AS SEEN IN GUITAR GIRL MAGAZINE ISSUE 6
Molly Hatchet. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There’s no doubt some of the greatest rockers were steeped in the swamps of Florida. Alexx Calise is no exception – and though she was born in NYC and has long since moved on from where she was raised (she’s now based in Los Angeles), she exhibits the same hard work and dedication that drove her throughout those early days as a young musician in the Sunshine State.
Over the years, Calise has released albums — Morning Pill (2007), In Avanti (2010), AC3 (2011), The Catalyst: B-Sides, and Addition by Subtraction (2015), as well as several singles. Fans of the TV show Dance Moms will know her from her hit song “Cry” from In Ivanti made famous by dancer Maddie Ziegler. “Cry” has recently seen a resurgence due to a YouTube episode on the Cole&Sav channel where Maddie makes an appearance teaching young Everleigh how to dance and make her Cry face.
Not only a successful singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Alexx is also a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman. She runs a successful kid-centric party company based out of Southern California, which has been featured on Ellen and David Tutera’s CELEBrations. This entrepreneurial venture has found her rubbing elbows with the likes of Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera, and Reese Witherspoon.
On top of that, she’s now supporting corporate relations for a guitar string manufacturer. Along with her endorsement deal with GHS Strings, she’s the new Assistant of Social Media, Marketing and Artist Relations (A&R).
Alongside Dennis Morehouse, her bandmate from their previous band Sound of Cancer, she’s proudly produced what she calls a “darkedelic” new project called “Batfarm.” This art-rock band compliments her creativity well and is a culmination of a lot of what she’s been working towards over the past several years.
Clearly, Alexx doesn’t hesitate to cross genres – both musically and professionally. Luckily, she found time to speak with GGM about her latest projects, future plans, and her advice for breaking into the industry.
We’ve chatted several times over the years. Tell us about your recent work and your new project, Batfarm.
I’ve been doing quite a bit since our last interview. Writing music, doing videos, have done some TV appearances (on Dance Moms, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, etc.), and finally got my pet project Batfarm off the ground. It’s been a whirlwind.
Batfarm has been one of my favorite projects to date because it was originally just a studio project with my songwriting partner, Dennis Morehouse, that ended up blossoming into an awesome art rock band that has produced, I feel, some of my best work lyrically and musically. Batfarm can best be described as “darkedelic.” We combine our love of grunge, blues, rock, and choral harmonies. A lot of people have said it’s like a “perfect circle” – with a female lead singer – which I consider an awesome compliment.
Do you have any music you will be releasing soon?
Batfarm will be releasing its first single in November and will be releasing a new single and/or video every month thereafter. For my solo project, I just filmed a music video for a song I co-wrote with Rob Johnson of the production team Sensitive Robot. It’s a very emotive, gut-wrenching track called “Rise.” The music for my solo project is drastically different than Batfarm; it’s very introspective lyrically and musically – it’s more on the alternative pop side. The new material Rob and I have been writing recently is very schlocky and romantic, like something you’d hear in a French bistro.
Do you prefer working in a band environment or going solo?
It’s hard to say. Being solo is an insurance policy of sorts, in that you can’t break up with yourself, but I also love being in a band and the camaraderie that comes with it. You have other people in the trenches with you. When your name is the only name on the marquee, it makes it hard to get other people behind you, and I get that.
You are not only an endorsed artist for GHS Strings but now are the new Assistant of Social Media, Marketing and A&R. How did the endorsement deal come about?
I believe I procured the endorsement deal through a manager I had about 12 years ago. It’s kind of funny that now I’m one of the folks heading the A&R department now. Who would have thought?
What tips would you give other young up-and-coming artists to try and secure an endorsement deal?
We’ve actually done a few videos about this, which you can check out on the GHS Strings Facebook page. I’d say the most important thing is to establish a relationship with the A&R person you’re trying to reach. No one likes to be “networked” with. Start a conversation with them, and get to know them as human beings, because that’s all they are. A big thing too is to make sure all of your band info is up to date. If your website looks like it was created on Geocities and you have broken links all over the place, it looks like you don’t care. Also, as silly as it sounds, GHS and many other companies care about active social media followers. Are you interacting with your followers on a consistent basis? At the end of the day, you’re “endorsing” a company. If you don’t have anyone to promote the product to, there isn’t really a reason for a company to send you free stuff.
How do you like your new job and what sorts of things do you do?
It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had because it’s in the field that I love, I get to travel, and I get to help artists, big and small. As far as what I do there, it’s a bit multifaceted. I’ll schedule campaigns, create and schedule content for social media, sign bands, assist artists with their string needs, scout for new talent, and put together artist showcases. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work, so I can’t complain.
Any tours in your plans? Are you playing live regularly?
I’ve been playing live about once a month only because Batfarm has been busy in the studio, and I’ve been busy with GHS and my kids’ party company, but we plan to be touring heavily in summer 2019.
You had mentioned your favorite guitars in your 2014 interview being your white Gibson Les Paul with your Gibson SG as a close second. Are you still a Gibson girl?
I will always, always be a Gibson girl, and those two guitars are still my babies. However, I just acquired an Airline guitar in glitter gold from my friends at Eastwood Guitars, and I must say that that one has some serious balls, and even rivals my Les Paul in terms of tone. It’s definitely crunchy, but it’s a bit brighter than the Les Paul.
What amps do you presently use for both live and recording?
For live, I use my VOX AC-30. When I record, we use a mixture of different amps, usually Fender and Marshall.
How about stomp boxes and effect pedals?
I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to effects pedals in a live sense. I typically use a BOSS Chromatic Tuner, an Ibanez Weeping Demon Wah, a BOSS Overdrive or ZVEX Box of Rock, and a Malekko Chorus Pedal.
What has been your experience being a woman in a predominately male industry?
You know what? I’ve never really had too much of a problem or an issue with it. I’ve never really thought of myself as a “female” musician, just a musician. It’s not a handicap, and it’s certainly not an excuse for not knowing your s**t. Other people seem to make more of a big deal about the “female” thing than I ever did. Sure, I’ve gotten hit on before by producers, industry folks, or other male musicians, but it’s nothing worth crying about. I felt I was treated equally for the most part in the past. I think if you assert yourself and bring it when you play, people shut up and listen.
Are you seeing more women getting their chances?
Oh, more than ever. You’re seeing women like Lzzy Hale, Dorothy, and Sia, just to name a few, really getting their due. There’s never been a better time in music to be a woman.
What advice can you give young women, especially in their teens, to get a leg up in the music industry, in terms of school, music lessons, or anything else?
The best advice I can give is to practice. Honing your craft is the most important thing; everything else is secondary. Also, be prepared to not make money, at least not initially. It is pretty hard to make a living as a musician, so make 100% sure you want a career in the arts because it’s fraught with struggle and sacrifice. It’s not for the weak-willed.
What else are you working on that might be non-musical, like your acting career?
I’ve been taking a break from acting recently just because I don’t have enough hours in the day, unfortunately, and I spend most of my time on music. Other than reading and working out like a fiend, that’s about it as far as everything else goes!
Thanks, guys; you rock!