Alisha Gaddis laughed heartily when someone recently asked if she had gone Hollywood after she and bilingual husband, Lucky Diaz, won a Latin Grammy last year for their caffeine-infused children’s disc, “Fantastico!”
The 33-year-old Los Angeles resident remembered that, just five years ago, for financial reasons she often resorted to canned beans for supper. In fact, she made beanie weenies for Lucky when she first met him because her cupboard and her bank account were nearly empty.
“I was dirt poor,” she said speaking by phone from New Mexico while on tour for their latest Spanish album, “Aqui, Alla.” “For me, beans were a gourmet meal.”
This is to report that Gaddis, a former Columbus resident, and her spouse can afford to laugh at such memories when she was playing clubs nationwide as a standup comic and appearing in TV commercials for Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The now-dynamic duo, members of the children’s get-up-and-dance group Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, will perform 1 p.m. Sunday at Columbus’ YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets.
The past year has been filled with national media attention, from outlets as varied as Rolling Stone, CBS and People magazine, which picked their disc to be among the best kids’ releases of 2013.
“Success is all about not giving up and not taking no for an answer,” said singer and songwriter Gaddis, who was trained as an actress at New York University. “It’s having the stomach to keep going. What’s that old saying? Something like 98 percent of success is showing up? It’s true, because it’s brutal out there (to make it). Just brutal.”
Such tough going toward artistic accomplishment has given her as much gratitude as determination. To get an idea of her relentless perseverance, take a look at her additional success: a book, “Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny,” due for release in September. Her contributing writers boast big-name recognition — friends from “Chelsea Lately,” “Carson Daly,” “Comedy Central” and elsewhere.
The road to the volume’s publishing was paved with 207 rejections from literary agents. She’s determined to be the Last Comic Standing in whatever way possible.
“Even after the Grammy, Lucky and I still get rejected,” she said. “But we have become fearless.”
They also have become popular on PBS for their children’s show, “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too,” filmed in Bloomington, focusing on life in a magical treehouse. Amid all these developments, Gaddis never strayed far in recent years from the comic stage. She’ll be a standup headliner in Philadelphia soon when the duo travel to the Northeast for concerts.
“It’s interesting because it seems like, when your life is going really well, it’s hard to write stand-up (material),” she said, laughing. “It’s like, ‘I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Everything’s going really awesomely.’”
Actually, Gaddis still wedges some of her wit between songs at concerts “kind of for the parents.”
National Public Radio has called their music “rocking.” CNN called it “standout indie rock for kids.” Others put the pair’s carefree, sock-hop atmosphere in more basic terms.
“This is a wonderful event for the entire family,” said Diane Doup, community outreach coordinator for Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, which has organized the local concert and a similar one here last year.
Gaddis laughed about TV show and concert video clips of her and Lucky and sometimes even 10-year-old daughter Ella, dancing onstage as if sheer, wild exuberance has thrown them into a tizzy. She credits her dance moves to her dad, longtime Columbus East High School football coach Bob Gaddis, and mom, Karen.
“Actually, he can really cut a rug,” the performer said.
She mentioned that she also inherited her parents’ work ethic and the artistic tendencies of her grandfather, a bluegrass singer.
“Being an artist isn’t what you do,” Gaddis said. “It’s who you are.”
Sunday’s show will include tunes in English and Spanish. She hopes youngsters, especially those ages 2 to 9, attend, no matter which is their primary language.
“I’ll understand if a lot of the kids don’t know a lot of Spanish,” she said. “I tell them that I’m learning it right along with them.”