Meet Alice: A Belgian Singer/Songwriter Living In NYC

15.03.2016 - Dries Tack

Alice Van Heuven (Alice Avery) – Singer/Songwriter

        Alice Van Heuven is a Belgian singer-songwriter who goes by the name of Alice Avery.  Her path to success is at full speed ahead, as she has achieved multiple outstanding accomplishments throughout her singing career. In 2012, Radio 2 nominated Alice as “best new artist” for its SummerHit 2012 award show. Then, Alice paused her music career after moving to New York to focus on her musical theatre studies, find her own voice and discover what musical genre she wanted to pursue. During this break, she wrote a weekly column for Belgian magazine, JOEPIE, about her adventures in New York in 2013 and after graduating in 2015, she threw herself completely into the writing of her debut EP “Kicking the Habit.” For this EP, she teamed up with Grammy winning producer Will Hensley (who has worked with stars such as John Mayer, Shakira, & Colbie Caillat). Be on the lookout for the album, which will be released in May 2016, as well has her new single, “Expired Love,” which will be available online (iTunes, Spotify, etc.) on March 25. 

Get to know Alice:

Why did you leave Belgium? / Why did you move to the USA?

-       “As a young kid my family and I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for three years. After moving back we always had the intention of moving around more and living the real expat life but due to circumstances we ended up staying in Belgium. I went to an international school and just really loved that diverse and open-minded community. It’s definitely a different mindset than you can find in most regular Belgian schools/workplaces. I always knew I’d travel a lot and end up abroad, I just wasn’t sure yet how or where. As a teenager I did a couple of theater and music summer courses in London and really discovered a passion for it. So in 2012 I auditioned for AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy- graduates include Janelle Monae, Jason Derulo, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Caissie Levy,...) and got in. Even though I was studying communication management in Antwerp at the time, and working on a music career in Belgium (I got nominated for the Radio 2 Zomerhit Beste Newcomer in 2012), I wasn’t completely fulfilled and excited about my life in Belgium so decided to take the leap.”

How does your life look like right now?

-       “Every day is different. I graduated over a year ago so now it’s all about ‘the hustle.’ Since I have my own music project and also act, it’s a lot to focus on, but I like the variety. When I’m not in a show most of my days are filled with auditioning for shows and working on my own music. This past year I was writing music, in and out of the studio and recently finally finished recording my debut EP ‘Kicking The Habit.’ Now that the creative part is done, it’s really about the more businessy side of the music industry. Lately my days exist of talking with PR agencies, radio pluggers, booking agents, managers. I’m planning the release strategy for the first single of the record ‘Expired Love.’ I’m also getting ready to record the music video for that song, and am talking to companies about cultural grants, sponsors, investors,... Honestly it’s never-ending but definitely very interesting and I’m learning a lot about the industry. The horrible yet great thing about auditioning is that it’s usually a lot of waiting before you get your 30 seconds to give it your all. So while I’m waiting I can spend time on all of the EP stuff. Another thing I do when I’m not in a show is nannying. I usually work for 1 or 2 families and pick up the kids from school and make sure they don’t kill themselves until their parents come home after work. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it’s a great survival job and let’s be honest, New York is expensive so most artists need one when they’re not on Broadway (yet). Another new fun side gig I just got is being part of a band that performs at corporate events and weddings. We’re a new band and are preparing for the high season now so that means learning a lot of new songs, and a lot of rehearsals.

            “When I’m in a show, days usually consist of studying, rehearsing and after opening making sure you give it your all at every show. This past winter season I was in a musical called ‘Twas the girls night before Christmas.’ We rehearsed in New York, and performed in Las Vegas and Connecticut. Rehearsals would be from 9-6 and on show days I usually would like to get enough sleep, work out, go over all my lines, dance routines and songs, get to the venue on time and after the show get to bed on time. Depending on the type of show you’re in it always varies how heavy or light your days are. Past summer I was in a show called ‘Virtuous Mongrels.’ It was part of The New York Fringe Festival and a rather heavy show about war, family feuds and to top it off in the first act the actors were animals. So when you’re in a physically and mentally tougher show, it’s hard to focus on anything else besides that…you basically live and breathe the show until it’s over.”

Are Americans and Belgians very different?

