By Nicole Hanratty
Posted May 1, 2013
When you have to relearn to walk again at the age of 18, anything is possible. Singer songwriter Alexis Babini opened up our interview by serenading me with, “Nicole…she’s got a pretty heart she’s got a pretty soul. She’s got a website which I scroll…the Life of a Rock Star.” You can pretty much guess he won me over from the get-go with that, but truth be told–Alexis Babini who’s been on tour with Aaron Carter–had me at “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”
His catchy pop single that is “organic meets synthetic” and music video appeared on the front page of iTunes off of his full length album “The Pioneer Spirit” which has hit upwards of #50 on the top singer/songwriter chart. One listen and I wanted to know more about this “Man In Black” who donates his time to MusiciansOnCall.org.
Alexis tried to end the interview after my serenade expressing fears that he would be a boring interview but I wasn’t going to let this talented guy with an adorable personality hang up so quickly and I assure you not a dull moment ensued. We talked ideal dates, missing organs, puppies, and life-changing experiences like the detention to which he owes his entire career.
Watch Alexis Babini “Shut Up And Kiss Me” on YouTube Music Videos
We jumped right into the fun questions and I asked Alexis Babini, “What’s your favorite place to take a date?”
Alexis: I’m very particular to rooftops especially in the city…cityscapes at sunsets. I’m not going to say long walks on the beach but I do like long walks on the beach. If this is a super fantasy date…then I have a private jet and I’m going to fly her to Venice, Italy and then we’re going to go on a safari to a desert somewhere or a jungle. People don’t go for safaris in deserts. (Laughs) They go on safaris in jungles. I should get that straight before I get my date started. I should get all the information first.
Nicole: It sounds like your date needs a vaccination before she gets on the flight with you.
Alexis: My bedroom. That’s it. That’s where it ends.
Nicole: (Laughs) I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. [Laughing] You’re going to have girls lining up to be taken out on a date with you.
Alexis: Oh no, I don’t know. Maybe. You should see these messages I get now that I’ve been on tour with Aaron Carter. I get all these crazy like, “Here’s my number; text me.” I’m just so afraid of whatever these strangers want from me. My worst fear is waking up somewhere in a bathtub full of ice and I’m missing vital organs. I’m like, “Oh no!”
Nicole: You’re saying that would not be an ideal date?
Alexis: (Laughs) To wake up in the bathtub full of ice missing a kidney or something, that would not be an ideal date. That would probably be worst case scenario. Best case is fly all over the world in my private jet and I sing a beautiful serenade and worst case is that I lose my kidneys in a bathtub full of ice.
Nicole: (Laughs). You’re saying that I’m not special and I’m not the only girl you’ve serenaded?
Alexis: Well, I mean, I do do it for a living. But we could keep up the lies and just say that this is my first time ever.
Nicole: If you walk your date into an ice cream shop, what flavor are you ordering?
Alexis: I don’t know. That’s so funny because the minute you said ice cream I thought about my trainer and my meal plan and how I get yelled at sometimes if I put in the meal plan when I had pizza. It’s like, “No, not ice cream.” (Laughs) I was always a fan of chocolate chip cookie dough or the sherbets, the orange. I do have to say though that I’m not a fan of mint chocolate chip. I know that’s controversial but I really don’t like mint chocolate chip. I say that knowing that if you print that, people are going to read that and hate me a lot.
Nicole: It will definitely alienate girls and fans. There’s no question. What’s next, you don’t like puppies?
Alexis: [Laughing] Can I tell you what I did? I have a mailing list from my concerts because how it works is I play the show and then I merchandise table. The tour manager and me will sign, “Hey come to the merchant table and sign up for the mailing list.” I had a clipboard and some people would sign up. Most people would not. So I threw out the clipboard and I bought the notebook that has puppy dogs on it. From the stage I’m like, “Yeah guys this is my mailing list. Look it has puppies.” There are 400 girls that are like, “Awe.” Then I would pass it out from the stage and then I would leave with like 80 to 100 emails a night.
Nicole: Tell me about the tour with Aaron Carter.
Alexis: After maybe two or three shows together, him and I started getting along and I was like yeah this guy is cool. He’s given me a lot of opportunities and he calls me one night and I’ll never forget this. He called me up at 10 at night and he was like, “Hey man, what are you doing tomorrow? I really need your help with something.” I was like, “What do you need my help with?” He was like, “I want to play one of my songs on TV tomorrow acoustic. I’m going to send you a song. You got to learn it.” I was like okay. I’ll go do the TV thing, cancel what I have tomorrow. Then I learned the song and I show up at the studio.
It’s Fox news and this guy is like doing our makeup, the camera crew is getting ready. We rehearsed the song once and they looked at the guy and said something. He looks at me and said, “We’re going to be live in five minutes.” I was like I didn’t know this was going to be a live performance. The guy was like, “Yeah it’s live.” I was like, “How many people are going to be watching us?” That guy looks at me and he goes, “30 million. You’re on in five.” I was like holy shit.
