Our interview with talented indie musician Alexx Calise.
We chat about her career, her new song “Breathe” and how was working closely with the “Dance Moms” girls.
Hi Alexx, please tell us a little about you?
Hi! I’m a Cancer, I enjoy long walks on the beach, and I play a guitar and sing a little 😛
When did you start, and when did you know this was the professional life for you?
I’ve been singing from a very young age, and I started playing guitar at 11. I always knew I’d be a writer (as I wrote voraciously as a kid), I just didn’t know I’d end up a songwriter necessarily. As I started putting melodies against my lyrics, I knew this was something I was good at, and I wanted…no, NEEDED to do in order to make me happy.
What kind of music did you grow up with?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a very musical household. My parents played me Bela Fleck, Rolling Stones, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Led Zeppelin. My first concert was the Beach Boys. Later on, I discovered the blues on my own, and really dug into Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sean Costello. I also loved grunge like silverchair, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and The Toadies.
Who was your music inspiration at that moment, and who is now?
My father was a huge musical inspiration for me. When my brother and I were little, he’d play guitar and sing for us all the time. I wanted to be just like him, and he’s the main reason I wanted to be a musician. As far as people I’m inspired by now, I’d have to say my best friend and songwriting partner, Dennis Morehouse (we have a band called SOC together). He’s such an amazing drummer, songwriter and arranger, and he really knows how to paint a picture musically speaking, probably better than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m also a huge fan of Daniel Johns’s songwriting (from silverchair), AWOLNATION, Glass Animals, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Pink Floyd, The Cure, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Lynne, and so many others. It’s hard to name them all.
What kind of music do you listen on daily basis?
I’m a lover of music in general, so it doesn’t really matter which genre it is. I was rocking some DNCE and Melanie Martinez the other day because I was in a pop kind of mood, but other days I’ll crank Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Pantera, Glass Animals, The Exies, Oleander. I even have Dimestore twenties music on my iPhone. I don’t discriminate; I just play what’s good!
In your point of view, how is the music scene right now?
Music is in a really weird place these days. I don’t know if people appreciate it as much (at least in a live sense) as they did years ago. There are a lot of things competing for people’s attention now (Netflix, Snapchat, Facebook, a myriad of other things), so it’s hard to get them out of the house to come see you. I get it to some extent, I just wish more people would patronize the arts. I go out several nights a week to support my friends’ art, and I go to feed my soul as an artist and a person.
What is next for you?
I’ve been really concentrating on my other project, SOC. We’re gearing up to tour soon, and we’ve been tirelessly rehearsing and writing so we can showcase. I’ve never been so passionate about a project. This is Dennis Morehouse and I’s baby; it’s been a studio project for over 7 years, and we’ve finally taken it live. We didn’t even realize how special it was until we played our first show in December and saw the reaction of the people in the audience. We thought to ourselves, “we’re really on to something here”.
Any exiting news you want to share with us?
My band SOC will soon be releasing our first new single in years, a cover of “6 Underground” by Sneaker Pimps!
"Breathe" Official Music Video Feat. Nia Sioux
Tell us about “Breathe”?
I wrote “Breathe” with Dennis Morehouse around the time of the election. I was so sick at the time of seeing negative posts all over social media. There was also an air of negativity that I could feel all around me, and it was suffocating me, making me feel disenfranchised, and just…depressing me in general. This song was a reminder to myself to just breathe, know that nothing lasts forever. The good will come, the bad will pass. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that.
How did you end up working with Nia and the cast of “Dance Moms”?
I’ve had about 9 songs on the show now, so the producers called me to appear on an episode this past season with Nia and Kendall. I learned that the girls are also pursuing singing careers, so I asked Nia and Kendall to come up onstage during one of my shows and sing my song “Cry” with me, which has been a big song on the show. I’ve also performed before on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, in which Maddie danced while I played one of my songs, “Survive”.
How is working with the Dance Moms girls?
It’s always a treat. At this point, I know several of them pretty well (especially the Zieglers and Siouxs), so it’s always a fun time. They’re some of the hardest working girls you’ll ever meet. They’ll go to school in the morning, film in the afternoon, and then go to practice after that. Nia’s mom has said her day usually ends around 10pm or so. I give them all a lot of credit, and they thankfully have very supportive, wonderful families who keep them grounded and focused.
What has been your most memorable experience with the girls?
