Check out our interview with singer and actress Alexa Swinton (who most recently starred on ABC’s drama series “Emergence”) who just released her debut single “You, Me, and My Purple Docs,” with the profits of this track will go to Reach Out and Read
At just 11 years old, the single formally launches Alexa’s career as a singer/songwriter and was co-written as a part of a protégé program with award-winning, Grammy-nominated music producer Dawn Elder, as well as composer Dwight Rivera and vocalists Natascha Corrigan and Lynne Fiddmont.
With the world in crisis, “You, Me, and My Purple Docs” brings an uplifting summer anthem of personal empowerment to audiences of all ages. The song showcases Alexa’s sweet and energetic vocals while featuring a star-studded lineup of Grammy winning instrumentalists including Errol Cooney, Luis Conte, Vinnie Colaiuta, and arrangements by pianist, composer Bob Malone and Elder. The sound is an enticing blend of state-of-the-art electronic production and musical virtuosity.
Follow Alexa @alexaswinton
Hi Alexa, please tell us a little about you?
Hi I am Alexa and I have an older sister and a younger brother – so I am a middle child! Which makes me the only one who can sit in the middle seat in the back of our car because when Ava and Maxim sit next to each other – they start kicking and screaming. So I have that honor. I live with my parents and grandma and grandpa and a small chihuahua named Lola in the New Jersey suburbs. My mom came to America when she was nine – she and my grandparents are Russian immigrants so there’s a lot of screaming in Russian. My dad is Canadian and a fun fact – the head of a Scottish Clan – the Swinton clan.
I have been keeping journals since I was little and am a storyteller in a family of storytellers. My mom is an actress, comedian and writer – she is also a lawyer. And a Momager! My dad is a tech entrepreneur and a trained architect. I love to read and to play and program games. My brother, sister and I are all musicians. I have been acting since I was three.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative, leader, gamer
We’re sure you have been asked this million times but how did you get in the industry?
My mother is an actress, comedian and writer. When I was three years old, she was pregnant with my brother and had some time. She noticed that I loved playing and pretending and also that I loved to sing and dance for strangers. Well – maybe she encouraged me a little bit – we were on the roof of the Metropolitan museum and she was like – Alexa -do you want to sing your song? And I would sing and dance to some funny made up tune. She also made videos of me – she still shows me a mashup of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé and “Wheels on a Bus.” Oh my god – she made so many crazy videos. So my first performance was in these family videos.
Then, she submitted me for a few projects on Actors Access and coached me for the auditions. After I booked a film, Matthew Barney’s movie, “River of Fundament” – I played a kid in a band of musical kids and a zombie crashed through our wall. Of course it was a zombie movie – rite of passage in Hollywood.
Next, we rehearsed “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” for a month when we walked around the block and that was the song I sang for a manager audition. I am still with that manager today!
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Sweet, pop, energetic /countryish /jazzyish…lol that’s five words.
Who influenced you and why did you choose to make music?
Musical theater for sure. We have been listening to musical theater soundtracks in our car since we were babies. We do spend a lot of time in our car – well, we used to before the quarantine – and my mom always played those soundtracks, or listened to the Broadway channel. So we heard “Wicked,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Once,” “In the Heights,” “My Fair Lady,” “Kinky Boots,” “Pippin,” “Mary Poppins,” “Hello Dolly,” “Matilda,” “Ragtime” and course – “Les Miz” – and many more. For our birthdays – we have a tradition of going to see a Broadway show – and with so many of us that’s a LOT of musicals every year. Both my grandmas also love Broadway.
We also have our radio set to Seth Rudetsky and the Broadway Channel. So that’s a lot of exposure to different styles of music because Broadway has it all.
Then, as we started choosing music ourselves – of course – I love pop and rock and all the music that’s popular now.
Through our singing teachers, we learned a lot of traditional songs like “Shenandoah!” and now, with Dawn Elder – who co-wrote the song and who is a Grammy nominated producer – I have been exposed to so many classic singer songwriters.
Why did I choose to make music? In my family – we always love creating our own stuff. When I was four, I sang a line of a song I made up and my mom was like – that’s a fun line – so she recorded it and then we wrote the song. Then my piano teacher put some chords on it. When we had our school talent show – I wanted to sing “Tomorrow” but my mom was like – you MUST sing your original song.
