Friday, June 9, 2023

Coming up 6/12 at 9:30am - Cindy Alexander, a brilliant and multifaceted songwriter, singer, and storyteller

If you miss Cindy on the LIVE show,
listen to the podcast.

Cindy Alexander is brilliant and multifaceted, like a prism in sunlight. She’s a songwriter, a singer, a storyteller. She’s a mother of twins and a daughter of mother nature. Fans of her music know she’s beautifully messy and heaven-sent. This award-winning singer-songwriter has a cult following and an independent streak. Affectionately called “Pnut” by her fans, Alexander has a voice that defies her petite stature. In one moment, she hits rich and earthy lows; in the next, she adds the trill of a coloratura soprano. But technical prowess is hardly the headline: Alexander shares her entire being through music. “In art, we have to be vulnerable. Art is an open heart and a naked soul,” she attests.

Fans recognize Alexander’s charismatic vulnerability from the stage. She forges powerful connections, reminding audiences that it’s okay to laugh, cry, or even embrace irreverent humor in the midst of a breakdown. Over time she earned an illustrious reputation as an entertainer, winning over audiences and reviewers alike across multiple continents. Alexander is also a fearless lyricist. Her songwriting traverses personal narrative while plucking at universal human themes. She interrogates spirituality, sexuality, history, and the human condition. From her breast cancer recovery journey to the loss of her mother to dementia, her lyrics lay it bare. “I can’t pretend that everything’s okay, because it’s not,” Alexander says. “But, I always see the light. My journey to find the light is almost always through music.”
This Los Angeles native was born with a song on her lips and a story in her heart. Alexander’s grandmother was a music teacher who encouraged her singing from an early age. Later, she was discovered and mentored by the leader of a children’s choir, who also happened to be “voice coach the stars,” Cantor Nathan Lam. Later, Alexander received further training at the acclaimed USC School of Drama. But before long, Shakespeare’s sentiment that “all the world’s a stage” had lured her away from the theater — she realized the best part she could play was herself.

For many years, Alexander toured as an independent artist across the US, Asia, and Europe, and even the far-flung islands of Barbados and Guantanamo Bay. Alexander’s adventure always followed the fans, and her blossoming global community returned the love by crowdfunding her creative endeavors. Alexander has had the good fortune to work with a legion of talented musicians and producers throughout her career. She’s laid tracks with Grammy Award-winning engineer Ross Hogarth and co-written songs with Grammy Award–Winning songwriters Dennis Matkosky and Gary Harrison, as well as noted producer Dave Darling. Her most significant long-time collaborators are The Bacon Brothers (Michael and Kevin Bacon). “The reason I created my first CD was that I was asked to go on tour with the Bacon Brothers after opening their show at The Troubadour. At the time, I didn’t have anything to sell! Dave Darling took my scrappy demos and produced my first record, which actually sold out on that tour and blew up on Amazon,” Alexander shared. Kevin and Michael Bacon remain dear friends and touring companions. Despite her star-studded Rolodex, Alexander stayed away from big-name labels to preserve her artistic independence.

She won NBC’s Star Tomorrow competition, hosted by David Foster, but turned down the associated record deal. The move caught the attention of producer Kirk Pasich, who’d long followed Alexander’s career. Upon hearing of Alexander’s breast cancer diagnosis, Pasich extended an offer to fund her current album personally. Within the year, Pasich had cofounded Blue Élan Records and signed Cindy Alexander as its first artist. In 2021, Pasich founded KZZ Music alongside producers Zackary Darling and Zachary Ross. This new production company held unique appeal for Alexander because it would function as a launchpad, test-driving radical ideas and making connections outside the boundaries of the traditional label system. Alexander signed a production deal with KZZ in 2022, ahead of the 2023 release of her album Messy. “The title track on the album is ‘Messy,’ because life IS messy, but I embrace it. Sometimes I am gracefully in command of my chaos, and other times I trudge through kicking and screaming. But I have the experience and perspective to work it through in my creative space.

We pushed boundaries this time. I went to places I hadn’t gone in years and even explored new territory. The result is much more emotional and soulful, and the spectrum of sound and writing is much greater than my previous releases,” Alexander reveals. “I’m not in a box. I definitely jumped outside and ripped it up.” The musical palette of Messy is exceptionally enhanced by producer/bass player Paul Bushnell and an all-star studio band. “Paul is a groove monster. I met him early in my career at Genghis Cohen — this funky little club in Hollywood where I followed my hometown musical heroes through the 90s. Back then, he played with everyone, gigging three times a night,” Alexander shares. Today Paul is Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s bass player, but his touring resume also includes noted artists such as Elton John, Sarah McLachlan, and Alanis Morissette. “I feel so blessed to be connected with Paul. He’s insanely talented, super funny, and he really gets me,” Alexander says. Dave Levita (Stevie Nicks, Lana Del Rey, Morrissey) returns to Cindy’s dream team on guitar, joined by Zac Rae on keys (Death Cab for Cutie, Leonard Cohen, Ringo Starr) and Thomas Lang on drums (Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams, Glen Hughes). “The recording process was non-judgmental and collaborative. Paul came in with a fantastic roadmap, but he let us explore and get a little crazy along the adventure.

As the engineer, Zackary Darling was the special sauce. He’s been a part of my musical journey for many years and brought so much heart to the project.” The key single on Messy has a pretty messy origin story itself. “Call Us What We Are (F***ed)” came together after the artist had a frustrating day in the studio working alongside her husband. Eventually, he stormed off to go to bed, leaving Cindy to work out her angst on her guitar. Hours later, she rejoined him in bed. He asked what she’d been doing, and she replied, “I’ve been writing a f**king hit.” Listening to the track, it’s hard to argue. It’s a pop-rock cocktail that makes you want to dance (and maybe kick something). Playful percussive electronic elements frame the verses, then the chorus transitions to a full riot rock. In terms of vocals, it’s like Lily Allen got bored of being adorable and handed the mic to Fiona Apple to tell it like it is. “I know a lot of my fans will see this as a shift away from the tone of my last few records — and I’m excited about that. They’re going to say, there she is! She’s back!” Alexander shares.

Another single on Messy is “Life #9.” It embraces an aughts-style pop-rock tone and Americana instrumentality. “This track was born out of a conversation I had with my co-writer Paul Trudeau, on how hard it is to raise teenagers today,” Alexander said. With twin girls on the cusp of adulthood, she’s experiencing this whirlwind parenting moment firsthand. But beyond the typical trials of maturation, today’s teens are coming of age against a darker backdrop, with dangers like online manipulation and bullying, Fentanyl, and sex trafficking. “The song is about someone who’s gained wisdom through their mistakes, but struggles to impart that wisdom to a generation that doesn’t want to listen,” Alexander says. After I came up with the title, I googled numerology and learned that I am, indeed, on life path number nine, so that information became significant as I continued to write for this record.” You can hear the magic when Messy is released in Summer, 2023. 

Today, Cindy Alexander lives in Big Sur in her “House without Windows,” where she communes with woodland creatures and the wilderness (catch that track on her forthcoming album!). Alexander also engages in charitable efforts through music, benefiting The Kay Yow Cancer Fund, Animal Friends Rescue, and the Alzheimer’s Association. You can look forward to new music and fresh creative projects from Cindy later this year.

Coming up 7/10 at 9:00am PT - Jacqueline Gay Walley calls in to talk about her new book The WAW

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