Aaron Carter (with Alexis Babini) on F0X News performing “Girlfriend”
Nicole: You’ve got a lot going on in your album, “The Pioneer Spirit.” I’ve got folk pop, I’m hearing low file electronica, I heard some banjos. I’ve heard a little reggae in “Give a Little Love Back.”
Alexis: My mom heard “Give a Little Love Back” and she was like, “You sound like John Marley.” I was like you mean Bob Marley? She was like, “Yes.” [Laughing] With the album “The Pioneer Spirit” we tried…combining these elements that I love in pop music today with synthetic beats and loops and hooks like polish productions and stuff like that. We combined that with these older sounds that I love like Tom Petty records and the harmonica and the guitar. It’s sort of like organic meets synthetic. …I very much stay current with the top 40 sounds but also I put a high premium on music that is timeless and isn’t just a 15 minute famous thing and then people have forgotten and gone onto the next junk food for their ears.
Nicole: “Shut Up and Kiss Me” probably is the perfect combination of those right?
Alexis: Yeah! This guy wrote me a message on Facebook and was like, “I heard ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ and now I’m inspired to ask out a girl…” something along the lines of he’d heard the song and now he has the courage to ask out some girl that he’s been trying to ask out or something. I was like, “Good luck, number one. Number two, maybe don’t start with shut up.”
Nicole: In “No Medicine,” you say…you show me no mercy and honey I’ve taken all I can endure. Is there a story there behind that song?
Alexis: There is unfortunately. [laughs] Yeah, I wouldn’t wish that on my enemies. Being young and trying to figure it out and having this chaotic…I’ve always explained that relationship…have you ever seen that movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona?
Nicole: Great movie.
Alexis: I always tell people that girl for me was Penelope Cruz and I was Javier Bardem in the movie because in real life they’re together and it’s great but in the movie they’re so conflicted but they’re still in love and they’re so passionate but it’s so dangerous and bad and toxic. At one point a gun goes off and somebody gets shot in the leg. It’s just like, it’s crazy and that was my relationship. Nobody got shot but, I don’t know…maybe metaphorically.
Nicole: Someone might have taken a bullet.
Nicole: Do you want to talk about “The Pioneer Spirit” and the title song and the name of the album and how you came up with that?
Alexis: That’s my favorite type of whiskey. I actually like the imagery and “The Pioneer Spirit” draws upon these themes of adventure and these themes of exploration in the world around you and also within yourself. It’s like this coming of age, who am I, manifest destiny theme that I love. I was writing this record and there’s a liquor store right near the studio and because a friend of mine produced it for not a lot of dough. He’s a friend of mine. I got a nice deal. I would just bring him whiskey every night just to say, “Thanks, you’ve been working on this so hard.” I went to this liquor store and I was like can you recommend me a bourbon I haven’t tried yet.
The people in the store we’re like, “We had a blind taste test recently and this one whiskey beat out all the other types of whiskeys.” They handed me this bottle and it said Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit. I was like oh my God, this is what the album is going to be named. It just came to me like that. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I just finished the first leg of the tour with Aaron and I’m driving back from Atlanta and I realize that on the way back to New York there’s this distillery in Virginia that makes this whiskey.
I just showed up with my guitar in my hand and the album in the other and I was like, “I named this album after your whiskey,” and the staff just freaked out. They crowded around me. I played them the songs. It was really cool…they were really excited that I named my album that.
Nicole: I love “Your Disaster” and “Invincible” as well. I think those are two great songs. They both have catchy hooks. I definitely see that you’re putting a lot of work into music. Did you start at a young age?
Alexis: I was probably about 14 when I wrote my first song. Actually I wrote my first ever song in detention in school. There was this math teacher who was really mean and she had this podium where he kept all her books.
There was this substitute teacher one day and she was out and I went to the substitute teacher and I was like, “I work for the wood shop department and we need to take this podium and we need to fix it because there’s something wrong with it.” I took the podium and I hid it in another classroom (laughing). Then she came back the next day and she was like, “Who took my podium?” Nobody ratted me out but she knew it was me so I got a detention. In that detention I wrote my first ever song.
Nicole: You owe it all to her.
Alexis: I was so psyched to be in detention. I was like this is great.
Nicole: It inspired your entire career.
Alexis: Yeah so I’m glad. I’m glad Ms. Brian got me in trouble. I have her to thank.
Nicole: (Laughs). Could you name three things you think that have happened in your life probably starting with detention that have gotten you where you are today in your music career?
Alexis: Wow this is good. This is like a challenge. Thing number one, I got in a car accident when I was 18 years old and I had to learn how to walk again.
Nicole: Let’s not gloss over that.
