Unexpected Influences: Lalagray May Rock The Piano, But, When No One's Looking, She Dances Half-Naked To Gaga and Chumbawumba

Welcome to a Unexpected Influences, where we talk to musicians about the music no one expects them to like.

As far as unexpected things go, Ashley Myrick can count her 2010 high on the list. She started the year a back up vocalist for local act The Beaten Sea, but her talent was too unrelenting to not warrant her own project. That project was called Lalagray, and it earned the pianist/songwriter quite the buzz -- especially since September's release of her debut album, Devil's Nest, which promptly was added to a number of local best-of lists.

Sonically, Lalagray comfortably employs spunky piano, alt-country zest, and a vocal styling that flits from playful to serious and back. And, being one of the area's most promising up-and-comers, we wanted to take a look at what contributed to her superb style.

In talking with her, it's clear that we're dealing with a unique character whose artistic vision is a force to be reckoned with. Read on to catch a telling and hilarious glimpse into the mind of this future star, including nods as to how such funny-sounding things as Gaga, Chumbawumba and spoon dresses factor into the whole story.

What are some unexpected influences that your listeners may be surprised to know about?
I find myself influenced mostly by my emotions. They sort of steer my musical ship. I'll sometimes crawl cold and bleary eyed from the kitchen to the piano, mouth covered in chocolate or barbecue-flavored Kettle chips (I often eat my emotions, too!), whimpering softly about missing an episode of Mad Men and write some upbeat song about coffins or life being just so gosh-darned hard, so that I'll feel better. Then I remember I can stream Mad Men online, and my thoughts rack focus on just how gosh-darned great life is after all.

Who do you look to for inspiration when you play in public?
I constantly wish I had the stage presence that Ryan Thomas Becker possesses. I don't sweat nearly enough during my shows. Unfortunately, I posses the incredible inability to exact any control over my giddy over-nervousness. My in-between song "banter" usually lasts longer than the actually songs I'm playing. But, really, I can't control it. My mouth sort of motors away awkwardly. If I could jump around karate kicking and playing my piano with my eyelids, I think that would be awesome. Ryan is my favorite performer to watch. Hands. Down. (I'm touching my toes right now.) (No, I'm not.)

The first record that you bought for yourself?
That was either Enrique Iglesias's self-titled 1999 album, or Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. I was not the kind of 12-year-old that understood the coolness of Weezer and was instead rather quite content to tap my toes in the safety of the the Billboard Top 40. Did Kiss FM DJing my middle school dances contribute to this purchase? Maybe. I don't point fingers, though. I also loved REM and Jewel. I blame only myself.

What are your musical guilty pleasures? Anything embarrassing?
I'm not going to imply that I have a dress made out of spoons, or a hairpiece shaped like a dump-truck in my closet, and I'm not even completely sure where it came from, but I am currently nursing a slight obsession with Lady Gaga. What is worse than the eye-rolls and ridicule I endure from my folksy and cultured contemporaries is perhaps the glimpse I catch of my own uncoordinated and lanky reflection in the living room window as I thrash around half naked to a remix of "Bad Romance." (Hey, I need to get some use out of that long-sleeved onesie from American Apparel I was tricked into buying last year.) And what about that meat dress? I just pretend like it didn't happen -- and sort of wish I'd have thought of it first.

What are some of your early musical memories?
My dad used to judge my singing ability by whether or not I could hold a single note sans-vibrato for longer than is humanly possible. He'd say, "Pretty good, kid," even though I was tomato red and slightly traumatized by the extreme volume of my howling. My mom also used to think it was funny that I knew all the words to Reba McEntire's "Fancy" before I knew what being "turned-out" and "plain white trash" even meant. Before I knew about Chumbawumba. Before I graduated to a "big-girl bed." Before I named my band after the street I grew up on and moved to Dallas to be hip.

What do you have in store musically for the next few months? Any special plans for 2011?
Not yet. I'm impulsive and bad at making plans. Although a show with Wanda Jackson at the Kessler on February 26th is one thing I will be able to scratch off my bucket list. You should come. I'm guaranteed to ramble pointlessly. And while I won't be wearing a dress made of spoons, I will be wearing fringe. Glorious, glorious fringe.