Here is part three of my interview with Alexa Ray Joel! She dishes on inspiration, future projects, and more.
HS: What inspires your music?
ARJ: I hate to sound so unoriginal, but I would have to say love and relationships inspire me most of all. Above and beyond anything, I’m a total hopeless romantic, so I tend to put my whole heart and soul into any relationship I’m invested in. Being an artist, I have quite a flair for the dramatic, so when something goes wrong, it feels as though my whole world is crashing down and I don’t know who to go to, or where to put all of that invested energy, and feeling, and heartache., so by default, I put it into a song. That’s the only vessel in which I trust putting all of that deep-seated emotional baggage and it’s probably the healthiest and most productive outlet for it as well! Other than that, being a songwriter, I would say that, naturally, other music from great songwriters inspires me to constantly challenge and push myself creatively, and to delve into places I might otherwise be hesitant about. For example, years ago, I was listening to, (and therefore primarily influenced by), more classic singer-songwriters like Carole King, Ray Charles, and Randy Newman, so I was writing within the genre of an old-school sound with simply structured pop-chords and a Beach-Boys/Bluesy Feel. Now, I’ve grown tired of that niche and those influences, and I’m moving fastidiously into a much darker, mature place than I would’ve ever expected through listening to artists like Radiohead, The Cure, Annie Lennox, Fiona Apple, and Rufus Wainright. Suddenly, I have an urge to only write in minor-chord transgressions, and to supplement those eery melodies alongside lyrics with a tinge of tragedy and cynicism to them. Overall, I would venture to say that nothing inspires most songwriters more than their own complex emotional worlds infused with their most current and inspired external musical influences.
HS: Do you dress a different way when you perform than when your off stage?
ARJ: Absolutely!! I dress much more dramatically for the stage, as I believe every performer should! (Unless you’re say, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, or my Father– in which case jeans and a t-Shirt will suffice, because they’re already brilliant legends, who made their mark in a time when it really was just about the music.) However, in these current times, it’s a whole different game, and image is extremely relevant to the industry. I tend to dress quite a bit showier on-stage than I normally would in everyday life and I try to always wear at least one element of clothing and/or jewelry with a lot of shimmer/sparkle to it, so it picks up the light on-stage, thus subconsciously drawing the audience’s eye towards you, and keeping them hooked on you visually through the entire performance. I usually wear a shawl or fitted blazer on top of my show-outfit for the first half of the performance, and then take it off as the shows comes to an end. I think it’s always important to show the audience that you are constantly revealing something to them, alongside unraveling one’s deepest emotions through the music, you want them to also feel you are revealing something visually as well that way, the visual element is in perfect accordance and alignment with the artistic element on-stage. It’s also very important for me to make sure that the style of the performance-outfit I’m choosing to wear directly matches the style of the music and performance on that given night.
HS: What can we expect from you in the future? Any exciting new projects?
ARJ: Well, after just wrapping up my stint of weekly, which was sold-out, of shows at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room this past year, I am now preparing for my next round of local NYC shows, which I’ll be performing regularly at another hot music-venue. I can’t give away where I’ll be performing just yet! However, I’m working out all new material, and instead of using a full-band, I’ll be performing a more intimate showcase with just myself singing and playing on piano, alongside a cellist for accompaniment. I’m currently writing all new material, and creating an entirely different sound and look overall which will be notably raw, dark, and classically-influenced. I’m very excited, because I don’t think people have heard, or will be expecting to hear, this type of sound from me. Also, I’ve had the great honor of being featured regularly as the writer and advisor for teen girls in J-14 Magazine’s “Life’s Big Questions” Column. I’ll be writing for another upcoming issue on newsstands soon!
HS: What words or goals do you live by everyday?
ARJ: Well, there are two quotes I am especially fond of, and try in earnest to model my life after. One is from my Father, and that is: “Don’t take any shit from anybody”. The other is from my favorite writer ever since I was a child, Dr. Suess, and that is: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
HS: Any last thoughts?
ARJ: Just that I’m sad this is the last question, because I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this!! Once I start writing, I never want to stop.
Thanks so much Alexa I know how you feel! I loved this interview, xo
(second picture by Dan Katz)