Interview: Singer / Songwriter – Alex Boyd
SoCalMusicToday.com recently caught up with singer/songwriter Alex Boyd to discuss the recording process of his upcoming album Commit Me and his visions for the album as well as his experiences in music school and the rebirth of the show Fame with Debbie Allen and how they’ve helped him get to this point in his life. Make sure to check out Alex Boyd as he puts on an acoustic set at the W Hollywood Hotel on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to us, how’s everything?
Everything is fantastic man, very happy about life right now.
You have an album called Commit Me that’s set to be released this year, when is it scheduled to be released?
Well, we were hoping for a Fall release, but it looks like we’re going to be recording a few more tracks before sending out any tapes, but I’m hoping for the end of the year, the single “Light Up Tonight” is already out, so we’re going to try and work that on the radio before we try to release the album.
How have you felt about the feedback after the release of “Light Up Tonight”?
You know, we’re very blessed, we haven’t gotten one bad review. So we’re getting a lot of love from people of all walks of life, urban community, pop community, rock community. I looked on the website and it looks like you guys do a lot of rock acts. On the other hand I’m getting write-upss on SoulBounce.com being compared to Robin Thicke and some people are picking up the jazz influence which to me, it feels like we ruined their job because there’s something in it for everyone.
You have a wealth of musical experience in a number of different genres, what influenced you to get to your style of music?
I’m not sure if it was so much a process of elimination, if you put enough effort into trying to find something and you don’t know what it is, eventually you just stumble upon it, you just become it (laughs). I think that’s what happened, I spent so much time trying to be people I admired in all genres of music that I couldn’t really help but be myself and one of the first times where I really felt like I found my sound was when I stopped listening to myself in the headphones when I was recording and I really started listening to the way I felt during the performance because if you’re constantly critiquing yourself during your recording, you’re not giving it 100 percent, that’s the nature of criticizing, you’re ultimately comparing it to something. When I stopped making comparisons of myself to the people I admired, I felt like that’s when I really came into my own.
Talk about your experiences at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the Interlochen School and how they helped shape who you are in this album.
Well, Duke Ellington was a world of difference from Interlochen. Interlochen is a private school and Duke Ellington is a public arts school. Interlochen’s campus was in the middle of a national forest in Michigan with about 400 students from 60 different countries with English as a second language, whereas Duke Ellington was in the middle of Georgetown with maybe 10 white kids in school, it was really urban, so I got in touch with the music in the urban community that I really admire while I was at Duke Ellington: Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Donny Hathaway, Stevie (Wonder), Common, I remember when his album dropped when I was in high school and it’s an honor to have him on the record as one of his peers. When I went to Interlochen, heavy opera stuff, I always still have the dreams of being a big pop singer, whatever “pop” means. Pop could be anything, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Mark Foster of Foster the People with their song “Pumped Up Kicks”. Pop is whatever is on pop radio and I wanted to be a frontman, so even while studying opera, I was working with the kids in the jazz band doing standards and I did some of my first recordings at the Interlochen recording studio that they have at their public radio station, so I think the first real recording started there.
Growing up on the East Coast, what’s the experience been like for you here in LA along with recording the album?
Well, recording the album took place about three and a half years ago, and to be honest, the recording of the album (in LA), that’s not really accurate. I met my producer, Andy (Rose), who helped co-write the album about three and a half years ago when he was moving out of film-starring world, to building a studio for himself and making records. Before that, it was five years and he was grinding, I was struggling and having my heart broken, over and over and it really thickened my skin. At the time it was awful, it’s been a really rough ride, but it’s given me everything I need to stand on my own now because, the truth is, as much as I always believed this would be a big thing, I didn’t know when and I didn’t realize it would start off as big as it has, I got a deal with Jive Records and now my photo is up on their page next to Justin Timberlake’s, which is insane. It’s an absolute dream come true, I feel vindicated from all the jitters over the years, but there’s another side of me saying I knew I’d be here, I just had to wait for the right opportunity.
You’ve performed the single “Light Up Tonight” on late night television shows.
Actually, not yet, we performed on the CBS Morning Show, which was great and I had a showcase for the record label in New York, so there’s some footage there, but not quite there yet, if you know Letterman, let him know about me (laughs).
Well we’re not there yet, but hopefully soon (laughs), but how did those performances help you get on the radar?
Well on the Facebook Insights page they have a track to how many people visit the page and on the day of the event, it skyrocketed, tons of new followers, so I think people started to pay attention to it and people from all walks of life and all ages, which is what’s beautiful about these songs, the girls can swoon but then the older generations can see a little bit of that music they loved when they were growing up, so, I don’t know, I think there’s something in it for everyone.