By the way – the song was – “You won’t want to miss this party – We’re having chicken with chicken sauce.”
Do you play any instrument?
I play piano and I have a wonderful piano teacher Jura Mayevsky who was a decorated artist in the Soviet Union, who immigrated to Finland, and retired in the US. He speaks Russian to me so I also get to practice my Russian. Last year, I also started learning the viola.
Do you ever get nervous?
Of course! Doesn’t everyone? I think it’s normal, especially when you have to show something you created. It’s scary because it means a lot and you want people to like it. So when singing live – there is always some feeling of – Oh My God – I am about to perform. But then you just do it.
On sets – the key for me has been to be as prepared as possible. My dad and mom always say – the practice is the work. So practice practice practice and that’s BEFORE you get to set. Then, you’re less nervous because at least you’ve done your part to be as ready as you can be.
Tell us about your debut single “You, Me, and My Purple Docs?”
This song is about putting on your favorite pair of shoes and going out into the world feeling good about yourself and taking action that helps others.
Dawn asked me when we were deciding what topic to write about – what do you want to wear when you wake up? For me, my purple docs were my favorite power shoe for a while so we wrote about that.
But – it’s not shoes for everyone – the idea is that YOU Do YOU! Put on your super power whatever it is and get out there!
It was super fun to record the song at Sunset Sound in LA – where Prince recorded Purple Rain.
What’s the story behind this song?
I am a part of a mentorship program run by Dawn Elder and she encourages many of her mentees to work on songwriting. She makes it seem accessible and of course – mentors the song writing and the producing too.
How is working with very talented award-winning, Grammy-nominated music producer Dawn Elder, as well as composer Dwight Rivera and vocalists Natascha Corrigan and Lynne Fiddmont?
Dawn is a super talented producer and is so knowledgeable about music. She is also passionate about sharing her love for musicians and songwriters. Dwight is an amazing musician – he is also so fun to work with. Natascha is a lovely singing teacher and a brilliant vocalist – she encourages us to sing in our natural voices.
On the acting side, tell us about your work on ABC’s drama series “Emergence?”
It was an incredible experience and I am super grateful to the show runners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters who gave me the opportunity. I love the story and the character of Piper. I am definitely a sci-fi fan and so the show was perfect for me. Also I am grateful I got to work with Allison Tolman who is an amazing person and a great actor. I loved the whole cast and learned so much from every actor. Clancy Brown is a LEGEND – I mean he is Mr. Krabs on “SpongeBob!” Also Donald Faison was in one of my favorite movies ever – “Clueless.” I also made a great friend – Ashley Aufderheide who played Mia. I was lucky to work with another kid actor – we have so much in common.
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
Everything about it is fun and rewarding – I get to pretend and be in stories! We get to meet so many cool creative funny people. Plus I love the crafty on sets. It’s unlimited lemonade unless my mom sees.
What’s not rewarding? I don’t always get to be in school for some important things such as year end concerts. So it’s like I rehearse for the concerts for a few months with my class and I even have a solo and then suddenly – we find out I won’t be there and someone else sings my solo. Last year I almost missed my fourth grade graduation but luckily we made it back from LA on an overnight flight. We went right from the plane to school.
What are the five things you can’t live without?
Chocolate, Books, Netflix, Roblox, and my FAMILLYYYYYY
What’s next for Alexa Swinton in 2020?
A lot. We just released the “Purple Docs” music video. I am also working on a children’s book with my mom and we are editing our short film “Kooky Spook” about a Russian immigrant girl’s first Halloween in America.
I am also super excited to work on a new thriller shooting in the fall but I can’t talk about that one yet.
What is your favorite song? And why?
