An Interview With Singer-Songwriter ALEXIS BABINI On His Latest Music, His Busy Summer and Much More!
Posted On 12 Oct 2017
Alexis Babini is a talented singer-songwriter who recently released his new single “Nite Time.” The upbeat track is a great taste of the pop crooner’s feel-good music, featuring a bright and catchy chorus and tying in a swinging jazz sound. It’s also an exciting first listen from of his forthcoming EP, which is set to drop this fall.
Since 2009, New York City-based singer-songwriter Alexis Babini has been crafting acoustic-oriented, folk-pop music with honest lyrics, drawing from his musical inspirations like Sara Bareilles and Jason Mraz. His light-hearted and hook-driven songs have caught the interest of many, getting attention from Perez Hilton and American Songwriter and placements on TV shows like Teen Mom and The Real World. Alexis has toured all over the US throughout the years, sharing the stage with artists like Howie Day, Cody Simpson and The Click Five. He’s also the lead singer for the viral Buzzfeed-featured Disney rock cover band The Little Mermen, a group that’s grown a loyal fan-base in NYC. With his last solo album The Pioneer Spirit landing in the iTunes Top 100 in 2013, Alexis is excited to follow up his past success with brand new music in the upcoming months.
Learn more about Alexis Babini in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood?
A: Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. I also noticed that you just asked me four questions disguised as one question. That is very sneaky of you. I’m onto you.
Right now I am in a LES coffee shop reviewing some footage for my upcoming music video. They are playing some classical piano music here so I Shazamed it. It’s by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. She is a 94 year old Ethiopian nun who is also a famous pianist. Yeah girl. This is setting the ambiance for a very chill afternoon. This is the vibe that gets me into a good mood. My personal go-to’s are also samba music and late night jazz.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
A: I’d love to paint you an iconic picture of my Eureka! moment but to be honest I can’t always remember that kind of stuff. I’m the type of person that forgets important birthdays and what my social security number is. One thing I can say is that… Growing up as a kid, we’re trying on lifestyles and activities to see what fits. For me, Sports didn’t fit. Most other hobbies didn’t fit. But when I figured out I could the guitar and become this songwriter-performer guy something just immediately clicked.
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 who you are as a musician and the art that you create?
A: Growing up, I remember staying home by myself most weekend nights. Playing music for hours alone in those awkward teenage years… Not a lot of shining moments there. Then fast forward years later at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I am getting skills for how to do the thing I love. I am getting experiences on first class recording technology and collaborating with the best musicians in the world. I am playing out at night and collecting tools to become a frontman that can light up a room. A driving force for this initially was wanting to prove everyone from my childhood wrong who made fun of me for being artistic. I’m much older now and learning to let that kind of stuff go. I have more love for where I came from now. Those experiences shaped me.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career?
A: The new record throws it back to the retro pop sounds of early rock and roll. There’s horns on every song on the record. There’s a new look and feel to it. Alexis Babini and his Baband! Who is that guy playing in a 3 piece suit with a 5 piece band?
I understand that, if I’m playing to a new crowd, they might stand there with their arms folded and say “Show me.” I’ve always had the songs but now, for me, it’s all about putting on the show. Thrusting you into a different world. It’s really powerful knowing that I can be that showman who makes you stop and go “Wow! What did I just see?”
I can’t stand seeing buzz bands just play it cool. And I’ve really tried my best to understand it… but will NEVER get the point of paying to see a popular DJ just stand there and play the hits off a laptop. Don’t just play the songs…. perform the songs.
So for me, it’s been a really great year. I have a good team in my corner who believes in me. I finally learned how to carefully surround myself with people that can bring positive energy into my creative space.
Let’s talk about your newest single “Nite Time.” Where did the inspiration for this track come from? How do you think this song reflects your growth as a musician since you first started making music? How does “Nite Time” prepare listeners for more music from you?
A: “ Nite Time” is a great way to introduce everyone to my new sound with big horns. That baritone sax lick! Fun fact: Not all baritone saxophones can play a low E in the bass clef because they are made differently. I found this out in the studio during the session. I’m on that learning curve, baby!
When do you hope to be releasing more new music and a full album of new songs?
A: The next single is coming! Right now looking at a November EP release. As a more general answer I hope to be releasing more new music forever and ever until I am dead.
Can you remember the first time you heard one of your songs on TV? What show was it? What did that feel like for you?
A: I will tell you about the first time people MADE OUT to my song on a TV show. Put yourself in my shoes: you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into making music. And eventually you look at all this time and money you’ve spent and are like, well shit! Is anyone ever going to hear this?… and then… months later… well-coiffed millennials on MTV making out to your song. And everyone in the country is watching. It’s a real Cinderella story, let me tell you. And then the icing on the cake: your name flashes across the screen at the bottom with the song title.
