You'd be right on the money if you called LA-based singer Alexandra Jackson's upcoming in-store performance (this Sunday, April 7, to be exact) at Moods Music a homecoming. She was, after all, born and bred in Atlanta. On top of that, and probably most importantly, she's the youngest daughter of the city's first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson. Although she inherited a rich political legacy, Alexandra chose to follow her muse, studying music in college and later performing in musical theater, singing backup for artists like Gloria Estefan and honing her chops as a solo vocalist in her own right.
Her return to the ATL this weekend comes hot on the heels of the release of her debut jazz EP, From the Start. Earlier this week, Alexandra offered some insight into her sound, her growth as an artist, and more.
Your sound seems pretty heavily tinged with soul and jazz. If you could, how would you define your music? What is your attempt from a sonic perspective when crafting songs?
Defining my music is a hard one for me. I'm from Atlanta, which has a huge melting pot of what people consider to be "urban" music. On top of that, however, I love soul, jazz, classical, gospel, salsa, hip-hop, Brazilian ... There's so much that can move you, and that's where my inspirations come from; what moves me. So, I'd say it really depends on the particular project I'm working on. My new album, From The Start, is a jazz album with some of my favorite standards that I've known since I was 5 years old.
I grew up focusing a lot more on the sound of instruments and voices. I learned how emotion can be expressed without words. I started playing piano when I was 4, so I think that had something to do with it. It was years later that I really started to pay attention to lyrics. As I began singing some amazingly beautiful songs, I saw how words could be a very important piece to the puzzle. So I try to fuse the two and convey myself in both manners.
My mantra when crafting songs is basically, "Just f - -ing do it, Alex." I am such a perfectionist when it comes to what I create, and I can really be in my head that sometimes it can put up a mental roadblock. So, I try to let things just flow and not judge what comes of it. I may not use it, but I acknowledge where it came from and then go from there.
How has your road as an artist been so far? Where would you say you are in your trajectory at this point?
My career has had various stages. I've been independent, worked with record labels, parted ways with record labels, took some time off from the "business" side ... I'm now back in, what I believe to be, the most positive situation thus far, and that is working with loved ones and people whom I feel are trustworthy. I have some great shows lined up. I'm playing with some amazing musicians. I'm quite excited.
My goal is to be better than I was the day before; however, it would bring me ultimate joy to know that my music has reached people around the world and has helped bring them the same appreciation that I have of my musical inspirations.
What differences do you see with the Cali music scene and the Atlanta music scene?
I can't speak for Cali as a whole, but the L.A. scene is heavily saturated with musicians, artists, entertainers, performers, etc. There are so many bands and artists that a lot of them really will give the shirt off their backs just to be heard. But because of that, I think they can devalue themselves. I've heard of bands taking six-month residencies for free - because if they don't, the venue can (and will) turn right around to someone who will. I think Atlanta has a bit more appreciation for live music because chances are, if that artist is being booked, it's because of the quality. Whenever I play in Atlanta, I feel there is a mutual respect between myself, the artist, and the people booking me.
With your family history, what kind of reaction have you received from the Atlanta music community? And what role has your legacy played in your development as an artist?
The reactions have been nothing but positive and supportive. The majority of the people rooting me on after I released my album were rooting me on years before I released it, which means a lot to me. I learned very early on how to be appreciative. Atlanta is an incredible place, and I owe a lot of who I am to my family and this city.
What do you have planned for your appearance in Atlanta this weekend?
I am very excited to be performing at Moods Music this Sunday. When I moved back to Atlanta after college, I used to come into Moods and say, "Just give me what you want!" The owner, Darryl, has been so gracious with me. I have the wonderful Dave Frackenpohl accompanying me on guitar. I wanted this performance to have a natural, acoustic, and intimate vibe. I think it's going to be a great night.
Free. 7 p.m. Sun., April 7. Moods Music, 1131 Euclid Avenue.
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