It’s always fun appearing on the show of course, but I think my favorite experience was working with Maddie in my Cry video. We had no idea what the song and video would eventually become, so it was pretty magical and we didn’t know what to expect. Maddie was only 9 at the time, and her ability was just astounding. When we were filming, she brought everyone on set to tears. What I appreciate about Maddie is that she’s dancing even when she’s not dancing. She was constantly doing stretches and twirling around at my house before the shoot. It was cool to see someone that young who is so dedicated to dance. I hope she always keeps up with it, because she has an extraordinary gift.
How would you describe your style?
If you’re talking style in a fashion sense, I’m a bit all over the board. I gravitate toward boho/seventies fashion (Free People, People’s Project LA), rock ‘n’ roll (Iron Fist, Hot Topic, Killstar), and vintage. When it comes to basics, I’ll do Forever 21 or H & M because they’re usually cheap and fashionable, but then I’ll splurge on certain signature items like jackets and purses. I get complimented on at least one item of clothing everywhere I go, so I’d like to keep that trend going!
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Probing indie alternative.
How’s your typical day?
Well, I don’t know how to sit still. Every morning, I walk or run for my mental health, and then I’ll promote via social media for a few hours, work on my company (I own an LA based kids party company), write, and then usually rehearse at night with Dennis. Sleep is scarce around these parts.
Best advice ever given?
It sounds so simple, but I got this very useful piece of advice when I met and interviewed B.B. King at age 16 for a newspaper I worked for when I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. When I asked him what advice he’d give to aspiring young musicians, he said, “practice, play, and learn your instrument as best as you can”. I really took that to heart as a musician. I consistently practice 5-6 days a week with my songwriting partner and band mate, Dennis (in addition to writing sessions) because I like to think of myself as a professional, I don’t like to make mistakes, and I want to make myself better. If you want to be the best at what you do, you need to work for it. It doesn’t come easy, and it doesn’t happen on it’s own.
What do you do in your free time?
I really enjoy working out, sleeping, watching horror movies, hanging with friends, playing and writing music (because I truly love my job!), and writing.
Any tips that you can give to up-coming talent?
Yes! Ask for the things that you want (this applies to life and career). What is the worst thing that can happen if you ask? Someone tells you no? So what? Move on! Start at the top and work your way down; be persistent. Most all of my opportunities and endorsements have come about because I haven’t been afraid to ask for what I wanted or needed. Of course, you need to be able to deliver (see above; you’ve got to practice and hone your craft!).
Another big thing is to do whatever you choose to do for the love, and nothing else. The entertainment industry is one of the toughest, seediest industries there is, so make sure you’re in the game because you truly want to be, and it’s in your bones. It’s not always lucrative, and you may never attain the level of success you want to (it really has so little to do with talent, and everything to do with luck!), so be prepared for that.
What do you like to watch on tv?
I love South Park, Family Guy, Archer, American Horror Story, and Key and Peele.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
Sleeping in, jamming with my bandmate, Dennis Morehouse, hanging with my man and some friends at the beach (maybe scaling the rocks at Point Dume to see the sea lions), and grabbing some brews in the evening.
Do you support any charity?
I belong with Wear Your Music, and all proceeds from the sales of any of my used guitar string bracelets go to the Brain Trauma Foundation.
What do you think about Social media in the music business?
Unfortunately, it’s a necessarily evil these days, simply because everyone’s on social media. It takes an inordinate amount of time to keep up with all of it, and I think it kind of takes away the “mystique” that musicians and celebrities once used to have. There is no great Oz anymore, it’s just all out there. It’s great for getting the word out there about your shows and goings on, but does everyone really need to know what you’re eating for lunch?
Where we can follow you?
You can follow me here!
Favorite food: Chicken quesadilla
Travel destination: Being that silverchair is my favorite band ever, I’d love to visit Australia!
Celebrity Crush: My biggest crush is my boyfriend, Kirby Shaw. I guess you can say he’s a reality star; he’ll be on Storage Wars this month!
Actors/Actresses: I love Kevin Spacey, Anthony Hopkins, Sigourney Weaver, and Charlize Theron.
Quote: It sounds completely egocentric, but it’s from one of my songs. “Our scars are our art”.
Book: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Movies: The entire Alien series, Prometheus, American Beauty, American Psycho, and most recently, Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Drink: Alcoholic: Vodka Diet Coke / Non-Alcoholic: Diet Coke