Skipping Stones With Alexz Johnson — China Shop Magazine Interview

Here’s a new interview Alexz did with China Shop Magazine.


Music Skipping Stones with Alexz Johnson
by Nicole Pajer and Catie Laffoon
April 11, 2012 – 9:44 am

Alexz Johnson has been singing for as long as she can remember, treating her family to living room concerts at the age of three. When she turned twelve, Johnson marched into a talent agency and belted out a song. Before long, she had earned a prominent role on Disney’s So Weird. In 2004, Johnson sent in audition tapes to the producers of Degrassi: The Next Generation and was cast as the lead role of Jude Harrison in their music-oriented Instant Star. She began to write original songs for the show’s soundtrack. Her singing career earned her a deal with Capitol Records and a stint with Epic Records, which eventually fell through after the label president was shifted to a different sector in 2009.

After her adventures with the corporate music world, Johnson has decided to take her music career into her own hands. “I feel stronger than ever because I’m doing it on my own terms, you’re so humble and it’s so about the music that there is nothing else to hide behind,” she explains. Johnson, who is planning a tour in support of her new EP, Skipping Stone, recently enlisted the help of fans to raise funds via a Kickstarter campaign. She asked for $30,000 and hit her entire goal… in one day!

ChinaShop sat down with Johnson to discuss writing Skipping Stone with her former boyfriend, collecting fan confessions on her Twitter, and plans for the upcoming tour.

What did you start doing first, singing or acting?

Singing was my passion growing up and I was writing at a very young age. I walked to an agency at 12. I’m one of 10 kids so it’s like all of us just kind of fended for ourselves…

You’re one of 10 kids in your family?

Yeah. I’m right in the middle – same mom and dad, a lot of kids. It’s awesome.

Anyway, I just basically walked to an agency in a small town outside of Vancouver and I said, “I want to sing.” And he was like, “Well we’re an acting agency.” I was one of those spunky kids and I had a lot of confidence because I had family members who supported what I did. I had gotten used to singing in front of crowds. So I just started singing for him and he said, “Well. We’ll get you some auditions.” And I said, “Well OK if I could play a singer.” So then I landed a Disney series really quickly, without hardly any acting experience – I had done maybe a Staples commercial or something like that – and I got the lead of a Disney show and I was singing on that. And then all the acting stuff I started doing from then on was mostly playing musicians and music based. It’s hard to say. Music is so my passion but acting has really allowed me financially to do my music.

So you just found an agency and walked in?

Yeah. It wasn’t really a big agency. They’d send me out to auditions and I’d find a way to get there. After the Disney series, I took a break from acting and just started writing with my brother in the basement. He was going to production school to be a producer and he’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with – not just because he’s my brother. The stuff we did together got us signed with Capitol. It got us signed with Epic/Sony… So we spent time in the basement writing and working on music and we continued to write.

Tell us about your Kickstarter project. You reached your entire goal in one day?


Did you have any idea that would happen?

No idea. I think it’s a really exciting thing because it just shows you how much the music industry is changing right now. I’m taking a lot of meetings right now with management and booking agents because I left everything in Canada. I put all my stuff in storage and just moved to New York City to get a band together and just tour.

How long ago was that?

Maybe five months ago.

So you’re still settling in New York?

Oh yeah. And even before that I was in a relationship in Nashville and I was going back and forth to Nashville. I’ve only spent maybe a good month and a half really in the city. But regarding Kickstarter, I’ve been signed twice. I’ve done major label albums. I’ve never really had the chance to go on the road and do what I love. I’ve always been waiting and invested in but nothing happened because everyone was so afraid of losing their job so I thought, “I’m just going to raise it myself and just do it.

And you hit $30,000 in one day.

Yeah and we reached almost $68,000!

Were you nervous when you launched the campaign? If you don’t hit your goal, they refund the money and you don’t get anything right?

Yeah, totally. I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s gotta feel good that there are people out there that want to see you succeed.

Yeah. It feels really good.

Tell us about the prizes you are giving to people that donated.

I did this EP and I decided to put it out and stream it online for free and I put it together through my contacts. I’d worked with Greg Wells on my Epic album that didn’t get released – he’s amazing – and these people in my life that I’ve worked with that keep getting more and more success in their careers. It’s really cool because in the industry you make these friendships and I can just reach out and be like, “Hey Greg. Can you mix for me?” I reached out to my friend James Lewis in London and his friend Robin Schmidt who mastered all of Mumford and Sons and Arctic Monkeys and he decided to master it for me. I had this EP and I decided to stream it live and have people go to my Kickstarter. I think at this point in music, you want to get them really engaged. It’s almost like a venue for supporting you. So I’m gonna send off the CDs. I’m giving away merch, CD vinyls, hard copies of the CD, T-shirts, photos, phone calls, videos I’m making for them, and I’ll be at the post office sending this out for a week and a half probably.

