Leslie Alexander births “Nobody’s Baby”

"Nobody's Baby" to be released April 14th, 2011.

“Even Dylan would love this,” said View Magazine about music from Leslie Alexander. Her songs weave engaging stories with catchy melodies.  Since leaving a sheep farm in Edmonton to busk on a street corner, Leslie hasn’t stopped the pursuit of her passion which has brought her to festivals and concerts across North America, even opening for Jane Siberry.   Along the way, she has released 3 independent CDs and is getting ready to follow-up with her fourth, “Nobody’s Baby.”  In addition, she has garnered international airplay, honourable mentions from ISC and Billboard Song Competitions, as well as cuts with other aritsts and licenses for film and television.

Leslie Alexander is our newest featured member and she graciously took time to talk about her muse and her upcoming album.

1. What has been the most significant source of inspiration for your songwriting over the years? Whatever helps me to grow as a human being helps me to develop as a songwriter. As they say, it’s all grist for the mill.

2.  What has been the most difficult song to write? The most difficult song to write is always the next one. It’s difficult because I want it to be better than the last one. I persevere because sometimes it is.

3.  Please tell us about your upcoming album…how is it different from your past CDs both in terms of songwriting and production?
My other records were all finished within three months, and a lot of forethought and planning went into them. Each one was written around a theme, and the songs chosen to reflect that theme. “Nobody’s Baby” took a couple of years.  The songs were put down pretty much as they were written, and left to percolate until another session transpired. The subject matter of the record as a whole emerged as the songs revealed themselves. The title track was the last song of the record, and it was written and recorded in the same day.

In the past, my records were mostly comments on life in general. I don’t record a lot of songs about my personal life or feelings. “Nobody’s Baby” is probably my most autobiographical record yet.

4.  What songwriter influenced you the most in your growth as an artist, and which song speaks to this influence the most? Producer John Ellis has influenced me the most by challenging me consistently. I remember when I used to think everything that flowed from my pen was golden. What a shock to discover I had room for improvement! He has gently but firmly insisted that I bring forth my best every time we go to the table with a new song. Even when I think a song is finished, he often finds one small detail that needs work, often making the difference between a good song and a much better one. Like all my recordings, the song “Nobody’s Baby” has John’s influence all over it. He was kind enough to warn me against sounding like a victim in the lyrics. I hope I succeeded!

5.  What tools do you use when you write songs? Whatever’s handy – the piano, banjo, or kazoo. The newspaper, my Zoom recorder, an eyebrow pencil. A really great drama is always helpful, perhaps a disaster of some sort, but hopefully with some redeeming chorus in there for AM radio. When something major happens in my life, I somehow work through it by writing songs about it. The songs help me understand what I feel.

6.  If you had the chance to talk to a young girl growing up on a sheep farm about pursuing her dreams of music, as you have done, what would you say? I’d tell her to “Climb every mountain and ford every sea. Follow every rainbow, until you find your dream.” That’s what I was told. Honestly, I can’t imagine a more challenging and fulfilling path to follow than music.

7.  Was there a point in your career when you realized, “Wow, I’m really doing this!”? I feel like that every time I get the sense that I’m connecting with someone musically, whether it’s another musician or a listener. There’s nothing like the sense of connection music can provide, and along with that feeling you describe is also a sense of humble gratitude that I’m allowed to participate.

8.  What was it like working with Jane Siberry?  How did this partnership happen? Working with Jane Siberry was like a pajama party on a magic carpet ride. I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity. I was an avid fan long before I met her. She came to record at my home studio Nashcroft Manor for three months and in that time we became good friends. Once I had the chance to watch her operate at close range, I learned a lot about integrity, professionalism, and commitment. Her dedication to her art is an awesome thing to behold. When she invited me to tour across North America with her last year, I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ll be publishing “On Tour With the Queen” on my site soon, which recently appeared in BC Musician Magazine. The title pretty much sums up the way I feel about Jane. Long live the Queen!

9.  Where would you like to be 1 year from now? These days I’ve been touring with Jenny Allen as one half of “Allen & Alexander.” By this time next year, we want to be down at SXSW and the Folk Alliance making things happen, touring the States and the UK, and possibly recording together. The bigger picture? Continuing to make my living from music and art, living healthily and happily.

Click here to hear tunes and read her bio.
Click here to find out about her upcoming tour.

Get Out of Your Bubble to Co-Write!

by  Scott Honsberger

Most songwriters that you meet are extremely passionate about their craft.  So passionate, in fact, that it can sometimes lead to working entirely in a bubble, so as to ensure that nothing “gets in the way” of their art. The irony, of course, is that sometimes that bubble is the exact thing that DOES get in the way of their creative development.

Musicians frequently ask me about how to get better as a songwriter, and one of the first things I suggest is co-writing.  This can be a scary thing to some, primarily because it’s not always clear what co-writing entails.

Essentially, co-writing is getting together with another songwriter to write songs.  Sometimes, these sessions have a specific purpose, like writing a song for an album, contest, or TV placement.  There are professional songwriters (a plethora of them living in LA & Nashville) whose job it is to simply crank out music for a wide array of reasons like those just mentioned. 

However, co-writing for a specific purpose is just one part of the equation.  Sure, if you need help fine-tuning that last track of your record, bringing in a co-writer makes sense. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set up regular co-writing sessions ‘just because.’ It’s often these sessions that lead to the most creative development, and sometimes, a great song just happens (who hasn’t heard THAT story told from a stage?).

So what do these sessions look like? Well, it can be anything you want them to be, but my biggest bit of advice would be to keep it casual. Make your sessions more about spending time with others doing what you love to do, rather than about cranking out hits or whatnot, and good things will happen.

Of course, one of the not so fun, but essential, conversations that has to take place before you co-write is discussing song-splits.  If, by chance, you do write a song that sees commercial success, how will you split up the credit/royalties? 50/50? 75/25, depending on who played the first riff? Another way? Clear this up on paper before you start, so you’ll be able to relax and let the creative juices flow.

Lastly, don’t forget about the promotional benefits of co-writing.  If you do write a song that you deem to be performance or recording worthy, you’ll be able to cross-promote with your partner at shows, on your CD, via social networking sites, etc.

Co-writing is an essential part of creative growth.  Get out there, meet other songwriters, and write! You’ll be contributing to the community, growing as an artist, and who knows? Maybe you’ll even meet your Garfunkel, Oates, or McCartney.

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Scott Honsberger is the founder of Your Band’s Best Friend, which offers education, information, and insight on the music industry in a one-on-one consultation setting.