Music Feature

Alexz Johnson

@ The Basement

Tiffany Wilhelm
Artist: Alexz Johnson
Known for: So Weird, Instant Star, Erin from Final Destination 3
Influences: Rickie Lee Jones, Kate Bush, Tom Petty, Springsteen,The Police, Paul Simon

So, nerd confession here: I’ve been following Alexz Johnson since I was about 13 and she replaced the lead on Disney Channel’s So Weird. It was heavily steeped in the paranormal, pretty dark for Disney fare, and had a lovely side helping of a whole lot of music. It was great. Oh, and it also featured the ever-sexy Erik von Detten. Bonus!

When they changed the main character I was horrified – it was such a jolting shift and 13-year old me was. not. happy. But I quickly grew to love Alexz, and not just because there was a super-sweet panther mysteriously following her around all the time (panther spirit guide? don't mind if I do). Anyone familiar with her work and her chops can tell you: Alexz is an amazing talent.

As an actress, she suspends disbelief and invites you to a new reality. As a vocalist, her voice is just so solid. It is this smooth, well-trained, magical powerhouse of emotion that envelopes your senses with every note. If her other hit show, Instant Star, didn’t prove that to you, please take this moment to check yourself for a pulse. Then get your ass over to iTunes and grab a copy of her latest EP, Skipping Stones.

The tracks on Skipping Stones are full of gorgeous space and ambience, lit up by smart production choices, ethereal strings, and catchy percussive claps and finger snaps. The acoustic, big-room sound sucks you in to its universe and makes you never want to leave.

If you have been following Alexz, you’d be surprised at the drastic change from 2010’s Voodoo. You can still play connect-the-dots to see her musical evolution, but Skipping Stones debuts a whole new Alexz. The girl I grew up alongside seems to finally be cementing her voice as a writer and an artist. This is surely in great debt to the fact that things are now completely DIY. The EP was produced with friends and favors, and used to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund her current US tour. With a goal of $30,000, the campaign received 100% funding within a day, and doubled that by its closing deadline.

Despite two previous major label deals, Alexz is “finally surviving as a musician” and loves having control over her own career. When we were 13, there was no Kickstarter, Youtube, Myspace, Facebook, PureVolume, or any of the websites that now drive and even launch many music careers. Social media marketing was nonexistent, and any online connecting was relegated to AOL and Yahoo chat rooms.

The music industry was a whole different ball game. Labels ran the biz, and in most cases things were very controlled, with the head honchos calling all the shots. Alexz was busy acting, auditioning, and spending time in studios, and not getting the same one-on-one connection with her fan base that she is now able to have.

This post, though a little old, really digs into her feelings about how her position in the industry, and perhaps a bit of her own naiveté, affected the development of her career and her relationship with her fans. Alexzhasablog was started so that she could finally reach out to all us nerds who’d been following her over the years. It is, above all things, a raw and honest account of an artist struggling to just practice her art and share it with as many people as possible.

Alexz took some time to sit with me before her recent show at The Basement in Columbus (see video below). As good as Skipping Stones is, her live sound is even better. The powerful emotion audible in every syllable she sings becomes visible in every movement of her body. As sweet-natured as she is off-stage, on-stage she is electric. It was the kind of show every music lover lives for.

With her incredible talent, work ethic, and dedicated fans, I can’t wait to see where Alexz’s road leads. Read her blog, check out her tour tumblr and stay updated at alexzjohnson.com. Plus, watch for her next full-length album coming in 2013!

Catch some of our interview in the video below. Excuse the noisy background – we had to scramble to find a place to talk just 30 minutes before her set, and there was a band playing next door. Watch through the end for some fan cameos!
Tiffany interviewing Alexz Johnson