ALBANY (December 14, 2015) — Allie Crystal ’11 had just come home for the holidays last year when she and her family caught her spirited song Coming Home to You on a television commercial for Kohl’s.
“I was speechless and, then, a minute later I started bawling,” recalls the Guilderland native, who lives in New York. “All that hard work had finally paid off. It was a moment of confirmation.”
A year later Coming Home to You provides the backdrop for a jubilant Starbucks holiday commercial that friends encounter on radio, YouTube and “Saturday Night Live.”
“Starbucks showed its customers having a big party in one of its stores,” Crystal noted. “Kohl’s showcased holiday merchandise with smiling models.”
The double dose of good fortune adds up to a great year for the singer-songwriter, who says she learned the business side of music while fine-tuning her writing and singing as a Saint Rose music industry major.
“A good number of songwriters didn’t attend a music school, so they learned things on the fly or got a manager who could help,” said Crystal, 27. “But I graduated with a solid understanding of publishing, recording and the industry’s status. And I’m able to engineer and produce my own songs and it really sets me apart. “
Four years after graduating, with several jobs in the industry under her belt, the singer-songwriter with the made-for-show-business name is thriving.
Her song Every Little Beat was used in the MTV series “Teen Mom 2” and will be used on Bravo TV’s “Vanderpump Rules.” Crystal also has penned several electronic dance music (EDM) songs, including Nicky Romero’s Heartbeat.
Her group, Sugarwhiskey, is about to launch some original music, including a collaboration with EDM artist DJ Gazzo.
Crystal’s passion for ballet as a child evolved into an interest in singing. She performed in musicals at Guilderland High School, Schenectady Light Opera Company and with the New York City Ballet, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. After two years at a university on Long Island, she returned to the Capital Region to enroll at Saint Rose. The Hearst Center for Communications and Interactive Media had just opened, providing top-notch recording and performance space.
By then Crystal saw that her unconventional soprano voice made her a difficult fit for a professional singing career. So even as she performed with various troupes on campus, Crystal worked hard on her studies in publishing, recording and songwriting. It was not always easy.
“I’m not a great engineer and I cried a lot in the studio,” she noted. “But it was an amazing experience and I’m better for it. Not many can say they’ve scored and recorded an original album!”
Crystal was inspired by Sister Mary Anne Nelson, who heads the music industry program. Sister Mary Anne encouraged her to look beyond the creative process to find a venue for her work. She credits as well voice coach Marta Waterman and Cliff Brucker, who taught songwriting. During her time at Saint Rose, Crystal also took part in internships with Diamond Time Ltd., Solo Management and with MTV.
“I think the main reason I’m able to write for commercials now is because I sat on the other side and developed an ear for it,” she notes.
After graduating she worked at Harry Fox, Universal Music Group Publishing and Joe Lambert Mastering. She would like to run a publishing company in the future.
But today her focus is on writing. Crystal, who describes her songs as organic, says she draws inspiration from everyday life. The ideas surface at random.
“Sometimes I have to pull out my phone to make a voice note. But luckily I live in New York, where it’s not that odd of a thing!” she said.
Composed on a ukulele, Coming Home to You — which she wrote in the heat of July – sounds like a folk melody. It touches on the universal theme of love, family and warmth of the holidays. She is just as gratified that individuals like it as a coffee chain and department store.
“When people tell me they play it at home and that their kids love it, it makes my heart melt!” she said.