Article By: Jason Goodlett
Photographs by: Kumasi Lewis
In a world where we often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of just trying to make it, it’s entirely refreshing to come across someone who, in spite of it all, chases after their hearts’ desire. Alex Isley is in love with music. Maybe her last name made her destined for it, but that love was evident at a young age. Daughter of guitarist Ernie Isley, of the famed Isley Brothers, Alex is an LA Native, a UCLA Jazz Studies graduate, and a talented young singer and songwriter. Her personal style weaves elements of neo-soul, folk music, and jazz into melodies that she eventually hopes will transform her into a respected and acclaimed artist one day – a versatile artist with her own identity who will continue to add luster to the renowned Isley name.
YOO-N-LA: Who is Alex Isley?
ALEX ISLEY: “In simplest terms, Alex Isley is someone who likes to create. Someone who speaks from the heart through her music. That’s what I was born to do. It’s what I love, and it’s my passion. I like to be inspired and take those different inspirations and blend them together and make something of my own.”
YNLA: Is Alex Isley, the person, different from the Alex Isley, the artist?
AI: “No, they’re pretty much one in the same. There’s no gimmick or anything like that. It’s just me.”
YNLA: I read somewhere that your first performance was when you were five years old; do you remember any of that?
AI: “I remember a little bit…I remember the costume I had. My aunt designed it for me [it had] a little apron. I performed ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ so I was dressed as Dorothy. In little barn style boots, and French braids and…”
YNLA: Wait, was this at school? Or….
AI: “…It was a talent show, it was in the 1st grade.”
YNLA: Do you remember being nervous?
AI: “No. I just remember smiling, being excited, and anticipating being onstage even though I had never been before. I remember being really happy when I got off the stage.”
YNLA: How exactly did you get into singing and come to love it?
AI: “I developed a love and appreciation for music at a really young age. I absorbed a lot of it from my dad, who listened to music all the time – in his car, in his house. My mom listened to Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, [and] Prince while my dad was listening to Chicago, War, The Spinners, etc…so I just absorbed everything that I was hearing.”
YNLA: It appears that the love of music kind of runs in your family. Who has been most influential in your development as an artist?
AI: “My mom has definitely been part of it. My grandmother, a former opera singer, helped me technically to develop as a singer. [She] taught me how to breathe properly and got me into singing classical music – so Grandma helped a lot as well.”
YNLA: Your mom mentioned to us that you have had the opportunity to come into contact with some pretty big time acts such as Babyface, David Foster, and your uncle Ronald Isley. Have any of them offered any special or meaningful advice to further assist you in the pursuit of your dream?
AI: “I had the opportunity to meet Alicia Keys back in 2004. I told her that I sing and play some piano, and she just told me keep chasing my dream. She told me not to back down from anyone and to not let anybody tell me that I can’t have my dream.”
YNLA: Our magazine is extremely LA-centric and LA-focused, is there any way LA has helped you become the person or the artist that you are?
AI: “I think if you’re outside of LA you can view it as superficial or phony, but I think the people that are raised here are pretty genuine and [very] down to earth. There are also great scholarship foundations here like the Dolo Coker Jazz Scholarship Foundation for high school and college students. They give scholarships to students.”
YNLA: Was the Dolo Coker Jazz Scholarship Foundation particularly supportive of you?
AI: “They were. I competed in their competition for three years. And Bella Coker, Dolo Coker’s widow, is doing a fantastic job of running that scholarship. There’s also the National Association of Negro Musicians, and they’ve always been very helpful and supportive of young artists, particularly jazz artists.”
YNLA: So there have been a couple of different LA based organizations that have aided you in your musical development?
YNLA: Hypothetical situation: If you woke up tomorrow, and you were told that there was no more money to be made by selling or performing music, would you still pursue it and/or be as passionate as you are?
AI: “Definitely, the money aspect of it is nice. But it doesn’t make me any more ambitious, and it’s not why I’m making music in the first place. It’s just not my motivation. So I’d still be just as passionate about what I’m doing.”
YNLA: Why is that? Why is making music so important, what does it do for you?
AI: (Pauses.) “It’s like breathing. It makes me happy. It just gives me the ability to tell stories and say things that I may not be able to articulate otherwise. Singing and performing onstage gives me freedom. It puts me in a place where I can forget about the outside world and whatever else is going on.”
YNLA: Alright this is way off topic, but I was just wondering – do you karaoke at all?
AI: “I don’t, but I want to!”
YNLA: It’s funny that you say that because you may not know this but uh…I sing a little bit myself too. I mean I’m not classically trained or anything, but I get down, ok? Anyway, we have a karaoke team…it’s only two of us, but you should come out with us some time! It’d be fun to get somebody out there with some actual talent and tear up the LA Karaoke scene. Maybe you can open for us?
AI: (Laughs.) “Ok!…You know what though…If I sang Karaoke, I don’t think I could be serious about it! It depends on what song I sang too. I mean I’d actually probably do a rap song before anything else – just because I think it would be really fun!”
YNLA: Deal!…What’s going on now for you though? What’s next for you? Anything on the horizon?
AI: “Right now I’m wrapping up working on my first project. It’s my EP entitled The Love Art Memoirs, and it’s a collection of songs I started writing in 2006. It’s just a bunch of songs, and they all revolve on the idea of love – finding love, losing love, being in love, having love for yourself, etc. The EP has five songs on it, all written and produced by me, and I’m just really anxious and excited to get this out.”
YNLA: Of the songs you’ve recorded can you tell us your personal favorite, what it’s about, what inspired it, and maybe where our readers can hear it?
AI: “I’d have to say my favorite song that I’ve recorded so far is ‘Set In Stone’ – I wrote it about 4 years ago, and it’s actually the single on my upcoming EP. I have my Facebook Fan page [/LoveAlexIsley] and twitter @LoveAlexIsley. The lyrics are definitely based on my past experiences and being convinced [that a relationship] was permanent, yet only to discover that things were temporary. The song pretty much tells my story in a nutshell.”
YNLA: What’s the process been like?
AI: “It’s been a LOT of work. I’m still learning the ropes of logic and the equipment I have. It’s really hard sometimes, but I think it’ll definitely be worth it in the end.”
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