talents to be seen.
She states, “For the most part, I’m doing this because I enjoy it. It’s a serious passion, like I went homeless doing this shit, so whether I’m making money or not I’m gonna be doing this til’ I die.”
You can check out Vertel’s single, 2 Can Play on itunes.
As far as goals, Vertel is looking at a #1 sooner or later, which may come on the forthcoming album that fans have been begging for. In meantime, be sure to catch her show in at The Peppermint Club in Los Angeles on March 20th.