Cindy Alexander is an American Girl
Music fans everywhere are in for a real treat, as Cindy Alexander is about to release her new EP An American Girl, which can stand on its merit as a quality collection of great songs, but it also serves as a prelude to an even bigger undertaking, a double album that is already in the works.
On the phone from her home in Los Angles, singer, songwriter and musician Cindy Alexander explains, “I am doing a series of EPs and I am working with different co-writers / producers, so the next EP I will be doing is with Colin Devlin and I have some more surprises in store. We are going to take these EPs and put them together into a double album with probably some extra tracks, some live tracks and a couple of extra songs. We are going to create a double LP, Four Sides of Cindy Alexander. The next EP will probably come out in March and three to four months after that there will be another one. I would say probably next year by this time.”
The eight song An American Girl record demonstrates masterful songwriting, fabulous vocals, top-notch production quality and good musicians. In addition to Alexander playing piano and singing the EP also features, Chip Moreland (drums and background vocals), Carl Sealove (bass), Phil Parlapiano (keyboards and piano), Dave Darling (guitar and background vocals), Randy Ray Mitchell (guitar, dobro), percussionist Tina Trevino, violinist Serena McKinney, Doug Livingston (pedal steel guitar) and Bernie Barlow (background vocals). The record was produced and mixed by Dave Darling and engineered by Zack Darling.
The opening song “Play,” written by Cindy Alexander and Dave Darling is one of the best Rock songs Riveting Riffs Magazine has listened to in 2015. From the very first bar of music this song will get you up on your feet and one can easily imagine being at a Cindy Alexander concert and en masse people rising up out of their seats, dancing where they stand and once they know the words singing them back to her while she performs.
“It is a feel good song for me, so I hope that it is a feel good song for the listener and I am talking about the healing power of the music. Dave Darling came up with that track. We needed a rocker and we needed something up-tempo. When I heard it I had just read a blog about somebody who had struggled with mental illness, but all of his problems seem to disappear when he gets on stage. I thought about how there are so many times when the right song seems to make all of my problems disappear and I wanted to write that song.
I also work with a lot of children who have learning
disabilities. I am a volunteer at school and I have been able to use music to
overcome some of those obstacles. I have taught kids who can’t spell anything,
to spell their name or to spell a word, by giving it a melody. I taught a little
girl how to spell happy. (She sings out the letters) It worked so well that I
started incorporating banging a drum with being able to pronounce a three
syllable word. I have witnessed what music can do and this song is a testament
I struggled for two weeks trying to write to this track, because normally I write music and lyrics together. It is much different for me when somebody gives me a track. It comes from a different headspace. That song actually went through four or five incarnations, before it turned into “Play.”
The part where it is talking about “Rhyming myself to sleep,” (is there) because I had been working so darn hard on that song. There are some little inside jokes about that and also because it was the last song that I wrote for the EP. My label really wanted something to go on the radio. I hate the notion of writing something commercial or writing something for the radio and I was fighting it, so you hear that in the lyrics too. “I need a pickup on the FM / Silence is my mayhem,” and that was aimed at a comment that somebody made to me from my record label. By the end of it I think my hard work paid off, because I love the song and people seem to thoroughly enjoy it,” says Cindy Alexander.
The Cindy Alexander / Anna Danes song “See you in L.A.,” is a mid-tempo gem that has an upbeat demeanor and anticipation about being back in L.A. soon. The song is filled with the sounds and images of the west coast such as, “Seagull on the pier he calls,” and “It’s when the ocean sprays my body.” The song ends on a positive note, “I know you and I are worth the wait / See you in L.A.”
An American Girl is not the first time that Cindy Alexander and Dave Darling have collaborated on an album and she takes a minute to talk about why they work so well together.
“I feel very safe with Dave. I feel like I can try anything or sing anything or make mistakes and he will give me the space that I need, in a room with padded walls, where I can make mistakes and I can be really vulnerable. I have been working with Dave since my first CD See Red in 1998, so he knows where I come from, he knows what I stand for and he knows where my heart is. He believes in me. When you know in your heart that someone believes in you, you can do more and be better than you originally thought that you could. He is a genius and I am so lucky that fate brought us together. He is my musical guru. Even when I am writing with other people I will run things by Dave, because I value his opinion so highly.
We honor art and we honor creativity as something greater than ourselves. At least for me, I have to give credit to inspiration. I have to give credit to this magnificent, although sometimes challenging life that I have had. Sometimes I feel like music and songs are channeled through me. I don’t take full responsibility for everything. If I did, I don’t think anybody would want to live with me.”
When we glanced at Cindy Alexander’s tour schedule we did not see many months of the year when she was not touring. She is married and a mother to young twin girls and we wondered how she balances her music career with family life.
“The good thing is that Kirk Pasich (owner and President of the label) and Blue Élan are on the same page that I am. Family comes first. I try to devote about a week a month to shows however, there are going to be months when my family needs me at home and that is the way that it is. Because I am on a label, I am able to do a lot more touring than I did before, but it is very expensive. You have to put out a lot of money in advance for plane tickets, hotels and equipment rentals, which I couldn’t do before, but now I have tour support. It is great that I finally get to go out and to play for people with whom I have been in touch on the internet for so long.