-       “They are pretty different. Both have their positives and lesser parts, and obviously you can’t speak for everyone. But generally I feel like most Americans are more optimistic, kinder and more enthusiastic than Belgians. They’re also very hard workers and don’t complain. It naturally really depends in what part of America you are but I love New Yorkers. Most people that live here choose to live here. Which means they are ambitious, and are here for a reason. The ambition, energy and creativity that you can find in New York is hard to find anywhere else." 

How do you connect to Belgium?

-       “My entire family still lives in Belgium and we’re very close so I’ll always have a close connection to Belgium. I usually go home twice a year but would love to get to a point where I can travel freely between both. If I have a weekend off and want to see my baby godsons' squishy face, that I could just jump on a plane and go cuddle him for a few days… that would obviously be the dream. Right now, I don’t think I could permanently live in Belgium though. But I’ll always miss my family, the chocolate, bread and cheese and my mom’s cooking. And the down-to-earthiness factor that Belgium has.”

How do you relax in the USA?

-       “I love running along the Hudson and in Central Park. That’s my go to relaxation in NYC. Also exploring new neighborhoods, even though I’ve been here for four years nearly- I still discover new hubs, streets, restaurants and bars every day!”

What's your favorite US meal/treat?

-       “I’m a vegetarian and luckily New York is the perfect place for that! There’s a bunch of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and even the ‘normal’ restaurants here always offer veggie versions. Fast-food wise I love myself some Chipotle (Mexican fast-food chain), and the New York pizza is to die for. Oh and the donuts here are on point.”

What do we have to do to get you back in Belgium?

-       “In order to get me to move back I think Belgium has to be more open-minded, less cynical, and be more excited about life. I feel like everyone my age back home is graduating from college, doing their 9 to 5 job, moving in with their sweetheart and announcing their engagements on Facebook. Now of course there’s nothing wrong with that and it happens all over the world, but for some reason I feel like there’s way more pressure to do exactly that, in that exact order there, than here in New York. No one here says anything about living life to the fullest, traveling, working hard, being single, chasing your dreams and enjoying everything life has to offer. But in Belgium people are like ‘you’re 25 and don’t have a boyfriend…what’s wrong with you?!’ Even my doctor told me to not do things ‘the American way.’ Which apparently is putting your career first and waiting to pop babies until after you’re thirty, according to him that’s ‘not a good idea.’ Maybe it’s just me, but if Belgium was less cookie-cutter, it would be more appealing to me.”

Which Belgian do you admire most?

-       “My mom and dad!"

Which American do you admire most?

-       “Queen B, obviously. Can I say Olivia Pope?”

What was your biggest surprise in the USA?

-       “A big surprise to me here was how many people are very religious. But to the extent of brainwashed crazy religious. Yes I can see how religion can help people when it’s in a pure form and the aim is to give a lost soul some guidance. But when you are preaching that the wrath will come, and being gay is a sin, and modern people in New York are actually agreeing… that’s just crazy to me. Americans often ask me what religion I am, and I’ll just answer that I’m from Belgium and hope they’ll stop asking (which never happens so I need to re-strategize). The only reason I don’t say I’m atheist here is because one of my American friends once told me that you’re not allowed to use that word in America. Haha”  

What started your interest in musical theater? / What do you get out from it?

-       “The international school I attended put on a lot of musicals, shows and cabarets. I was always part of the choir, and loved being part of that creative and open community. I really enjoy the creative process that goes hand in hand with writing lyrics, or creating a character. But it’s also the actual action of singing/dancing/acting that is very freeing. It’s a form of therapy and really just an expression of the soul. It can be very hard and confrontational, but when you get through it, you’re like a new person. That sounds very mushy but when you’re doing what you love, and it keeps you sane and healthy, and you can actually make a living from doing it… then it would be crazy if I decided not to follow this path.”

Alice Avery - "Lonely" (Official Music Video)

This article is part of our series called “Belgians in the USA.” Belgians in the USA aims at promoting Belgian talent across the globe. It includes a variety of individuals who have gotten the privilege to experience the world and all of its glory when they decided to follow their business-driven aspirations and leave their “beer-loving,” “waffle-making” home country to move to the “land of the free.” Take a look at our other articles to learn about Belgian-based businesses arising in the US and read the inspiring individuals’ stories as they discuss life as an expatriate and what it takes to be a “Belgian in the USA.”