BY EVAN VOGEL
Alexx Calise. Although it’s a name that you may not be familiar with at the moment, there is a good chance you will be soon. She has already seen the successful appeal of her work unfold as it has been featured on numerous television shows (Dance Moms, Grimm and The Voice, just to name a few) over the years. As many independent artists do, Calise took to YouTube to share most of her music – and the internet spoke. She has since garnered millions of hits on her songs and established something of a fan base. Alexx took some time to talk with us about her style, what its like being an independent artist and also gave us some insight on her upcoming album, Addition By Subtraction. Check out the full interview below!
You started writing music at a young age, correct? Who were some of your biggest influences growing up?
I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid. My dad was definitely my biggest influence (he’s a guitarist as well), but I was also really into blues and grunge. I grew up listening to Silverchair, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnny Lang, B.B. King, and more. I’ve always been drawn to really emotive, passionate, and soulful music, regardless of the genre.
Have you always had your heart set on being a musician or were there other goals and dreams along the way?
Music has always been in my heart, but I’ve always been a writer first and foremost. I wrote my first story in kindergarten, so it just goes to show how many years I’ve been at it, haha. When I was 11, I picked up the guitar at first merely to facilitate my writings, but then I ended up falling in love with my instrument along the way.
In addition to music, I’m also a bit of an entrepreneur. I own my own kids party entertainment business out here in LA. We offer over 100 costumes and characters, and we’ve even appeared on The Ellen Show recently, which was pretty cool. I do some acting too, though I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur by any stretch. I’m beginning to think I have A.D.D. I can’t seem to sit still, haha.
Your songs all appeal strongly to emotions. Do you typically write from personal experiences or do you try writing from other perspectives as well?
Why thank you. I’ve definitely written from other perspectives, especially when I’m writing for licensing purposes or for other artists, but I typically write from my own life, because music is a form of therapy for me. An artist’s mind is a complex web of emotions, so there’s a lot to glean from! I’ve got a lot to say, haha.
Your music has been featured in countless television shows, particularly The Voice, Grimm, and Dance Moms, did you ever picture it happening like it did?
It’s funny, nothing has ever turned out the way I pictured it would. Nearly every little “victory” or “success” I’ve had has been out of nowhere, or it’s happened in a completely unconventional way. For example, I wrote a little song called ‘Cry’ a few years ago in my bedroom during a low moment. Little did I know that that song would become somewhat of an anthem for all of these little girls. One day, out of nowhere, all of these kids started making tribute videos and music videos using ‘Cry’, and I had no idea why. Upon further investigation, I found out it was used on this show called Dance Moms, and this little girl named Maddie Ziegler danced to it on the show. My dad suggested I make a music video featuring her in it because of how popular it was getting, so I flew Maddie out to LA, we shot the video, and the rest is history. The video now has 2.5 million hits, the song has sold over 50,000 downloads and counting, I’ve since performed on the show, and I’ve had at least six more songs on the series. Who would have thunk it?
You recently started your Fundrazr campaign for the funding of your fourth project which currently has over $2,500 of fan support, can you tell us more about it?
Certainly! I’m trying to raise money to offset some of the recording costs I incurred, as well as raise money for marketing costs. That includes an adequate PR campaign, music video production, CD duplication costs, graphic design costs, and the myriad of other things that are associated with putting out a new record. It’s quite expensive, haha!
If you’d like to be a part of the record, please check out my Fundrazr campaign page at Fundrazr.com. There’s tons of perks for contributing (even if it’s just a dollar—you can get an AC download of your choice!), such as exclusive AC shirts, a signed guitar, and clothing I’ve worn while performing on Dance Moms and Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition.
How is the new album, Addition By Subtraction coming along? Is there anything you can tell us about it? Concepts? Direction?
The album is actually all done production wise. In terms of sound, it’s a bit different from my previous works. It’s a little on the poppier side, but it’s not saccharine by any means. It’s very thought evoking and heartfelt, very lyric-driven, very emotive. I was going through a lot at the time, and you can certainly hear that. This album was a bit of a purge for me; I was getting rid of a lot of negative elements in my life, hence the title. I think you’ll hear my grungier influences in songs like ‘Blood’ and ‘End of the World’, and my lighter side in songs like ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Anchor’.
You’ve said before that you’ve always been a part of the “counterculture” and that it has lent strongly to your alternative sound, where else does your musical style draw from?
I’ve always been a bit of an outcast, and I’ve never really been part of any group. I suppose being different has always been a focal point of my writing and music. Personal struggle always provides great writing material, haha.
Being an indie artist who isn’t back by a label is tough, how have you been working on gaining exposure within the industry?
It certainly is! I find that one of the best ways of gaining exposure is by licensing your music. I belong with several agencies which help to place my music into film and TV. Getting a great placement in a movie or popular TV show is worth it’s weight in gold. I spent years trying to get interviewed and reviewed, and while that was really helpful, nothing even remotely compared to getting one big placement in a major network TV show.
My motto is to work smarter, not harder. Also, never be afraid to ask for the things you want. I’ve gotten music placed in major shows, endorsement deals, reviews, and a plethora of other things simply because I asked. You need to have a good product of course to back it up, but I think people respect the fact that I have the balls to ask them for something.
Have there been setbacks?
Absolutely! Most of them have been financial. Everything I ever make from music or my kids party business is immediately reinvested back into my music. I’ve poured thousands and thousands of dollars into my career, all with the hope of something potentially catching fire. Every time I invest in a record or a video or anything musical for that matter, I’m tossing the dice. It’s a bit nerve wracking, but it’s a gamble I’m willing to take because I believe in my music.
What benefits do you think you are afforded by not being tied to a label yet?
There are a bunch actually. I own all my publishing, I have the rights to my entire catalog, I’m in charge of every aspect of my career, and I ultimately get to do whatever I feel like doing. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. If I had to answer to a label, they’d have final say about everything. I’d have a hard time relinquishing control, unless of course I were being promoted heavily and touring extensively.
What is your favorite song to listen to right now?
I’ve been on a bit of a Kid Rock kick ever since I saw him a few weeks ago (if you haven’t seen him live yet, do yourself a favor and check it out—best concert I’ve seen in years), so I’ve been jamming out to ‘First Kiss’ and ‘3 CATT Boogie’ quite a bit!
What was your strangest fan encounter?
Usually people are very sweet. I can’t think of too many weird fan encounters offhand thankfully. All in due time I suppose, haha.
Favorite 90’s jam?
That’s a toughie since there’s so many great 90’s jams. Hmm…I’m going to have to go with ‘Freak’ by Silverchair because those are my boys.
Time to give yourself some plugs! Where can people keep up with you and all your music?
Everyone feel free to drop in and say “hi” at any of the following: