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When we met at a nearby coffee shop, I instantly knew that Alie Renee Byland was an old soul, despite her youthfulness, with a heart of gold.
Alie (Martinez) grew up with her four siblings in rural New Mexico. They were homeschooled, and she told me how her mom would sneak money from the grocery budget to pay for piano lessons. To this day, music is still a very big part of all of their lives.
When Alie was 11 years old, her dad moved the family to Albuquerque where they settled into what she describes as “the ghetto.” It was there that her father, a Pastor, started renovations on a large duplex that was always open to visitors and those in need. “He was an amazing man,” Alie said of her father.
“There were always a lot of different people around—a lot of opportunities to play music.” By age 13, Alie was part of a band and played music in church. She was raised with a strong faith base, but it was “more towards and based on serving,” she added.
To reinforce my comments of the serving and giving nature of her family, in 2008 the Martinez family received an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition complete with Ty Pennington spending a week in Albuquerque. For those unfamiliar with the popular program that was on the air for almost 10 years, families are nominated for the “makeover” oftentimes based on what they have given back to that community. The show’s staff and volunteers in droves come forward to help and together they completely rebuild the family’s home in a week. All the materials and labor are donated.
Alie left home at 18 to attend a Christian college in Seattle, and that is where she met Jake Byland. Jake was raised in Woodinville in very different surroundings than Alie, but that didn’t matter. Alie loves where she comes from and maintains, “we are who we are, and there is no sense in changing.”
Alie recalled a conversation during her second year in college that Jake and her dad had. Her Dad ended the call to Jake with, “Give my baby girl a hug.” Her dad died two weeks later, and she returned to New Mexico to be with her mom and her family. For the next 14 months, Jake was her friend and sent many prayers her way. As time went on, Jake asked Alie’s mom for her daughter’s hand in marriage and on the third request, she finally said yes.
Alie returned to Washington, and to Woodinville, to marry Jake. They lived on his family’s property in a cottage he built.
It was there that Byland (the band) was formed, and they started to perform at wineries in the area.
After her father died, it was different to play music. She was (and still is) grieving. “I don’t believe that time heals. I believe you need to go through the process.” She thanks The Healing Center (in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle) for helping her in that process. “It is an amazing organization. When I walked in, I felt comfortable and loved,” she said.
Part of the healing process was creating music. Together Alie and Jake made the melodies, wrote the lyrics and eventually recorded Byland’s first album called Desert Days. They did it all themselves including building the studio that they recorded the album in to Jake mixing & mastering the entire album. Although Alie is quick to point out though that many people, especially Jake’s family, stepped up to help raise money to support the album. “It is a great community of people and I am really thankful,” she said.
Desert Days memorializes her childhood in Albuquerque and her late father. The song “What a Man” is an amazing tribute to her dad and when I listened to it later that afternoon tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought of my own father. She told me the last song on the album “Lying on the Couch” includes an actual voicemail that her father left her so many years ago.
After listening to Desert Days, I can attest to the emotion that went into the entire album. Alie sings beautifully and the wisdom she shares through her lyrics are a gift to us all.
The Byland band has an upcoming performance on October 20th, and proceeds from both ticket sales and merchandise will go to The Healing Center. Merchandise for sale includes beautiful jewelry that her uncle made. (He used to make jewelry with Alie’s dad.) The money raised will go towards scholarships to help others dealing with grief.
The show will be at the High Dive (513 N 36th St, Ste G, Seattle) and opens with local bands Hallstrom, Temple Canyon, and Skylar Mitchell Raye Band.
Byland will have a seven piece band including Maggiejean Martinez, Alie’s little sister and the drummer in the band; Chris Hanson, bassist; Torry Anderson, keyboards; Bri Bloemendaal, electric guitar; Cameron & Jodi Reed, strings; and of course Alie.
Alie and Jake are already working on another album, and she is continually honing her craft and collaborating with other musicians. She said that she has met so many people that have inspired her and have helped her. “Music should bring people together,” she said.
Visit www.bylandmusic.com for a sneak peak of Desert Days, purchase the album, or learn more about the upcoming show. Music is also available on iTunes and Spotify under Byland.