Between Gospel Roots And A Southern Soul With Alex Harris
A modern soul singer with Gospel roots, Alex Harris is revered as one of the leading creative architects and performers of new-age soul music, a genre of music that offers a spiritual revival to uplift humanity ensconced in healing, hope, renewal, freedom, and love.
Alex runs A.C.T. (Arts Conservatory for Teens) and lectures worldwide. Recently, he released his ‘Frequency’ EP on all streaming platforms; a unique sonic blend of southern soul, alternative grooves, and Gospel grit. The six-song EP, born during the national lockdown amid the pandemic, includes songs that range from love ballads about finding love to being in love, social justice, loving our neighbors, and celebrating family.
Today, Alex shares his story and inspiration along his journey with The Fox Magazine.
Where is home?
I was born and raised in the small town of Manchester, Georgia, 75-miles Southeast of Atlanta.
Where is your artistic home? What city, neighborhood or country helped inspire and inform your art?
While I am from the country red-clay hills of Georgia, my parents ensured that my seven siblings and I were exposed to cultures (other countries, states/provinces, and cities). Therefore, my creative inspiration and processes are eclectic. I try to learn and find inspiration from all people, places, and experiences as much as possible. There is not one particular city, state, province, or country that inspires my artistic or creative processes and expressions.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
One of my most recent inspirations for creative expression is an initiative that seeks to raise awareness in the African-American and Latino/Hispanic communities regarding mental health amid COVID-19. I am writing a song and coordinating a virtual forum that I hope will raise awareness and encourage anyone who listens, especially in our ‘black’ and ‘brown’ communities, that someone cares and is listening. Far too long, in our communities of color, we have dealt with high-level stress, anxiety, and low-self esteem due to the lack of equitable access to resources that will help us cope with some of the issues faced due to unfortunate circumstances.
What was the defining moment you realize you wanted to do music?
I realized I wanted to pursue music as a career when I was 11 years old. The defining moment was when my siblings and I were invited to perform on the Bobby Jones Gospel Show that aired on B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television). I was so ecstatic. I couldn’t believe I was going to be on national television. It was unbelievable but so amazing.
Has music always been your career plan?
Yes, music has always been my career plan. My brothers and I would take folding tables in our parents’ backyard and we’d produce and perform shows for our neighbors and friends. Sometimes, no one would be in the backyard, we would just set-up and play our instruments. Often, I would imagine that I was on a big stage singing for hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
I am inspired the most by other creatives’ stories (musicians, producers, singers, architects, structural engineers, actors, etc). I enjoy reading biographies and watching documentaries. They are all inspiring in so many ways.
How much has your style changed since you started doing music?
I have always been the kind of performer that I am today in so many ways (passionately expressive and soulful). However, the growth has been tremendous (exploring more ways to refine my expression or convey my passion to the masses). One of my work mantras is, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got, so do something differently to yield different results.” So, I have always challenged myself to find my authentic voice and expression in whatever I do.
What’s the best part of being a musician?
For me, the best part about being a musician is that I get an opportunity to express myself in a universal language that people from around the world can connect with regardless of our knowing each other or not. I believe that music is one of the most powerful elements of the universe.
How do you feel artists stay relevant locally, nationally, or even globally?
I think an artist or creator may remain relevant by connecting with people’s stories and current events. I believe that one’s publicly displayed artistic expression should connect with other people’s experiences that it may inspire, heal, and/or exciting.
The past, present, or future. Which period would you like to recreate in a form of art?
While it would be a challenge for me to choose one of the three because I believe I would enjoy recreating or creating all for significant reasons; however if I had to choose one, it most likely would be the present. I would choose the creation of the present because I believe that there is nothing in life that is better than the present moment and I would want everything about my artistic creation to reflect. The past has come and gone and will never return and tomorrow never comes, so all we really have is now.
What medium or instrument is your favorite to work with and why?
In addition to my vocal instrument, my favorite at this moment is acoustic guitar because of the convenience. I am able to carry my guitar anywhere and start writing songs. It is one of my most recent instruments I learned how to play over the past couple of years. It was a great investment of time because I have written many songs on the guitar.
What sets you apart from other artists?
What sets you apart from other artists is being your authentic self. I believe when an artist or anyone wants to distinguish themselves from others, the person should be their authentic self. Authenticity sets everyone apart because it is only one that is created like the self. That is the beauty of our human existence.
As an emerging artist today, what would you say are some of the challenges you face?
One of the most challenges I am facing as an artist emerging on the scene is the global pandemic. One of the things I really enjoy most is connecting with people and performing. Of course with the global pandemic, we have all worked from home to record and do what we can but it is the same for artists, like me, who really enjoy being out — connecting with fans and making new fans. However, I am grateful that during this time my team and I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to make the strides we are making given the current climate of our industry.
What are some of your favorite artist collaborations?
Some of my favorite artists’ collaborations are Michael Jackson’s, ‘Remember the Time,’ Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, ‘Endless Love,’ H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar’s, ‘Best Part,’ Jay-Z and Kanye West,’s ‘Otis,’ just to name very few of many. There are so many collaborations that are so inspiring.
Music is all about expression, what do you like expressing in your work?
I appreciate and enjoy the moment to share through music both my felt and observed experiences or stories.
Name a few artists would you love to do a song with and why.
I would love to collaborate with H.E.R. She is an extremely talented sister and I absolutely love her voice. Her style and vibe are both uniquely outstanding. Two of my brothers already work with her and it would be amazing for the four of us to collaborate when the time comes. The other artists are Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill. While each has her own distinct style, sound, the vibe — each share unique sentiments of soul, spirit, passion, and love in a very authentic way. I think something magical will happen when the opportunity presents itself for a collaboration to happen.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Some people would be surprised to know that I enjoy cooking. It is always ‘music in my kitchen.’ Also, I enjoy biking on trails and being outdoors in nature when it’s not too hot, of course. Spring and Autumn are my favorite seasons.
What’s your best advice for aspiring musicians?
My best advice I’d offer an aspiring artist/musician or anyone with dreams is to (a) know that your career starts now; (b) everything that you do should be focused on realizing that dream; (c) never succumb to obstacles or barriers that you may face internally or externally. It is hard/smart work and dedication (‘sticking to it), not wavering from your dream manifests your dreams. Dreams don’t just happen. We have to make them happen.
What motto, quote, or words to live by do you use to stay motivated when you aren’t feeling inspired?
To get anything done, you have to just do it. All hard work for profit brings profit. – Proverbs 14:23
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