After breaking through with “We Won’t Move,” a rumbling, rebellious hit that soundtracked 2018’s protest drama The Hate U Give, Arlissa has now fully come into her own. The 26-year-old singer entered the music industry about a decade ago, when her debut single “Hard to Love Somebody” charted in her native U.K. Even back then, Arlissa had a fierce vision for her art, and held onto it when her label’s plan for her career didn’t line up with her own. Her next single, “Heart’s Ain’t Gonna Lie,” was as boldly genuine as its title, an acoustic rendering of both the sincerity and fiery independence that defines her career. The track, which garnered almost a million views in less than a week, was dropped via a deceptively simple, self-made YouTube video. In it, Arlissa and her larger-than-life voice are all alone in a small recording studio, with just enough space to move. And when she does, it’s only ever forward.
INTERVIEW:When you think of Studio 54, what are the first things that come to mind?
ARLISSA: Freedom of expression—the ability to be one-hundred percent yourself and be celebrated for it.
INTERVIEW: If you were able to go back in time and have one night at Studio 54, who would be in your banquette?
ARLISSA: I would have loved to slot myself in between David Bowie, Grace Jones, Bianca Jagger, and Eartha Kitt—and River Phoenix, just for good measure.
INTERVIEW: What is it about that time that has left such a mark on the cultural imagination?
ARLISSA: It seems like it was always a celebration of who you were, regardless of race or gender. From the photos I’ve seen, there was a real sense of inclusivity, acceptance, and being in the moment.
INTERVIEW: What, if anything, inspires you about nightlife today?
ARLISSA: It’s harder now, but it really is about finding those special places, whether it’s a dive bar or a club you’ve never heard of, and then just really letting go, dancing, and not caring about who’s watching.
INTERVIEW: Describe your ideal night out.
ARLISSA: I love finding little spots I can go with my close friends, where there’s space to dance and be messy and free.
INTERVIEW: What impact has technology had on the nightlife experience?
ARLISSA: I think it’s sad. We’re always posting stories when we’re out—don’t get me wrong, I do it too—but we’re not really living in the moment. I always find the best nights I have are the ones where I haven’t taken my phone out once to document something, and it’s nice because then you have time to reminisce and laugh with your friends about it, rather than just see them on your timeline and then forget about it.
INTERVIEW: Which era of New York nightlife inspires you the most?
ARLISSA: Definitely the ’70s. It just seems like the most carefree and fun.
INTERVIEW: How would you characterize New York nightlife at this moment in time?
ARLISSA: I haven’t really had a chance to go out and see it, so if anyone wants to help me out there, hit me up!
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