I love Camilla Cabello’s “LIAR” and I love the video for it. It is brilliant and creative and funny and she is a super comedic actress. I almost worked with her once on a commercial but then… well it’s a very long story and one you can read about in the novel I am writing with my mom. We are definitely using it – the character Skylie is based on me and she is a kid actress.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
Well, kid entrepreneurs should 1000% read Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club book. 1000 percent.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
This is funny. Over the quarantine, I have been doing a lot of academics including some math contests courses online. In this one course, I was the youngest student plus the other kids were all math contest pros. I slugged it out for two weeks – for three hours a day – I was doing a lot of smiling. Then, when it was time for the next course – we debated whether it was good for me to work on my grit or perseverance or just take a few weeks to relax. We decided that relaxing was also OK. There are tough decisions ahead of course – we are deciding now whether to go to school in person or do virtual school.
Any loves other than music and acting?
I love to cook! My dad is an amazing chef and we both wake up early so we sometimes are on breakfast duty. And by sometimes I mean always. I also love watching design shows on TV and I love to decorate my houses in SIMS 4. I LOVE video games – my brother and I play Roblox together.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Einstein because he is recognized as one of the world’s most creative person ever. Love his hair. I would also love to meet Audrey Hepburn because she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. And I love her look too at “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Best advice ever given?
My grandfather who survived World War II always says – the only thing that doesn’t require work is peeing in the shower. That saying rhymes in Russian apparently.
So basically, if you want anything in life – you have to work for it.
Name one your strengths?
I am decisive. I also am empathetic so that helps me with my acting – to see the world from someone else’s point of view.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
Sleeping in until like 7:30 (I’m an early bird) having crepes for breakfast, going for a walk, adopting or volunteering at a dog shelter, go horseback riding, (I want to try so bad, though I’ve never done it.) watch a movie with my family, going out to lunch in town with my friends, taking a walk there, go home and watch YouTube, and have a dinner my dad made, watch another movie with my fam, and then SLEEEEEEEPPPPPP
What is your favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
Any Broadway song especially “At The Ballet” from “Chorus Line!”
What is your own definition of happiness?
When something makes you feel complete or at peace. Chocolate. My rescue dog. Wavy hair. A good mystery book. My own bedroom – soon!! One day I want to rescue a husky – I love their blue eyes.
Do you support any charities?
Yes! We are donating the profits from “Purple Docs” to Reach out and Read – a charity that supports early reading for families. I am recording some books for their social media also. Reading is one of my very favorite things to do – my mom read to us for ten years every night and I want other children to have that opportunity to have books read to them. Reading expands your world!
I have also worked with a great organization – the Cinderella Club. It’s a mentoring program for young girls.
My siblings and I also try to perform, when possible, at retirement and nursing homes. It is a small way to try to share some joy! Unfortunately, that is on hold just now. But I was fortunate to be invited by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation to perform, virtually, for folks at a major hospital in Nashville.
What is your favorite food?
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully having my own room, reading, because its 12:25, so probably doing something that a teen would be doing at that time. Currently I share my room with my siblings.
What do you think of Social Media?
I’m on Snap mostly, so that’s fun because all my other platforms are parent overseen. My sister loves TikTok so she gets me to do videos with her.
Also my mom is doing a comedy TikTok starring my brother – based on their standup – and I am the cinematographer and also director for some videos.
I’m super impressed by all the content creators out there!
I also play on Roblox and Scratch which in a way are social network. For Scratch what’s nice is that random people see your work and they judge it for what it is – not for who you are – and some of my games have had huge numbers of likes and visits – very satisfying. Roblox is nice because you can also make games and share them with friends.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “Over and Next” – Norman Lear. We heard him speak and met him in New York a few years ago.
This has been my quote for all of my life for work. When auditioning you have to forget the project and a role after you audition. You give it your best – you share your performance – just often to a tiny audience – maybe just a couple of people (or nowadays maybe just your mom and a video camera). But after that, because you might get it, I don’t keep thinking about it. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But just want to be happy that I gave my best to each performance.
Movie: “Ready Player One”
Travel Destination: Hawaii. One trip there is NOT ENOUGH!!!! We went for a fabulous wedding a few years ago in Oahu. Thank you Steve and Marcelo for having your wedding there and getting us all to come. We also went to the Big Island and walked on the volcano.
Sports Team: New York Yankees and New Jersey Devils. I’m a proud New Jersey gal, and I spend A LOT of time in NYC.
Photo Credit: Emily Assiran