With all the stuff you’ve done throughout the years so far, with this album coming soon, what are you hoping people take away from this album?
I really hope to re-instill people’s faith in music again because the industry has become so bastardized and soulless and money-driven. We all like to make money to support ourselves, in spirit, but we have the real big money that was made in the record business was when people were still making it because of the music, because it healed them and the people around them and they told their stories and now I hear Adele come on after Akon on KIIS FM and that tells me that something’s shifted and I think it’s a beautiful thing, I just hope to be part of that.
You mentioned Common earlier as an artist you enjoyed while at the Duke Ellington School. There is a track on your upcoming album in which you collaborate with him, talk about how that came about and are you happy with the result?
I couldn’t be happier with the result, the song is called “Between The Line” and it’s co-written, I really had written this song when I was 19 or 20 years old, so it’s one of my oldest songs and it had an interesting format, it was ABCB, or Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus. Where was the second verse? But people still loved it and in order to put it on a major release and get it out on the radio we had to have a second verse and we figured instead of write one, why not reach out to a rapper, not because we were trying to hop on his bandwagon, I just love hip-hop music and most of the time you’ll hear that in my car, right now I’m listening to Westside Connection, original Ice Cube gangster rap, I love that stuff and we didn’t have that representation in the 10 songs that were on the album, so we figured this would be a good time to do it and my producer’s lawyer happened to be Common’s lawyer and for me it was like either we find a rapper that really raises the bar or just the integrity on the album or we just write something new. The first choice was Common and the second choice that we were tossing around was Andre 3000 because I think they’re really the last two guys in the hip-hop community that speak about something important, it’s not a narcissistic endeavor for them, so we appreciate that and it was out of a respect for that that it worked out.
Another experience for you was getting on the show Fame in 2003, what was that experience like for you?
It was cool, some of my first professional gigs when I was a teenager 13-14 years old, Debbie Allen, from the original Fame, gave me some of my first real jobs, one of my first leading roles on the Kennedy Center Stage and she hosted this show Fame on NBC. I’d been off at boarding school at Interlochen for a couple years and then I got in touch with her and after a series of interesting events I got kicked out of school and it felt like the end of the world, but if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been on the East Coast to see the newspaper ad for an audition for Fame hosted by Debbie Allen and I hadn’t seen her in years and I went through the whole audition process with 30,000 people, sat in line with my number and it was really cool when they called my number and they weren’t expecting to see me and it was Debbie and choreographer Terry Beeman who had worked on all our shows, Terrance Johns, who was my choir director from Duke Ellington so it was like a blast from the past and that’s what brought me to LA and in fact I’m sitting here at my good friend Richard Glass’ hair salon and he did Debbie’s hair for Fame and we’ve been friends ever since.
Signing with Jive, how did that come about?
We had gone through and shopped a lot of labels and we had met just about everyone and we thought that we had a deal with Universal, but nothing ever came out of it and we had to pick ourselves back up and show the world we believed in this material, or give up and God knows we won’t give up, so we just got the music up online with the hope that we’d get bloggers to write about it and actually, Mark Foster from Foster the People had been working with my producer Andy as a solo artist before forming the group and he was into the whole Indie scene and taught me how to use Hype Machine to get mentioned. So that’s what I did for many months was get as many people to write about it and then eventually on Google if you type in my name, the first 20 pages were all me and so a friend of a friend of mine who is a stylist for Maxell, asked if he could send it to Maxell, I said absolutely and then I met them on a Tuesday and the next Tuesday, I signed with Jive, so my managers are definitely music industry hitmen (laughs).
You’re performing August 2 at the W Hollywood Hotel, are you excited to get into a live setting especially here in Hollywood?
Absolutely, it’s what I live for and you can tell when I get on stage, I’m not tooting my own horn, that’s just where I feel most comfortable in this world and it shows. I think we’ve spent a lot of time writing songs that stand their own even on an acoustic level and I’m proud to say I think we accomplished that, and doing an acoustic set like this gives me an opportunity to show that to people. Our songs as beautifully produced as they are, it’s not a production driven album, it’s a song driven album and if you get a chance to come check it out, I think you’ll see that.
With all the experience you’ve had to this point, how do you think it’ll help you in the coming years in terms of touring other parts of the nation and more albums?
The only way you survive in this world is to learn every step of the way and God knows I’ve made mistakes over the past few years and I’ve done my absolute best to learn from them and I’d like to say they’ve all benefited me, so who knows where the next album is going to go, I don’t even know exactly where all these songs came from that we wrote, I know they came from stories in my life, but how does it come together? There’s definitely an element of divinity, there’s something bigger at hand here, music is for everyone, it’s not just mine. The music that I make belongs to everyone, so I just hope that we can continue telling these stories and sending good messages and inspiring people.