Alexis: No I’m serious. It was a thing when I was in high school and I had to miss a lot of school and I was home and it was very confusing thing for me. Part of it was here I am; I have this crazy injury, I fractured my neck and I fractured the 2nd vertebra from the top of my neck which is the same injury that Christopher Reeve had. I was a hairline fracture away from paralysis. I feel like I’ve been given a chance now that I can still walk, I can still move even though I had this crazy injury. I had to wear the halo bolted into your skull for months and months and wear a neck brace and all that stuff. Part of that was like if there is a higher power and I’ve been allowed a 2nd chance, what am I going to do?
I want to do music.
Thing number two is my grandfather was a famous cellist and in the 60s, he was the first chair for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He played classical music and on the side he played for pop groups. I didn’t know this until recently but my grandfather Italo Babini he sings on the background of Marvin Gaye songs and Stevie Wonder because that was Motown era in the 60s and Detroit.
I graduated music school in 2008 and I saw my grandfather again shortly after I graduated music school and I said, “I’m so excited to tell you this. I don’t know if you’ve heard but I just graduated music school and I’ve decided that I want to be a performing songwriter for the rest of my life and I want to follow in your footsteps and play music.” He said, “Don’t do that.” [laughter] He was like, “Get a real job because I’ve done that and it’s very difficult and you will starve and you do not want that life for yourself.” A couple months later I played a show in Connecticut that was sold out and my parents brought him to the show. Sold out show in Connecticut.
I had everybody singing along, clapping their hands and it may be one of my greatest performances I think around during that time, 2009, 2010. My grandfather came up to me after the show and he said, “I take back what I said. I see that you have this gift and this talent and that you can reach people with it and I want you to do this and I believe in you.”
Thing number three would be my new album, “The Pioneer Spirit,” just came out. I had my first ever CD release concert in New York. I worked really hard to get a friend of mine, he’s a music director, helped arrange the scheduling for the rehearsals. I had Elaina, my publicist who I think you know, she put a lot of work into getting the word out, getting laminates made.
My manager, Matt Refall, booked the show negotiated with the venue. We figured out a way to get people drink tickets. All these tremendous acts done by people in addition to myself just to make this show happen. Here I am backstage. The album just got released the night before. I hope that when I get out there on stage out there that it’s not empty. I just hope there are at least a few people that came here to see me tonight. I walked out onto the stage and the place was packed. We had sold out the room.
Nicole: Those are three pretty great things.
Nicole: You’re just beyond gifted and what a great heart you have.
Alexis: Thank you.
Nicole: You’ve been amazing to talk to and interview today so thank you so much and I think nothing for me was boring about today.
Alexis: I’ll take that as a compliment.
Nicole: You definitely kept it lively.
Alexis Babini Musicians On Call Google+ Virtual Bedside Performance Progdram
WE ASKED ALEXIS BABINI
What song title best describes your personality?
Alexis: I was wearing all black yesterday and listening to Johnny Cash on the way to this radio thing. He has a song called “Man in Black” and the lyrics to that song go…for all the folks who in this life are held back, there ought to be someone up front wearing black to remind everyone there’s more to achieve. I like that. I’ll say Johnny Cash, Man in Black. Not to be confused with the Will Smith song.
Do you have an all time favorite movie?
Alexis: That would be The Hustler starring Paul Newman. It came out in the 60s.
ALEXIS BABINI ON THE WEB
ALEXIS BABINI SUPPORTS
MUSICIANS ON CALL
Nicole: Is there a charity that’s close to your heart or to which you donate your time?
Alexis: It’s Musicians On Call. This amazing charity that has been putting me at hospitals performing alongside my tour dates. …I came to them with this idea of while I’m on tour, I know you have the charities in Nashville and you’re also based in DC and Philly. They ended up reaching out to the other branches of the charity and while I was on tour between my club and venue shows, I’d be performing in hospitals either the day before or the day of like before sound check.
It’s totally crazy. Philly… I did a hospital performance in DC. We did Walter Reed Hospital that’s where the President goes for his medical needs. Nashville, did Vanderbilt Hospital. Last week or the week before, they called me up and they told me that they just partnered with Google and that they’re doing this thing called the virtual bedside performance. They chose me to be the first ever artist and they did this because just the reviews that I was getting at the hospitals. They said, “It’s a no brainer. We want you to come on in.” I went in there and they put a camera on me and over the internet, they broadcast my performance at different hospitals in different parts of the country.
Nicole: That’s amazing for those patients. That’s a huge gift on your behalf.
Alexis: Thank you. It’s very tremendous to see…the power of music and the healing power of music because it’s easy to get caught up in showbiz. …When you work with hospitals, they’re like yeah, we don’t need you to have to give us your pitch we’re just excited that you want to come and you want to do this. It’s just like you strip away all the superficial aspects. You just stick with the power of music. It’s really cool.