House concerts are absolutely hands down my favorite concerts to do. I try to incorporate them into every tour that I do. The most personal connection that I can create with my fans is by going into someone’s home and chatting with them and meeting their friends. It is a very interactive show and those are usually my anchor dates and then I book club dates around them. I have truly enjoyed touring in the last year.
I have always said that music is the key to my adventure. It is not just about the shows and the music, but it’s about the people that I meet and the places that I get to see and the little stops along the road. I have been having the time of my life. I really have been and it has been great balance to be able to get away and feed that gypsy part of my soul and then to come home to an incredible family and a wonderful husband and to be in LA where I was born and raised. I love the city. It is great,” she says.
In 2012 Cindy Alexander released the album Every Rise and Fall that she describes as being 100 % of her life.
“Every Rise and Fall, the whole record was written around my pregnancy and the first couple of years of being a mother. I think that fertility for me was harder than cancer (more about this later). I shoved so many needles into my body and I went through so many procedures in order to get pregnant. As someone who always looked young and always felt young I took it for granted that it was going to be easy for me to get pregnant and it was not. I write about that and I write about losing my identity as I became a wife and a mother and throughout writing the record I reclaimed myself. When you are going through fertility you have to go into the doctor’s office every week to have them look at the status of your eggs and to check your blood, so you can’t be touring. You also have to be at home with your husband. There was so much change for me during that year that I basically had to walk away from music for a while.
I did play some shows, while I was pregnant and I would puke right before and right after and I had the worst morning, afternoon and evening sickness throughout my pregnancy not just the first few months. By the time I was five months pregnant with twins I couldn’t get close enough to the piano or the keyboard to play and the way that the guitar laid on my belly it was really hard to play, because my kids would literally kick the guitar. I could tell that they loved music, because they moved around more to the rhythm and I could sing them to sleep before they were born. That was incredible and I don’t have any resentment for that time. I am so grateful that I was able to get pregnant and that I have the most important, most beautiful and most creative masterpiece ever, my children. They are my most beautiful song that I have ever written. Nothing, not one ounce of success in music will ever compare to my children. My family comes first. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was depressed and I didn’t have the release that I was accustomed to for a few years. When I finally started writing again, I became a better mom, a better wife, a better friend and a better daughter, because I found that balance again. I had that release. Music has always been my healer throughout my life. It has gotten me through everything.
I wrote myself through depression with
Every Rise and Fall. I explored all
of that territory of the power of being able to create life and to nurture life
and the sacrifices that we make for that. I thought that was the most profound
experience that was ever going to happen to me and what was I going to write
about next? Then I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. Instead of waiting for so
long after I did, after I had kids, I sat right down at the piano and I started
writing right from the moment that I knew something was wrong, on the night that
I had the biopsy and that I was waiting for the results. That night I wrote
“I think that you can suppress feelings and suppress emotions and let that become disease or you can release it and let it heal you. My intention was to heal and my intention was also not to go through it alone. I was going to share it, because maybe my story would save someone else’s life. I was very lucky and I was very vigilant. Both of my parents had breast cancer, my grandmother had breast cancer and even though I didn’t test positive for the BRCA gene I knew that there was a very high genetic possibility that one day I could be diagnosed.
There was a moveable cystic type of mass on one side that wasn’t on the other and even though it didn’t look like a tumor on the ultrasound and my mammogram was clear, there was some sort of cellular change. When my yearly MRI came up again there was some change that was noticed and there were some places on the MRI that for lack of a better term lit up. I went back to the breast specialist and they still could not find anything with the ultrasound and the mammogram was still clear, but I knew there was something wrong. He said we can’t biopsy it, because we can’t find anything. I went back and I got another opinion on the MRI and I found a doctor who could biopsy the spots that lit up, while I was in the MRI machine and they found the cancer.
I listened to my body and I listened to my intuition and I caught the disease at an early stage when it could be treated. I was very lucky and I wrote my way through the journey and I blogged about it. I answered any and every question that came my way. There wasn’t anything that was too personal or stupid. All of that support, the prayers and the positive messages from people all over the world meant the world to me and it really got me through. I don’t think anyone should ever go through it alone. I know people who prefer that and they don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to tell people. They say that it takes a village to raise children and it can take a village to get you through cancer too. I was lucky that I had that village.”
During her journey through cancer Cindy Alexander wrote the songs that became her album Curve, which was released in 2014 and as she indicated she started writing those songs the night that she had her biopsy. The last song that she wrote for that album was “January Song,” which was written during the month of January. If you have ever loved someone who was facing the biggest challenge of their life, there will likely be a few tears in your eyes, as you listen to “January Song.” This writer did.
