We caught up with men’s groomer and bassist Alicia Marie Campbell to find out how she started working with musicians, how music and styling intersect, and why slicked back hair is on its way back.
What was it like growing up with a mom who was a hair stylist?
My mom had a salon in our house in Oakland. I’m half Dominican, half Scottish Irish so I have curly hair to begin with and my mom would perm my hair even though it was already curly and I was only ten years old! I was always her guinea pig. She would give me bowl cuts and mullets and her friends would do my makeup. I was the kid dressed up like Boy George at five years old. It was a lot of fun. As a teenager I started playing bass. I didn’t want to mess with hair at all and I didn’t want to do what she did. Now I embrace it.
How did you learn to do hair and makeup?
I taught myself how to play bass. I just learned and practiced. It was the same with hair and makeup. A lot of that drive comes from my parents. My father always told me that if you want something you have to hustle. He had to fend for himself and make things happen at a young age. It was how I was raised. I had to learn how to create a business out of something artistic. For a lot of artists, it’s hard to have a business mindset.
How did you get your start as a makeup artist? What was your first job?
In high school I was hanging out with club kids and doing makeup for my cool art friends. Raves were huge in San Francisco in the ‘90s. I wanted to become the next Kevyn Aucoin or Pat McGrath so I created a portfolio of makeup looks that I did for my friends who went to the Academy of Art [in San Francisco]. I went to the MAC makeup counter at Nordstrom with my book, and they could see that I was passionate so they gave me a chance. I ended up working there for four years. It was the greatest training. I worked with people of all different ages and skin textures, everyone from women in their 60s to teens with acne. MAC was all about artistry and teaching their employees to be real artists.
You have a very specific niche as a men’s groomer for musicians. How did that come about?
I was in a band, Audrye Sessions, until I was 30. I was working at MAC when we were signed to RCA. I’d go on tour and then I’d freelance for MAC when I was home. Out on the road, I started doing makeup and hair on all my band friends and that’s when I realized I liked working with musicians. I met with agencies in San Francisco and LA. I already had huge bands in my book—Green Day, Metallica, My Chemical Romance—but they turned me down as a men’s groomer. It just wasn’t a ‘thing’ back then. That’s what prompted me to move to New York in 2013. I met with my agent in New York and they understood my niche. I said I’m a men’s groomer for musicians and they understood my vision immediately.
How did you end up styling men?
I’m a tomboy—being around guys comes very naturally to me. I have a guy in the chair and I know how to talk to him. With women I draw a blank sometimes.
How does working with musicians differ from working with other celebs?
I’m a musician so it’s easy to relate to other musicians. We talk gear. We talk about being on the road. A lot of people haven’t been on the road or slept in driveways.
Musicians are laidback. They trust me. Whatever their new song or album is, I go along with that vein and we figure out what works together. I had a legendary musician in my seat and I asked him what he wanted to do and he said “I want to stay looking like a wooly mammoth.” With rock ’n’ roll boys they want to look disheveled. They don’t want to look done. Actors are used to being behind the chair so they know more of what they want, they already have their favorite products.
What’s it like to work with men versus women? Are there any differences once they’re in the chair?
Women know what they want. They know how they want their eyes to look. They know what works. For men, it’s about the experience. It’s more sensory. Men won’t notice the small details but they want the full-on experience so I add a massage and an essential oil.
What’s your idea of good style?
I like a nice trimmed beard—I’m past the really big beards. I want slicked back hair to come back. We’ve been doing the hard line on the side for a while now.
What advice would you give to guys about developing their own personal style?
I would tell them not to be shy about purchasing products. Who cares? Everybody’s doing it. Don’t be shy about getting what you need for your skin or hair.
What are some grooming products every guy needs?
V76 Lip Balm is the best ever. I get ten at a time. I have a palette of lip balms and the whole top row is V76 because it’s my favorite. I also love the V76 Beard Oil. It helps with ingrown hairs. Men need a good exfoliator and a moisturizer. I always suggest a gel type moisturizer with SPF because it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing lotion. A hydrating toner would be helpful too. For hair, I like a good sea salt spray or a texture clay. V76 Texture Clay smells good too. Boys are so weird about smells--when I’m working with men, they don’t want overtly masculine smells. They want something more herbal.
Which musicians have you loved working with?
I loved working with My Chemical Romance. They’re a great team. They treated me like family. I love Metallica. I’ve worked with them for eight years.
Is there a dream client you have your eye on?
G-Eazy. He’s an Oakland rapper. I like his style, the way he does his hair. He’s hip hop and rock ’n’ roll. Think Chelsea Beatle boot with a hip hop outfit-—very Yves Saint Laurent. He’s my bucket list.
Are there any similarities between grooming and playing music?
It’s very much the same. Both are art forms that you can pull inspiration from any source and apply it to your subject. For example, if you gather from a source like the 1950s, you can make a rockabilly bass line or apply it to a hairstyle by creating a greaser pompadour.
What was it like being a woman in an all-male band or in the music industry in general?
In the music industry you need to be ready to accept what comes [with] being in a band whether you are male or female. I was forced to adapt to living in a van and on the road in such tight living quarters for months on end. Feminine things did arise and those were the hardest to talk about. It's so personal. But the boys all ended up being like brothers so it worked out in the end and when the band parted ways it was weird to adjust to a so-called ‘normal’ life. The adjustment of lifestyle was harder than being in an all-male dominant industry.
Do you still play music?
No, I don’t but I should. I miss it. My husband plays music. He’s a singer songwriter—Americana, folk. I’m going to play bass for him until he finds someone. Maybe in the future I’ll be in a big Americana band.
What’s next for you in your career? What do you want out of 2020?
I moved to Nashville so my focus this year is country. I’ve worked with every genre—rap, punk, metal. I want to work on some country boys.