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The Healing Cocoon Podcast

Integrating the Inner and Outer Voice with Songstress Alicia Olatuja


And the quest for vocal empowerment.


Posted by:
Jacobie Gray
In this episode of the podcast, we interview Alicia Olatuja, praised by the New York Times as “a singer with a strong and luscious tone and an amiably regal presence on stage.” Originally from St. Louis, MO, she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Classical Voice/Opera from the Manhattan School of Music, going on to work with such esteemed artists as Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans and Christian McBride. A pivotal moment in her journey, she performed as the featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Safe Expression

From her youngest memories, Alicia remembers the internal desire to express herself at all times, constantly singing and talking and joking. She vividly remembers chasing her kindergarten crush around their classroom singing Whitney Houston’s, “Saving All My Love for You.” It’s funny in retrospect, but the little boy may still be recovering! Her teacher pulled her aside to tell her to stop terrorizing him, but also told her she would have a great voice one day and, in her teacherly affection, told her not to get “the big head.” Of course Alicia didn’t know what that meant at the time, but her teacher became the first person to encourage her dive into singing. 

Now, as a seasoned performer, Alicia’s vocal journey has been a deeply considered one. Externally, she often found her outward vocal expression a bit disjointed from her internal voice. So her pursuit of singing led her not only to the development of technical skill, but also on a path of self-integration that she didn’t expect.

More Than the Science

Alicia’s pre-college vocal training involved a lot of ensemble singing at church and school, although she never took individual vocal instruction. She says church was her boot camp and everything else whipped her into shape, all the while being exposed to different genres and subject matters. 

But when the spotlight turned to her in college, she felt the pressure mounting, pushing her out of the familiar pace she had taken and into the realization that she couldn’t pursue what she wanted by staying at the same level of understanding. 

Her search led her to all the usual places like workshops and masterclasses, but they only offered more techniques, the science of singing and not the connectedness she wanted someone to teach her. Alicia realized life would have to be her teacher.

Inside and Out Integration

Integrating her internal world with her external voice took some self-deconstruction.  The process of deconstruction can be tricky because it’s hard to spot while it’s happening. For Alicia, it happened gradually through her inward desire to feel like herself while expressing herself vocally, in the moment, not just focusing on technique or feedback or mistakes. She wanted to be able to connect with people in a massive group the way she did individually. 

During this process, she was subconsciously drawn to jazz and moved away from the classical world, which has stringent techniques and virtually no creative liberties. Jazz is about breaking the rules so she was free to make vocal decisions based on how she felt and wanted to express in that moment. It instantly felt honest and true.

Where is the Lie

Once she panned out on life a little bit, the idea of perfectionism basically dissipated to nothing for her. She had a sudden awakening that perfectionism is simply a lie. The technical and outward perfection she had been trying to achieve didn’t exist. 

Another discrepancy she was grappling with wasn’t exactly a lie, but she found herself struggling in her marriage, yet writing and singing songs on a stage that were the exact opposite of her daily experiences. It felt inauthentic.  

Her interpretation of this disconnect was that actually, it was when she was on stage she was her truest self. The words she sang were what she genuinely felt and believed (she was the writer, after all). But she was living a double life.

Inauguration Integration

Alicia remembers the exact, exhilarating moment she felt the embodiment of what she had been seeking all this time, the point that she knew she had fully integrated her ability to outwardly vocally express her inner desires. That moment was when she sang at President Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration. 

So much inward and outward work had happened to make this type of performance possible. She not only had the pristine technical skill conquered, she had accumulated an understanding of emotional stamina, connectedness and mental presence. All the learning and seeking had given her the ability to access all of these things within herself now and not fall apart under such an intense eye. “That was when the integration happened. And that’s when I realized that I needed all three (mental presence, emotional connectedness, and technical skill) to really show up as my authentic self and to enjoy it for myself, not just for the gift I’m giving.”

Learn more about Alicia at and find her on social media at @alicia_olatuja.

For the full interview with Alicia, listen via the link on this page, or find us on Instagram @thehealingcocoonpodcast.