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When did you first get into music?
I actually started discovering my love for music when I was in elementary school. I didn’t realize that I wanted to make music a career until my grandfather passed away when I was nine years old. He still is my inspiration for everything I do. He was a singer when he was younger, but once he received radiation for thyroid cancer, his vocal chords were completely destroyed. I decided from then that I wanted to live out my dream as well as his. So I started singing in a local church band in Louisiana called Soulspirit and continued singing competitions to practice and hone in on my technique and skills. I played piano for 9 years, and I am still practicing piano and keyboard. I am also about to begin learning how to play the basics of guitar from my dad, who has played for over 20 years.
What musical examples did you see growing up that inspired you to get into music?
I actually grew up to pop music and the Disney Channel age like most other kids in my school, but once I started getting older, I started listening to Reba, Tim McGraw, and many other great country artists. Also being from New Orleans I was introduced to and fell in love with blues, jazz, Cajun, and folk music. The first country song I ever heard was “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson. I used to put her CD into my single CD player and replay, sing, and dance to that one song all day. From that point, I knew my future would be wrapped around country music.
Who are some of your influences today?
Other than my family, some of my musical inspirations include Reba, Miranda Lambert, and Hunter Hayes. Crystal Gayle, who I just met last week, also has a beautiful voice and such a sweet personality. She still is a legend in the country music industry. I think Reba and her country music legacy will live on forever. She is just such an icon from her music and her personality. She truly deserves all the accomplishments she has achieved so far, and one day I am hoping I can be just as successful as she is. I love Miranda Lambert not only for her music, but for the causes she stands up for. She created the Muttnation Foundation to promote no-kill shelters for all animals. I have a soft spot for stray and abused animals, which is why my family and I take care of abandoned and stray cats that survived Hurricane Katrina. Our “Katrina Kats” include 10 outdoor cats that we have neutered and cared for to keep them out of kill shelters. Just like Miranda, I want to use the popularity from my music to promote this cause as well as others such as care for the military. I recently partnered with the National Military Family Association. A percentage of the sales made from my remake of Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” which was originally written for Vietnam War veterans, will be donated to this organization to assist deployed, wounded, and fallen soldiers and their families with financial needs. Hunter Hayes, who is also a Louisiana boy, has become an inspiration of mine very recently. He is such a sweetheart, but his music is one my favorites. I love the originality and passion in his music, and I love how humble and appreciative he is. The one thing I love about all of these artists is their perseverance. All artists have received rejection, but I love their “never give up” attitude, which inspires me every day to pursue my dream in the music industry.
Why music and not something else?
I have never felt so passionate about anything else in my life. My parents have always pushed my siblings and I to pursue our dreams no matter the obstacles. My father is an emergency physician and my mother is a nurse attorney, but they both have creative sides to them. My siblings and I have other plans. My brother is in graduate school to get his masters for Business with a dream of opening up his own brewery, while my sister will soon own her own florist business. I have never had more passion about anything in my life besides music. When my grandpa died, music seemed to be the only thing to keep his presence in my life. Besides family and friends, music is what keeps my life complete. It’s gotten me through the worst and best of times, and I can’t imagine my life without it. Some of my favorite moments are being on stage watching the crowd dance and find happiness through my music. The most satisfying moments in my life are when people come up to me and tell me how much my song means to them, and how it got them through tough situations. I feel like music connects every person in the world, and one day I want make an impact in someone’s life through my music.
What’s one thing that you love about singing country music?
I love the stories of country music and the connections the songs make with country music fans. Country music is not all about tractors, trucks, and beer. There are so many country songs that have such powerful messages like “Live Like You Were Dying: by Tim McGraw. I feel that country music makes the strongest connections with its fans. The majority of country artists have a very personal appeal. Country artists are the kind of musicians and singers that you could have a personal conversation with. A majority of country music celebrities are very down to earth and are next door neighbor people who have been blessed with an extraordinary talent and amazing opportunities. I have always wanted to be apart of the country music community and one day my dream will come true.
Do people ever ask if you’re related to Clay Aiken because of your last name?
All the time. Unfortunately we aren’t related!
What are some challenges you’ve had to face while pursuing a career in music and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had to miss out on high school events like homecoming, football games, and parties. Although I don’t have a typical teenage life, I wouldn’t change my life for anything in the world. You also always face jealousy and rejection from others. A lot of that unfortunately is self-esteem issues and rejection that the person has experienced. You just have to keep your head high and above all of the jealousy around you, as well as staying focused on your passion and keeping yourself surrounded by those who love and support you.
What projects are you working on right now? New album?
I am working on a new EP. This project will be all originals. I am writing a bunch and also looking for the songs that will really fit the vibe for this new project. I am so excited to be taking this project in a new country rock direction. I really want the fans to see a different side of me. I want this EP to reflect more of what I grew up with and the culture I am surrounded by. I will be performing many shows throughout the summer including the Flood City Music Fest in Johnstown, PA with headliners like Trombone Shorty, who is a New Orleans native. I will also hopefully be performing at the Gulf Coast Jam in Panama City Beach, FL if I advance to the next round. Out of 1600 submissions I was selected one of the 37 finalists to compete for the top nine spots to play at this festival. The festival line up includes Toby Keith, Eli Young Band, Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore, etc. Voting ends on June 11th, and the link to vote is http://www.gulfcoastjam.com/get-involved/rev/ The results will be released on June 12th. I will be playing with my new band this summer, and I am just really excited about many new opportunities in the future.
What does a typical day for Alexes look like?
During the school year, I start out from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at De La Salle High School in New Orleans, and after school it depends on what the schedule is. Sometimes I will have band practice at night, meetings, or I will write a little in my bacon notebook or go for a run. During the summer, I love to travel and hang out with my family and friends, especially crawfish boils. I do sleep in on occasions, but I usually go out in the morning and exercise and sometimes take a day trip to the French Quarter with the family. Every day is a surprise for me.
Do you have any embarassing moments on stage?
I thankfully haven’t had many embarrassing moments on stage. I have forgotten my words on stage, but thankfully my pants haven’t fallen down or I haven’t fallen on my face on stage. Hopefully none of those things will happen in the future!
So many schools today are cutting music programs, why do you think music is so important for young people to learn?
I think music is extremely important for kids. Music is sometimes the only way kids can express themselves, and music can be the one thing that can lifts someone up when they are having a bad day. Music is another way for kids to let out emotions, such as anger. If music becomes the one way that one person lets go of anger, that could be one life saved from violence.
What advice do you have for other aspiring young artists today?
As cheesy as it sounds, follow your dreams and never give up. The most successful people throughout history have faced rejection multiple times, but they never gave up. Perseverance is the best quality in a person because it shows the passion and drive someone has to pursue their dream no matter what stands in the way. Also never question yourself or your talents. I struggled with low self-confidence early on, and I honestly didn’t think I was good enough to make it in the industry. I learned to turn that low self-confidence into humility and becoming humble. Be confident, surround yourself with those who support you, but aren’t afraid to keep you in check, and pursue your passion. At the end of the day, it’s not about the money, fame, or awards. It’s about loving what you do and being happy with who you are and the talents you possess.