What does the highest donor get?

The highest I had is $5,000 to play a house concert. It’s been really interesting. I’m learning so much as an indie artist putting the pieces together.

Do you miss the big label thing at all?

No. I mean it’s hard to manage everything. It will be nice when I have management and the booking agent figured out. I want to find people that are passionate about what they do and that takes time. I almost feel stronger than I ever have because doing it on my own terms, you’re so humble and it’s so about the music that there is nothing else to hide behind or anything whereas when I was signed with Sony, I would always feel a little bit like I was fooling everyone, like: “Why am I signed with Sony? Is this really going to happen?”

Tell us about you new EP Skipping Stone. What are the songs inspired by?

It’s really interesting. The majority of the EP I wrote with Jimmy Robbins. He’s a musician in Nashville and it’s funny that we wrote those songs together. It’s just really interesting how intuitive women are because looking back almost every song on the EP is like a heartbreak song and we wrote those together. And I think it’s just so funny – skipping stone, and walking, and a thief – the songs represent a time in my life when I was obviously very afraid of getting my heart broken from the very beginning. The stuff we were writing about was like, “Don’t break my heart” like without even thinking so that’s what’s come out of the last few years for me is this EP. It’s really special to me. I’d never experienced that before. I’d never been through that kind of pain and I think it’s all in there so I’m really thankful for that.

It’s only going to make you a stronger songwriter right?

Yeah, hopefully.

You just hosted something on your Twitter called #Twitfessions. What are some of the crazy things you heard?

Oh my Gosh. It was so crazy. Someone was like, “I drink Jack as much as I drink water. Is this a problem?” I’m like oh gosh. What else? “I’m in love with my best friend. How do I tell him?” Stuff like, “My mom is really sick right now in the hospital and I have no one to talk to.” It really puts things into perspective when people are willing to be really open about the hardships in their life.

Tell us about the “Stage it” show that you recently did. People were logging in from over the world and watching you?

Yeah. I think there was like 400 something people tuned in and they were tipping as they watched the show, which is cool. I had this idea that I would thank them on camera. “If you donate to the Kickstarter, I’ll say thanks.” We ended up raising an extra $3,000 which was cool.

So you’re gonna tour the US and you hope to get to Europe… Where else are you gonna go?

I’d like to get up to Toronto or Montreal. I’d love to get to Vancouver. I want to utilize this the best way I can and not be silly with it. I’m probably going to try to hit the hubs and try to get as many places as I can.

What’s your favorite track off of Skipping Stone?

Probably “Skipping Stone.” It was kind of out of control; the song almost wrote itself, which is really interesting when that happens. It’s almost like I can’t take responsibility for it because it just came out so quickly. I was in Nashville and I went to the Ryman and I took a tour around the back. I couldn’t step on the stage because I would have just died. That’s a venue that I really want to play in my life and it’s around that time that I started thinking about the old classic writers that I love. There’s something about it that’s really classic to me so that’s why I love it so much.

What’s the most obscure thing you’ve ever written a song about?

I’ve written a lot of joke songs. I wrote a song about a broom once. I wrote a song called “Lighter Than The Air” once. That could be taken in many different ways. “It’s lighter than the air.” It’s so obscure.

Are you still doing any acting right now?

I’m with William Morris on the acting end and they send me things. I screen tested for a series recently – a music series. It’s interesting when I got the call that they wanted to screen test me because you have to sign papers to screen test and I didn’t want to. I was like, “Oh gosh. Sign 6 years of my life over to a show?” I actually said “no” and then I had my agent and people in my life say, “you have to be able to live and eat and you want to be able to do your music.” So I did it. I’m waiting to hear back. We’ll see. It’s a pilot for a series and it’s music based. I’d love to do something like a Stevie Nicks story or a film. That would be amazing. If those opportunities present themselves that would be awesome.

Is it in your contract that you only want to do music roles?

No. I think I’m definitely a bit of a pain in the ass though when it comes to that. I’ve done some Lifetime movies and good scripts. Sometimes darker roles are cool too. I like when you get to tap into that dark stuff. I’m open to stuff when it comes my way. I have no rules. If it feels right, then I’ll do it.

But you hope to ultimately be doing the music thing full time?

I want to be touring all the time and putting out albums.

Catch Alexz Johnson this Friday April 13 at 11pm at Hotel Cafe.

Words by Nicole Pajer (@NicolePajer). Photos by Catie Laffoon (@CatieLaffoon).

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 at 3:07 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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