An Interview With Brazilian American Singer ALEXIA BOMTEMPO On Her Latest and Third Collection, Favorite Artists And More!
Posted On 10 Nov 2017
Brazilian-American singer Alexia Bomtempo delivers an electrifying tour de force with CHASING STORMS AND STARS, recently released on September 22nd. STORMS is Bomtempo’s third studio album and the first to be released in the U.S. The release offers hints of blues, folk, country and Motown soul, while never forgetting the Brazilian beats that are in Bomtempo’s blood.
This album comes after Bomtempo’s 2012 second release I Just Happen to Be Here, which was a collection of Veloso’s songs, written during his 1969–71 exile in London.
On CHASING STORMS AND STARS, Bomtempo collaborated with her partner in music and life, Texan guitar player, producer-composer, Jake Owen. They recorded the album with celebrated producer-engineer David Boyle (Patty Griffin, Trixie Whitley, Robert Plant) at his “Church House Studio” in East Austin. Other featured artists on the release include percussionist Mauro Refosco (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Atoms For Peace, Forró in the Dark), drummer Darren A. Beckett (Madeleine Peyroux, Brandon Flowers) and others, including their sadly departed friend, legendary Austin bassist George Reiff.
Born to an American mother and a concert-promoter Brazilian father, Bomtempo was raised in the beach culture of Rio De Janeiro, while traveling to America frequently over the years. She grew up listening to Brazilian popular music and Bossa Nova, as well as rock, folk and jazz.In 2008, she began touring throughout Brazil, Japan and the U.S. in support of her debut release Astrolabio.
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Learn more about Alexia in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time for another All Access today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
I am chilling at home in New York City, having a glass of wine and listening to the new Beck album “Colors”. If I happen to be in a bad mood, any João Gilberto record has the power to take me to a good place, reminding of my beach-side upbringing in Rio de Janeiro.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there a time where you thought of doing something completely different?
I always knew that I wanted to be a performing artist. I flirted with the idea of acting in my early teens, but was completely drawn to music once I joined my high school chorus group. I was very fortunate to grow up in a home where listening to records was a great part of our everyday life. My dad used to be a concert promoter in Brazil and most of my childhood memories involve going to shows and experiencing all the magic behind the scenes. I never wanted to do anything else. In fact, with the ebb and flow of the music business, I think that it’s more important than ever to remind myself why it is that I choose to be a musician everyday.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career? What are you most excited about for in 2018?
2017 has been all about getting ready for the release of my new album “Chasing Storms and Stars”, which just came out a few weeks ago. I am excited about touring the U.S for the first time and starting to build a fan-base.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected you and your music today?
Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by echoes of bossa nova and being exposed to so much live music as a child due to my father’s work was very powerful and has undeniably helped shape me as an artist. Rio is home to some world-class talent and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with musicians that still influence the music that I make today.
What was it like finally releasing your US debut album, “Chasing Storms and Stars”? How long have you been wanting to introduce it here?
It’s this very odd sensation of excitement, relief, disquiet and curiosity. I’m thrilled to make my way back to my American roots, after having a life in music on the Southern part of the hemisphere. I’ve always wanted to write songs in English and explore the art scene in New York. This album embodies some life changing decisions that I’ve made over the past few years and I am so grateful for what it represents.
What was it like putting this album together? Did anything surprise you about the whole process? How long did it take? How is this collection different than anything else you have released in the past?
