Since there is no live music happening around RI, it seems like the right time to talk to some local jazz musicians who not only provide live soundtracks for our nights out, but whose music may be bringing even more joy and comfort to our days spent inside. This will be a continuing series.
For this edition, I got in contact with local singer Alexus Lee so I could hear about her journey thus far. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the bill or the stage with Ms. Lee on a few occasions, and I’ve always admired the tone and clarity of her voice, the passion she has for performing and her unflappable drive to make great music.
Ben Shaw (Motif): What drew you to music?
Alexus Lee: I grew up in a musical family. Everyone in my immediate family, and most members of my extended family, either sing or play an instrument. I think growing up around all that creative energy contributed largely to music becoming a major form of expression for me.
BS: When did you start playing?
AL: I started singing and writing and producing my own music at 9 years old and have been doing it ever since. I studied piano and violin from age 9 to 11, and then picked piano up again about two years ago.
BS: How did you first get into jazz?
AL: I didn’t really start getting into playing jazz until about two years ago when I began my weekly residency at CAV Restaurant. John, the owner of CAV, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a Jazz Night, and that’s how it all started! I decided to start it off with a duo, so I hired a good friend Jake Menendez to accompany me on guitar. We spent a couple months shedding a bunch of tunes and started the first week of April 2018. Jazz has become a substantial part of many of my non-original sets since then.
BS: When did you decide to pursue music as a career and how did you start?
AL: I’ve wanted music to be my career ever since I was a kid. I wrote a song called “It’s Breakfast” when I was 11, along with my sister and my cousin, and our ultimate goal was to pitch it to Kellog’s for a Frosted Flakes commercial, so I’ve literally always had huge dreams for my music. I still do! I started singing and writing and producing my own music at 9 years old and have been doing it ever since, and I began performing at 14 years old in high school. I had pretty crippling stage fright before then, and never took music out of my room, but I began working through that by singing lead in high school, in chorus, theater and the annual musicals.
BS: How has a career in music lived up to your expectations? How has it differed?
AL: The only thing I’ve ever really wanted from my career was to feel like I was fulfilling my purpose of connecting with others. There are of course so many ways of measuring career success, but connecting with people is what it’s all built on. I’ve performed in a variety of settings, and explored so many music-related ventures and haven’t always felt like I was living that purpose. So it’s taken some time for me to really find the thing that makes me feel alive and I’m still growing every day into the artist I want to be, and to communicate the messages I want to share, but I’ve learned to have fun with that process of exploration.
BS: Where do you usually play around town?
AL: I play pretty regularly at CAV Restaurant, L’Artisan Cafe & Bakery, and Gulfstream Bar & Grille. I also stop in at AS220 and Askew every now and again.
BS: Is there one thing you think aspiring musicians should think about or do when they consider a career in music?
AL: Follow your passion, and prepare to work hard! Keep your head down, and stay focused on your own work, your own abilities, what you as a unique individual have to offer. Give every performance, every opportunity, every day, your best effort and don’t be afraid to share.
BS: Beyond music, what other activities do you enjoy?
AL: I like spending time outside walking with my dogs, meeting up with friends (womp…), eating good food and enjoying good company.
For more information and links to Alexus’ music, go to alexusalee.com or follow her on Instagram at @alexusalee.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep listening to jazz!
Ben Shaw is a local composer, performer, and writer. Find him at benjaminshawmusic.com.