"I think a true artist should be a person who is sincere, who has artistic and emotional integrity, and perseveres through difficulties to keep doing what they love to do. At the same time, part of being an artist is putting on a show. When the two meld, it's a lovely, unforgettable experience."
When I think of great female artists, past and present, some of the names I think of are Stevie Nicks, Fiona Apple, Patsy Cline, and Ann Wilson. Among that list, Lex Land deserves a spot. Not only is she one of the most underrated artists on the scene right now, but she somehow molds her voice so well, she’s able to sing any and every genre. If I had to put together a soundtrack of my life, Lex Land would be the prominent artist featured on it. When it comes to being a true artist, she doesn’t hold back. She dives deep into her soul and creates lyrics that give you chills. She is able to capture one specific moment in her life and draw a beautiful picture you can visualize just by listening. Her music has carried me through good times and bad and my one hope would be that it can do the same for you. Here is my interview with the beautiful Lex Land.
Q. I read that your mother was a karaoke queen and your father was a punk rocker. Did they both have a big influence on you in starting your music career?
A. Yes and no. I was raised, separately and at different times, by either of them with a lot of musical stimulus, but by the time I was old enough to even think about beginning my career as a pop artist, I was relatively estranged from both parents. My father was supportive in my classical singing as a teen, as I think he found it good discipline for me, but I don’t think he was too keen on the idea of me pursuing music seriously. My mother has always been supportive of my decision and work, but I don’t know if I’d say she had a direct influence on it.
Q, What is the moment that you realized you wanted to be a singer and make this your career?
A. I was a freshman in high school, at least three years deep into studying voice, and I had to leave choir rehearsal early to make it to swim practice on time at a remote location. We had been working on Morten Lauridsen’s “Dirait-on”which is a very tender, beautiful song. As my classmates (who were very good) continued to sing, I walked through the courtyard and a fine mist, then soft light rain began to fall in the twilight while I heard their voices fading in the background. I stopped and was present, and just knew that music had to be it for me, forever. In whatever form I could have it. I guess it sounds cheesy, but if there was ever a precise moment I decided, that was it.
Q. What in your opinion is the one thing that makes you and your music stand out from the endless list of female artists?
A. While I would love to say that songwriting is my strongest suit, or that I’m a killer guitar player, I unfortunately don’t necessarily believe those things to be remotely true. I think my voice stands out- it is strong, and well-controlled, and versatile. In one of my sets, a Prince song can follow a Faure piece followed by a big Judy Garland number. It can go from being serious to quirky, from vehement to breaking. Even when the words aren’t the most original, or specific, I think you can understand the deepest meaning from the way I vocalize the lyric. I put a lot of thought and deliberateness into what I do as a vocalist.
Q. In the beginning of your career, you wanted to become an opera singer. What was your reason behind changing the genre of music you wanted to be in?
A. There really are too many reasons, it wasn’t just one thing. A lot of it was circumstantial, and had one or two small events turned out differently I might still be doing it now. Self-expression was easier and more specific when I wrote and performed my own songs… I didn’t have to have people telling me how to stand, how to behave, how to pronounce words. It was a point in my life when my emotions were messy and my personal life resembled that. Making my own music was the only way I could make sense of any of it. All of the sudden, that’s what I was doing and there was no turning back. It happened fairly quickly.
Q. In your opinion, who are some of the more relevant artists out there right now and who would you like to play alongside someday?
A. I’m pretty bad at keeping up with the times and what my “colleagues” are up to. I’m very immersed in my own music scene in Austin and the people I pal around with. On top of that saturation, I don’t have much money at my disposal to buy music. There are many relevant artists doing amazing work at the moment. As far as whom I’d like to play with someday, though, my idols take the prize. Like Prince or Fiona Apple.
Q. Currently, a lot of artists are over-glamorized and make the music part of their performance not as important. In your opinion, what makes a true artist stand out from the rest?
A. Performance is a huge aspect of being an artist, especially considering what type of genre you’re working in. As a professional artist, you are an entertainer as well. I think a true artist should be a person who is sincere, who has artistic and emotional integrity, and perseveres through difficulties to keep doing what they love to do. At the same time, part of being an artist is putting on a show. When the two meld, it’s a lovely, unforgettable experience. It seems as though the over-glamorization you mention is a machine trying too hard to force the product on people, rather than letting the artist and art speak for themselves, while the audiences experience that for themselves.
Q. Where do you hope your career is in the next five years?
A. I’ve always wanted only one basic thing: To just make music with the majority of my time. I want to travel through touring, I want to have free time writing songs and practicing my instruments. I’d like to be able to come home to a cozy place and hang out with my friends and dogs and have a garden. If I can bring home the bread with my music alone, I know I’ll have achieved my greatest goal. It’s tiring running around picking up odd-jobs, then rushing to rehearsals and gigs, and making no money, and then feeling discouraged about your art because of the rat-race.
Q. You’re currently living in Austin, TX. How do you feel the music scene is there and how has it helped your career?
A. There are a lot of facets to the music scene here in Austin, and I’m very happy and content in the little niche in which I’ve found myself. It’s a very community-oriented, sharing, feel-good environment for the most part. I have a wonderful circle of brilliant and knowledgeable people with whom I feel lucky to associate. That has been a bigger help to me as a person and artist than it has to my “career,”but I am much happier to have that. Austin has helped to develop my confidence, and sense of identity, and my communication and musicianship skills. The experience has been truly wonderful, and I feel that I’ve really blossomed here.
Q. Your album, Orange Days on Lemon Street, released in 2008 and in my opinion, is one of the best albums to come out that year. Do you have any plans in the works for new music?
A. My second album, Were My Sweetheart to Go… is going to be released on August 16th on Intelligent Noise Records. We started recording it in July or August of 2009, but the process takes a lot of time and effort from a lot of people, and we’re happy to finally present what we’ve worked so hard on. I’m always writing though, and even since we finished recording last Spring I’ve come up with a lot more material for the next one, whenever that might be.
Q. If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?
A. I don’t think I would bring one of my own songs to listen to. The ideas and stories and sentiments are already burned into my brain- I really only write them down or sing them because I want to have a “hard copy”- so that I have a tool with which I can relate to other people, and they to me, and they amongst themselves. I’m already too stuck in my own head with all my bittersweet nostalgia. I think that’d be the last thing I would want if I were alone on an island. I’d want something that would make me feel less lonely…
To answer one of my own questions, if I were stranded on an island for the rest of my life and could only listen to one artist forever, it would be Lex Land. Her gift would get me through the lonliness. Here is one of my favorites, Play In Reverse.
For more information about Lex Land, click here.