This is the third album of my career, but my first American release. It represents a big change for me, in music and in life. It’s been 5 years since my last album came out (“I Just Happen to Be Here”, an English language tribute to Caetano Veloso) and so many things in my life have changed since then. In 2013, I relocated from Rio to New York and had the chance to explore and experiment with my music, collaborate with artists from all over the world, make new friends, find true love. Shortly after, I was offered a performance residency in Tokyo and completely immersed myself in a foreign culture. All these key circumstances inspired me to write. Up until then, I had only done co-writes with other Brazilian songwriters; so for the first time, I felt the freedom and the independence as an artist to make my own voice be heard in what I was creating. I had always been a bit self-conscious about writing, especially having started out in Rio as a singer of Brazilian Popular Music, where historically, female vocalists didn’t really write their own material. This album made me explore my identity and experiment with my surroundings. Perhaps New York has a substantial influence, in the sense that the whole cliche of “you can be whoever you want to be” plays a card in how you conduct your life here. The collaboration with Jake Owen (my partner in music and in life) is an essential element to the album. From the writing process to the final product, he challenged me to work hard and believe in my potential to create.
What are some of your favorite songs on this new album? Can you talk about how a few of the songs were created? Generally, how do you go about writing songs?
“Maybe I’m a Fool”, “Mexico” and “Letting It Die” are some of my favorite songs. Jake and I wrote “Mexico” together a couple of years ago, during a road trip through West Texas. I had never seen that part of the country and was completely taken by the landscape, the open roads, the sky…the power of nature and how small and fragile we may be. I usually start with a melody and then everything comes together. But the writing process is always different, I don’t have a particular system that I follow. It really depends on how the essence of the idea comes about. Sometimes it is very natural and all in one flow. For instance, I wrote “I Thought About You” alone in a hotel room, strumming a few chords on the guitar- in less than 30 minutes it was a finished song. But the process can also be arduous, painful, time consuming, especially when you’re looking for that perfect line. I often dream of melodies… The entire melody for “Letting It Die” materialized in my dreams! I’ve learned to respect the ideas that come in my sleep and try to keep a voice recorder nearby so I don’t miss out on anything.
With the summer over now, what was something fun or new that you tried this summer?
I did a tour through Japan in June and that was an incredible experience: playing a different city every night, riding the bullet train, enjoying some of the best food in the world… Other than that, I was so busy in preparation for the album release that I didn’t have much downtime to relax this summer once I was back in NYC. I’m planning a trip to Rio in the winter so I am hoping to take my beach days in then.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these difficult times?
I really enjoy collaborating with other artists. Often, I can embark on a lonely path in songwriting, which can be a quite challenging, but also relieving. I love it when the time comes to share a piece that I’ve been working on with other musicians, bringing a song to life. There is something to be said about people making music in a room. It’s a powerful thing. I think that the current stage of the world has forced artists to become more resilient. There is constant pressure to get a message out and to express meaningful sentiment. I do hope that, down the road, we can look back at these difficult times and see that some great art was born from the chaos.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
So many… Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Thome Yorke, Paul McCartney, Dinah Washington, Blossom Dearie, Fiona Apple…and the list goes on.
It would be a dream to have Nigel Godrich, Jon Brion or David Byrne produce one of my records. I love Brazilian singer-songwriter Rodrigo Amarante and would love to write and do a track with him.
What do you hope fans take away from your music? Do you think there is a message to a lot of your songs?
I often hear fans revealing how they’ve used my music to escape, how the songs and the sounds bring them to a different time and space. I think that means the therapeutic and expressive feeling is coming across and that is something that I aspire to continue doing. Many songs on “Chasing Storms and Stars” are about understanding life and the people that come into your life, accepting the directions you take and the choices you make, taking risks and dealing with the aftermath, letting go and being open to receive.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
Being a working musician is a challenge and the idea that your career is going to play out exactly as pictured is something that you should probably let go of. Not to say that dreams don’t come true, but you have to be able to focus on the everyday work and, most importantly, enjoy the ride. If all your attention is turned to the finish line, you will be missing out on this fundamental process of building your artistry.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself, your music or the show?
I’m over the moon to be playing in LA for the very first time on November 4 at Hotel Cafe, which is such a cool room and so many musicians that inspire me have been on that stage. With the world at our fingertips, I still believe that getting out to have real experiences is what shapes us as human beings. Not even the most high-tech live stream can replace the sensation of being part of a live performance.