A friend told me a really funny story that put it all into perspective. He was a younger guy… still in college. After a house party he was invited back into the dorm of a nice young lady. It’s late at night. Sparks are flying. They are smooching. Things are happening for them and they are both excited about it. All the sudden, from her laptop speakers comes my song blasting… He’s like “Wait… Hold on a second. This is my friend Alexis. Are you really playing this song right now?” and she’s all like, “I dunno, I just heard this song on TV and I like it.”…I never got the end of the story but I’m pretty sure it can go one of two ways. It either killed the mood for him OR it set the mood for her.
How does your solo work compare to you other project, the Disney rock cover band The Little Mermen? Are you still very active with it?
A: Before I answer this, I have to say… Did you see that Paul McCartney just sang music from The Little Mermaid at a star studded karaoke piano bar somewhere in the East Village? McCartney singing Menken! My musical heroes combining.
There are some new and really exciting things happening with that project. The Little Mermen and I are headlining Irving Plaza the Saturday before Halloween. A friend, who came up as a special guest, told me once like “I get it now! You’re basically doing a Springsteen show with Disney music.” That’s because TLM shows are this insane high energy environment that takes you on a rollercoaster where everyone is singing the words at the top of their lungs. It’s been a lot of fun honoring the Disney music that we all grow up on and love. And while it’s sometimes a challenge to pull off, it’s always been rewarding to play with these iconic elements of our pop culture and put together themed concerts out of it. Five years ago, if you had told me that I’d be the front-man of a cover band I might have slapped you.
With the summer being just about over, what is something fun that you tried for the first time?
A: I had my first experience being cast in an art film by an amazing artist named Josh Kline. I’m just going to describe the experience …and maybe hear from his people when this interview comes up on Google alerts. This new piece of his is getting shown in London. His work has been featured in NYC at the New Museum, The High Line, and The Whitney Museum. I admit I had to Google what Post-humanism means… A lot of his work is very technologically innovative with elements of sci-fi. People make comparisons to the to show Black Mirror on Netflix…
The shoot was set in the future, and everyone wore slightly futuristic clothes… so the wardrobe fitting was a pretty wild experience. Then on the shoot I got to spend a beautiful day in this gorgeous open field in Rockland County with talented actors and friends of the artist. The location was also part of a monastery so there were also these older nuns there. Just a buncha nuns hangin’! Not even a part of the shoot. At some point I found a guitar that belonged to one of the them and started serenading. Also there were bears around and we were warned not to go near them. Good times.
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 hard times?
A: Wouldn’t it be cool to hear a top 40 song denouncing Nazis and White Supremacy? Or a club jam that condemns instigating nuclear warfare? Alas, in showbiz it’s always ‘sex sells’. Right?
On one hand, it’s silly to assume that even though the world is scary, I get to have the most joy because I get to be a musician. Anyone who has tried will tell you; being a full-time working musician is challenging, even in safer times. But on the other hand, right now the arts seem to be under attack. So it’s more important than ever for artists to stand out, speak up, and do their thing. Especially if that’s also a way to bring divided people together. And when that happens it can be a totally joyful experience.
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?
A: Right now, my current musical obsession are the songs from the Rat Pack. I’m talkin’ Dino, Sammy, and Frank. Dean Martin is my spirit animal. Give me that loose, laid back musical delivery! Give me that low vibrato! Vocally, it’s kind of in the same wheelhouse as Elvis. No one really talks about that. Also, he made an entire career out of hamming it up and partying with his best friends. And then the variety show sketches! I can go on forever about this.
A friend strongly recommended the new Lady Gaga Documentary that just came out on Netflix so I just watched. I was fascinated to see how she worked with Mark Ronson on her latest record ‘Joanne’. They are both listed as executive producers in the credits. I liked seeing how they navigated these responsibilities together, their verbal shorthand for how they communicated their ideas, and then just seeing them have fun getting excited about music together. I would kill to be in that room working with them.
What do you hope fans take away from your music? Do you think that your music has a singular overall message at all?
The celebration of the human condition. Feeling enthusiasm while sharing something with a room full of complete strangers. That moment in a show when you go “YEAH! This artist GETS ME.” It’s touching, moving, and inspiring. It can be religious experience for some. Then for others it becomes sort of a freeing sexual experience …A little like living your entire life as a strict catholic and then when you finally get to heaven… turns out it’s all just a big orgy where anything goes. Finally you can let loose!
On a more serious note, essentially all I’m trying to do is connect people. It’s great to have an opportunity to play bigger rooms now because I’ve been that guy who plays to a rowdy bar where no one cares. You learn a thing or two from each experience about what it all means. I now have all these real world tools for every musical situation.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
So this is my favorite poem:
“Roll the Dice”
by Charles Bukowski
if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
how much you really want to
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
you can imagine.
if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your forthcoming music?
A: Check out this charity organization Musiciansoncall.com and see if there is a way you can get involved or donate. I’ve been volunteering with them for years.