Cindy Alexander talks about “January Song,” “It tends to make a lot of people cry and it is amazing the effect that it has on men. It really surprised me that men would react the way that they do to the song. It is a thank you song to everybody who got me through it (breast cancer). I wrote it for my family, my friends, my support system and my fans that are on Facebook every day and who checked in with me, as well as all of the people at breastcancer.org who were rooting for me. It is a big thank you.”
The album Curve opens with the rocking “Heels Over Head,” another fabulous song co-written with Dave Darling.
She talks about the song, “With that one, it is kind of a joke I have with myself that I am a bit of a drama queen and I was thinking about all the horrible choices that I had made and all of the muses in my life that had created five albums worth of songs about dysfunctional relationships. In that song I am finally taking responsibility for all those poor choices. Ultimately, I am such a drama queen, I had to get cancer to write more music and that was what was in the back of my head. For the song I needed something that was not going to be depressing and had to be a little bit more fun and a little bit more tongue and cheek. I wrote it with that in mind. (I wanted) some songs on the record that brought a little levity to the listener’s experience and I think “Heels Over Head,” would be one of them. It has a great groove and you can rock to it. “Best think twice / Before you leave me for dead,” I was thinking this isn’t going to kill me, don’t even go there. You wouldn’t know that unless I just told that to you.”
The song “Heels Over Head,” also features a solid guitar solo by Connor Pasich.
Curve also has a very stark song “Anesthesia,” which Cindy Alexander says is to be taken literally.
“When I say that my pieces lay on trays, it is literally about my body parts being taken off and being put on trays. It is about drugs being infused into my system. I am hallucinating and it is about some of the visions that I saw. There are metaphors and imagery in respect to the drug trip. That song was inspired, because the anesthesiologist who was at the foot of my hospital bed was texting right before we were about to start surgery and I said dude please do not text and anesthetize. I think that he was really pissed off at me, because the two earlier times that I went under it was a very peaceful and beautiful experience going out and this time the first drug that he put into my veins burned me and I went under and my last word was an expletive. My hallucinations were intense, so that song is pretty literal.”
A lot of aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians flock to Los Angeles in hopes of getting a lucky break in the music business, but Cindy Alexander grew up in the city. She has one brother, her father is a lawyer and her mother was a school teacher, who now works as a trainer in real estate.
Cindy Alexander says, “Education is really important in my family and always has been. For generations when money was given to children, it was to be put away for your education. I value that opportunity and I was so lucky to have it. I went to some of the best schools in Los Angeles and I got a great education, so I really didn’t start music until after college. I think in my twenties my dad would have preferred that I had gone to law school or gone to medical school like my brother, but it wasn’t what I wanted and it wasn’t what was going to make me happy.
I knew I was a performer from the time that I could speak. I was doing talent shows and I was always in the school plays. I was taking dance and taking singing and I loved it. I love to express myself theatrically and on stage. Some people might say that I just needed a lot of attention and that was probably true too.”
Cindy Alexander’s paternal grandmother was a music teacher and “She would give instruments to us as gifts when we were little kids and we would form a little band together.”
She says that her grandmother encouraged her creativity and her imagination when it came to music and Cindy Alexander credits her grandmother as being very influential. Her maternal grandmother had been a vaudeville dancer who at one time had aspirations of being a Rockette, before she gave up her dreams of dancing. Alexander says that “the bug” for performing skipped one generation in her family and it was rekindled in her.
I graduated from the University of Southern California School of Drama. For the last show that I was in I played Evita. I was one of the stars of my program and then I went out into the real world and I had to start from scratch again, which was very difficult. I was doing theatre and a commercial here and there and little indie films. At the same time I was cocktail waitressing on the side and I started recording demos for other people’s songs. Because I had access to a studio I recorded something that I wrote and that at that time I didn’t really think of myself as a songwriter. I just thought that I made stuff up and I played piano to it. I didn’t realize that I was creating songs.”
The more songs she wrote the better she got at it. As she says, she realized this was the best part she could ever play, that of a singer-songwriter and she never looked back.
Cindy Alexander laughs while recalling one of the very first songs that she wrote, “Let Me Be Lonely Alone,” which she describes as a real zinger and then she says, “You have to start somewhere right?”
These days Cindy Alexander is writing songs with real hit potential and that will match up with any of today’s top artists. She is signed to Blue Élan Records, after choosing to remain an independent artist throughout her career. She says she felt comfortable with the vision that her longtime friend Kirk Pasich had outlined to her and he had been a longtime supporter of her music when she was self-funding her albums.
You can visit Cindy Alexander
on her website or follow her on
her official Facebook page.
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Live photos courtesy of Don Adkins, protected by copyright © All
Live photos courtesy of Don Adkins, protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved.
This interview by Joe Montague published September
2015 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine ©
All Rights Reserved. Photos by Don Adkins and cover art courtesy of Cindy Alexander and
Blue Élan Records protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved
This interview by Joe Montague published September October 3rd, 2015 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved. Photos by Don Adkins and cover art courtesy of Cindy Alexander and Blue Élan Records protected
by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved