Alexa Carter Talks Songwriting, Classic Movies, Working with James Stroud, and Touring with Aaron Lewis…
Fri, 02 Dec 2011 08:19:36
Alexa Cater is everything a 21st century songstress should be.
She's keeps an eye on the past, while moving forward. She finds harmony between classic country storytelling and modern pop magnetism. She's also struck a balance between raw integrity and mainstream palatability.
The Mississippi native landed in America's most musical town, Nashville, last year after a stint in New York. Signing to R&J Records and teaming up with legendary producer James Stroud, her experiences and wise perspective make for some downright incredible music delivered via her flawless voice.
Carter pens powerful, poignant, and poetic songs about life and love, and then she belts them out with earth-shattering elegance. Recently, she dueted with Staind singer Aaron Lewis on the re-record of "Tangled Up in You" from his debut solo EP, Town Line.
Her performance exuded a hypnotic beauty, perfectly entwining with Lewis's vocals. Audiences then fell in love with her as she supported Lewis on a recent tour. However, this is only the beginning. Carter is readying her debut for R&J records, and it's bound to be one of the best albums of 2012.
Alexa Carter sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about her music and so much more…
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint visual pictures with the songs?
Definitely! When I was living in New York, I thought that you had to tell stories metaphorically. However, sometimes the most simple sentence or line is the most powerful. When I moved to Nashville, some of the people I wrote with were hardcore country writers and they made me realize that again. I want to paint a picture and put in some simplicity. It's also important for me to say something people aren't saying over and over again. There a thousand ways to tell someone you love them. For me, it's crucial to say something everyone understands but in my own way.
What does your song "On and On" mean to you?
Time is just going and going, and everyone is so worried about all of the artificial, materialistic things that they're not taking time to simply live. It's different. It's easy to get caught up in writing about relationships and love, but I always try to step out of the box. I've seen how people don't really take a minute, slow down, and appreciate life for what it is. I feel like this song states that.
Where did "Help This Hurt" come from?
My bass player Jackson Eppley and I hadn't seen each other in a little while so we set up a co-write together. When we saw each other again, it was after I had recently broken up with my boyfriend of a year-and-a-half. I moved to Nashville, and long-distance is just not good [Laughs]. Jackson had also broken up with his girlfriend at the time, so we definitely were not in the mood to write anything uplifting and happy. We were unanimously like, "Let's write a really sad song because that's what we feel right now". It's about going through a breakup and all you want is to hear the other person say that they're sorry. I was absolutely heartbroken, and I felt like it was my fault. It wouldn't have made anything 100 percent better, but all I wanted to hear was "Sorry". That would've helped the hurt a little bit. It would've taken some of the pain off me. The song definitely slipped out. It didn't take much time to write. When I was going on tour with Aaron Lewis, "Help This Hurt" was pretty much the most popular song with everyone. It made me feel great that people connected to that one the most. He was my first true love.
What else influences you outside of music? Do you read often or watch many movies?
Absolutely, I've actually taken my notebook to the movies before and written down anything that popped into my head as I'm watching the film. Growing up, I was more the mystery book reader. I was into James Patterson. As a writer, I started getting into more heartfelt books. I read and I actually do have poetry books so I can get more inspiration. Once I find a new artist, I'll drive around and listen constantly. When I go home to Mississippi, those are the times I'll sit down with a guitar and start writing. When you sit outside in silence looking at the kind of view, it's inspiring.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I'm not really into chick flicks unless it's a classic with incredible acting like The Notebook. I'm definitely a sucker for old black and white movies. I'm a huge fan of Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and Gene Kelly. I love Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany's as well as Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh. When I watch some of those, that's when I jump on piano and start writing. I'm also into dramatic movies like Inception. I get inspired to write by going back to the oldies though.
What has James Stroud brought to the music?
That man is like a second dad to me. He makes me feel so comfortable to feel free and do whatever. He's got such a huge heart, and he gives to everyone. The guy is a big deal! When I first met him, I was definitely extremely nervous. I sang a couple of songs for him, and all of the nerves went out of the room and I simply sang. He thinks the world of me. To have someone who thinks that of you is so inspiring and it makes you want to keep doing better. There's such great energy. You can ask anyone he's ever worked with and they'll say the same thing. He's so funny! I love him to death. He and my dad are best friends now, and it's one big laugh when they're together.
What stuck out the most about your tour with Aaron Lewis?
In April, I was home for Easter, and Aaron was playing an acoustic show at The Hard Rock. Aaron was like, "If she's going to be there, why doesn't she just sing 'Tangled Up in You' with me?" I said, "Hell yes!" That was the first time we ever sang it together. The tour was so much fun! Aaron has the most amazing voice. He is never off. It was such an incredible experience for me. In that short month, my voice grew so much. I could really hear a difference. I wanted to go back in and re-record! I just wanted to keep going. When I get the chance to do it again, I'm going to jump right on it. It helped me out in every way. I know I grew as an artist.
What's your perspective on "Tangled Up In You"?
I've always thought that was such a beautiful song! Aaron is an unbelievable songwriter. When I got in the studio with Aaron, I was totally taken by the song. I fell in love with it. It means so much more when you're actually singing those lyrics.
Have you heard Alexa Carter yet?