INTERVIEW WITH ALEXZ JOHNSON
David Hintz - What sort of tour are you on now?
Alexz Johnson - This is the "Skipping Stone" Tour which is an EP that I did in order to start up my Kickstarter campaign to get funding underway.
DH - Yeah, it surprises me when I see how successful Kickstarter campaigns have gone for people.
AJ - Yeah, I raised about $67,000 for touring.
DH - Wow.
AJ - It's from all the fans that will come to the show from the Kickstarter network. And the EP I basically did for $300 with some friends. I reached out to some producer friends as I wanted to make it very minimal so I could tour easily.
DH - So what kind of backing musicians do you use?
AJ - This is my band here--super talented musicians.
DH - Were they on the EP?
AJ - They were not on the EP I just did, but they will be involved in the next record.
DH - Have you done a tour across the US yet?
AJ - This is my first US tour. I'm Canadian, actually, from Vancouver BC.
DH - No kidding? Home of my friend Joe Keithley of DOA, punk rock musician, agitator, Green Party politician... You don't live there now though?
AJ - I live in Brooklyn now. I basically was living in Toronto and I had a band there. And I decided to just put my stuff in storage. I was really broke...
DH - You're a musician.
AJ - I just sold the stuff I didn't need and moved to New York and have been there 10-11 months now in Brooklyn.
DH - I finally visited there and it was fun and I finally saw the evidence of that vibrant scene. I wanted to talk about the music of yours that is featured on (the US television show) Degrassi, that's the new Degrassi...
AJ - Yeah, they purchased one of my songs which is really cool.
DH - Now did they come to you for a finished product or did you write something specifically for them?
AJ - Basically, they come to me wanting something I have written.
DH - OK, so you do your own songs as you want. Will this relationship continue there or other television/movie deals?
AJ - Yeah, it is weird as a musician trying to get songs placed there (TV, movies), but it's great. But I am pretty focused on the next album right now.
DH - Sure, that kind of exposure is something that is so much more important these days with less radio.
AJ - Right, yes.
DH - So are you with a label?
AJ - Indie... no management, either. I am doing this all by myself.
DH - Cool.
AJ - Yeah, I have worked with different people, many different managers. I just feel at this point, with the position I'm in now... I don't know, I just feel like even though I've met a lot of different managers who are interested, but until I meet one that will be right for me, I don't why I would give a large percentage away, when I'm just surviving.
DH - Yes, it's a real partnership you need to consider... it is amazing how independent everything is now. I don't think you would hear someone talk this way a few decades back.
AJ - Yeah, it is a different industry now. There's no need for it--you don't need to sign a major deal any more, you know? And you want to be in a position as an artist where you have built enough that you don't have to give away as much.
DH - Yeah, I am not sure I have ever understood the industry, but if you can find the way to keep your creative space intact, then follow that path.
AJ - Yeah, and I'm not in any weird kind of rush, you know. And my expectations aren't huge either, which is why this tour has been so amazing because it's like, I don't know, but I'm just going to keep throwing myself in. I don't really know what to expect, like how many people are going to show up to each venue. I don't know, but it's been fun, just building and growing.
DH - Trying to predict markets, never easy.
AJ - And I want to get a lot better, better and better.
DH - And is that a part of doing a long tour working with a full band.
AJ - Yeah, they are amazing.
DH - I think it's a common outcome. There are really good local bands, but the ones that are road tested and have played a lot of shows over many years, just seem to have that little bit extra. It's more than just the talent.
AJ - Exactly, well hopefully you will like the show tonight.
DH - Hope so. So, who were the musical acts and bands that you grew up with and were inspired by?
AJ - I grew up listening to the Temptations, Patsy Cline, Michael Jackson, stuff like that.
DH - A good variety of styles.
AJ - Exactly. I listened to a lot of soul and Jackson Browne, Van Morrison. I started getting into stuff like Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac and Warren Zevon. You know, I was kind of like inspired by authentic artists that were doing such strong material.
DH - OK, can you give me one person that is inspiration to you from the artistic world, not from music, such as an author or a film director or whatever. Take your time on that and more than one is fine.
AJ - Wow, yeah... Richard Avedon--he really inspired me with beautiful photographs.
DH - Oh, yes.
AJ - He was great. I also find Diane Keaton amazing, too.
DH - WIth Avedon's visual prowess, that makes me curious as to how your song writing works.
AJ - Strangely, it depends because I kind of want to write stuff about people in a not so straight forward way.
DH - Do you write on guitar mostly.
AJ - Yeah, but other times if I am writing, I will write some sort of creative rhythm first. And when I write, I don't start the song thinking I'm going to write a song about 'this' right now. I just kind of play around with words and work with the tone of the words which may fit nicely with a melody and I'll try to find a way to carve a sentence to what came out naturally. That is 'sometimes' how I write a song, like working with the word 'Chicago' in a song
DH - Yeah, I saw a documentary on Black Sabbath on how they would jam and crazy Ozzy Osbourne would have a germ of an idea and just improv lines whether they made sense or not just to get the rhythm and meter down. Then the bass player would finish the proper lyrics. Yet it was amazing since as you say, you just filling in gaps with whatever works or doesn't
AJ - Exactly.
DH - What is next for you.
AJ - I'll have to look at my phone. Atlanta. Chicago?
DH - All those cities with big spaces in between.
AJ - Yeah, BIG spaces in between.
DH - Is it all by van or do you have a flight or two?
AJ - No, we got a van in the back and we're doing it all by van, which is really fun as this is my first tour experience.
DH - It may eventually get old, but the live shows are always a reward for those that persevere.
AJ - Yeah, you feel very free and it ends up being an emotional time.
DH - Are you touring with any band for any length of time on this tour?
AJ - There was a potential for that to happen, but it didn't. I had some friends in a band that have gotten opening slots..
DH - Oh good, that is a benefit to travel of seeing friends and relatives, let alone playing a show with them.
AJ - Right.
DH - So what is the timetable for an album?
AJ - Probably February or March next year. Maybe even January.
DH - Super, I look forward to that. Have a great time tonight!
AJ - Thanks.