Lakeside singer and songwriter takes the stage at the Del Mar Fair

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Slender fingers pick at the strings on her guitar as she pulls out the trusty crowd favorite, tossing back her tangled mane of golden hair, as her rich earthy voice ripples through the heat of the afternoon, singing the first weeping words of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Slender fingers pick at the strings on her guitar as she pulls out the trusty crowd favorite, tossing back her tangled mane of golden hair, as her rich earthy voice ripples through the heat of the afternoon, singing the first weeping words of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Hosanna Alm is a country/folk artist from Lakeside whose act usually ranges from guitar to banjo to ukulele. Singing at the O’Brien stage several times during the course of the fair’s exposition, Alm is in good company, joining big names and neighborhood musicians alike as the county unites in celebrating local talent and the joys of summertime.

Although Alm has dabbled in music since childhood, it was not until the beginning of this year that she decided to pursue it full time. “I’ve always had this dream to sing,” she said. “But I didn’t actually accept that as a possibility until January.”

Up until the New Year, Alm has been living on and off in Santa Barbara working in horticulture and playing shows at local coffee shops. On returning to San Diego, she said she had no more excuses not to go after her music more intentionally. Without a boyfriend or a family to take care of, Alm said she feels comfortable knowing that no one will starve but herself as she walks away steadier employment to make room for her dreams.

“I think it was a matter of letting go of what I thought was the right thing to do as an adult,” said Alm. “What have I got to lose?”

Acting as her own producer and manager, Alm does all of the groundwork for her music alone. All the hustling for shows, writing and producing her music, and networking her product are done by the one-man-band herself, she said.

It is a testament to how far the young artist has come, said Alm. In 2012, Alm stood in line outside Petco Park with thousands of San Diegans to audition for her shot at American Idol. Like so many, she did not make the first round of cuts.

“I think my approach to being a musician was altered because of it,” she said. “I believed that someone would have to discover me and that I wasn’t capable of doing the work myself. But even though it’s incredibly hard, time-consuming and difficult, it’s all on me and I feel like I’m capable of doing it. I can do it myself. I feel more empowered now.” 

Not willing to place her trust in Youtube or TV show discoveries, Alm said she is relying on the old fashioned method of hard work and elbow grease to get her big start. “I’m praying the method hasn’t died,” she said.

For Alm, the hustle is real, and she is making the most of the East County music scene. On July 1, she will be playing at Santee’s Kaffee Meister coffee house at 7:30, and she is a regular participant at Public Square Coffee House’s Soul Sunday.

“I have to look at this like a business,” she said. “One of my friends told me recently that if you look at your art as a hobby and not like a business, it will pay like a hobby and not like a business.”

Although she considers herself a homegrown East County girl, raised on George Strait and KSON, with deep roots in her family of eleven siblings, Alm has seen her share of the world.

In 2014, Alm spent a year in Berlin, Germany as an au pair. It was there that she learned to write her own music. The time away from home, surrounded by a new language in a new world, Alm said, was critical to her development as an artist.

“When I was in Germany, I had a really hard time communicating with people because I didn’t understand people at the level sufficient to communicate interpersonal struggles,” she said. “So I turned to music as an outlet for my anxiety, anger, love and homesickness.”

Although she does play covers, Alm also writes a lot of her own music, using her country roots to shape her sound and folk influence to tell her stories. Her biggest complaint about today’s country music, she said, is how cookie cutter it all is.

“People spend time to listen to this — put a little time into it,” she said, criticizing the pattern of blue-jean, beer bottle country music. “Let’s honor the art.”

The road of the starving artist is long and winding, as Alm can tell you first hand, new to it though she is, but she said whether her name ends up in lights or she stays a local artist, she is leaning on mighty arms. 

“I’m just trusting God,” she said. “Where does he want me to go and will he give me the strength to endure it?”

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