Alexx Calise: Singingâ€”and Givingâ€”Like a Rock Star!!
Teen Voices intern Michelle Golden talked with Alexx Calise, a young L.A- based singer, songwriter, and guitarist who finds time to rock on stage and promote education and brain trauma research with charitable foundations. Calise gives her guitar strings to Wear Your Music, a foundation that takes guitar strings donated by various artists and creates beautiful bracelets. Fans then buy the bracelets to support various charities chosen by the artist." Read on to hear more about Calise and how you can give back like a rock star!
Teen Voices (TV): How long have you been singing and writing songs? How has music been a part of your life?
Alexx Calise (AC): I've been singing and songwriting for a number of years. I started singing in church because I went to a Catholic school where we had mass and sang in church every Wednesday. Singing hymns in church helped me realize that I wanted to be a singer. I picked up a guitar when I was 11 because I wanted to emulate my father who's a musician too. It became a way of translating my poetry and writing into music because I've always been a writer first and foremost. Music is a way to give my words life. Some of my songs developed from journal writing but I've always been into writing free-verse poetry. When I originally picked up guitar it was to have a means to give those words music and then I just fell in love with my instrument along the way.
TV: What is your main source of inspiration?
AC: My mom and dad. They're awesome. They have always been there for me and supported me through good times and bad times. The music business has a lot of really high highs and low lows." Sometimes it's a crude, unfriendly business so they've helped me stay grounded and get through it all." In the music world, I look up to my father who inspired me to pick up my guitar. My brother and I used to sit on the floor and look up at him while he played and we would be completely in awe. I thought, "I've gotta do that-- that's so cool!" When I picked up the guitar and started getting into it, I would listen to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and lots of blues music. Then I started getting into other musicians that have inspired me--people like Silverchair and Stone Temple Pilots.
TV: What does music mean to you?
AC: Music is very, very important to me. I believe it's the kind of thing that chooses you; you don't necessarily choose it. I really don't think there is anything else I would want or be able to do. Without music in my life, I'd be utterly lost. When I'm not playing, I love to see it and hear it." For example, I went out last night and saw a really awesome band and I was super inspired just sitting and watching it. Music has a lot of meaning to me.
TV: How do you think you've inspired others to pursue their dreams?
AC: I hope I've inspired others. It would be cool to see more female musicians in rock music because it's traditionally a male-dominated genre. I love seeing a girl who can really rock and not just do the basic " b-chord / c-chord. It's so cool to see. I'd like to inspire young people today. I'd like to see more young people do more positive things for themselves and for the world." I see a lot of people my age and younger who have a sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations and I hope that my music can help them break that. I hope to inspire people to get up and move. There's so much out there, you just have to do something!
TV: How can you use music to help others?
AC: Music is a universal language. It's very therapeutic. There's a different artist for everyone. When I make music, it's intended to be very therapeutic and I hope it can be helpful to others who are having a bad time or are in a bad way and just need to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way. It's a great thing.
TV: How have you been involved with the P.A.C.E. organization?
AC: The acronym stands for Promoting Academics through Creative Expression. I was working with inner-city high schools and middle schools in the LA county area performing for kids. In between the performances there was a slideshow that talked about the importance of staying in school and pursuing education. What was interesting about the slide show was that it illustrated the effect of choices to everyday life: what would happen if you worked a minimum wage job for $8 or $9 an hour and how difficult it would be to cover all your expenses like rent and food. It was really interesting and it was cool to give this information to these kids. Also, many school arts programs have been cut because of funding so I think the kids really appreciate the music and doing something entertaining during the regular school day.
TV: Can you tell me about the Wear Your Music Foundation and how you're involved?
AC: Wear Your Music Foundation is an organization that donates all of the profits from selling bracelets that are made from the guitar strings of various artists. It's a pretty big organization and works with several big artists such as Eric Clapton. All the proceeds from the bracelets made from my strings go to a brain trauma foundation." My brother has a brain injury and it's great to be able to help out when the cause affects someone in my own family. The proceeds from my bracelets go toward research on brain traumas and " injuries." You see a lot of people wearing these bracelets nowadays. It's a great organization and they're really cool people.
TV: How can teens get involved in charity work like Wear Your Music?
AC: You can donate monetarily to foundations but donating your time is really important too. There are so many charities you can give your time to. It's really a positive thing to give back and be a part of charity work because it makes you feel more positive about yourself and the people you work with really appreciate you giving your time. Give any way you can, but giving with your presence really helps.
TV: What have you learned from your successes and disappointments?
AC: I've learned that you really have to enjoy the journey. I'm an artist and I'm never fully happy with my work, but I've learned that it's about enjoying the small victories you have every day and the journey it takes to get to the successes. When I was in Guitar Player magazine a month ago, I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I was so excited to be on the page following my hero Stevie Ray Vaughn! Immediately afterwards, I thought, "What can I do next?" My boyfriend was like, "You're in Guitar Player magazine! Enjoy the moment!" And he was right; it's always great to be thinking ahead, but you've got to enjoy the moment too. I've also learned that thick skin is important. There is so much rejection in this business and it has nothing to do with who you are or what you do. You have to learn not to attach that rejection to your person. I'm constantly learning in this business; it's a growing process and you've got to take it one day at a time.
TV: What's next for you?
AC: This year, over the next few months, we're going to do a west coast tour, and then hopefully, we will start branching out. I am stoked to start touring outside of the country eventually. Fans can get my new album online and if they can check out this new movie called L.A., I Hate You, starring Malcolm McDowell. They can hear my new song in the next few months or so. There is a lot going on, but fans can keep up with me on my website at: www.alexxcalise.net.
Read a Teen Voices' review of Alexx Calise's album "In Avanti"
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