Posted On 06 Sep 2019
Meet the NYC songwriter, Lexi Todd! Her latest single release is “Madonna.” She is a badass music attorney by day and soul powerhouse by night. This new single is all about shattering industry standards and women securing a place for themselves at the table.
Lexi performs nightly either as a solo vocalist or with the funk band Chevy Lopez. She’s a unique blend of Neo-soul and jazz-pop; very similar to Sela Sue, Joss Stone and Nina Simone.
Connect With LEXI TODD Online Here:
Learn more about Lexi Todd in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Thanks for having me! I’m sitting in my home studio in Brooklyn.
Now that we are more then half-way through the year, how has 2019 been treating you? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them?
2019 has been really productive. I made a lot of goals this year: to meditate and exercise daily, to spend more time creating and less time on energy-draining relationships, and to release new music that I believe in. I’m doing better at reaching some goals than others. I just released a song that I’m really excited about, but as a result I’ve been running around like crazy for the release and slipping a bit on my other goals. I feel good about 2019 though. I’m proud of my progress so far.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
I always wanted to sing. I actually can’t remember life before wanting to make music. My parents can each carry a tune, but no one in my family is very musical. I, on the other hand, started singing as soon as I could talk and would put on shows for the whole family. I think I started asking for voice lessons when I was in kindergarten, and music was always super important to me. I was always in choirs, bands, guitar lessons, writing, recording etc.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
This question really hits home, because this has been the struggle of my adult life. Despite always being so immersed in music growing up, I panicked when it came time to go to college. In the final hour, I decided not to go to school for music and chose to study something more “practical.” That lead to me studying political science and philosophy, which lead to debate, which lead to law school. I was in a band the whole time, and music was still important to me, but I totally succumbed to the societal norms and pressures around me telling me that as a young adult I should do something practical, get a “good” job, be financially stable, pay off my loans, and so on. For whatever reason, I believed all of that would make me happy.
In my first semester of law school it hit me that I really just wanted to do music full-time, and nothing else would make me as happy. But I had a full scholarship to law school, and subsidized school housing in Brooklyn, so I decided to finish law school while pursuing music. I’m now a music attorney that’s still trying to be a full-time musician. It’s crazy to me now that it took me all those years to realize something I always knew as a kid, but here I am going for it now.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
The biggest surprise has probably been how small the industry is, yet how difficult it still is to break through. At least in NYC, it feels like every time I meet someone new in the music industry, it only takes a few minutes to figure out who our mutual connections are. I really love that because it feels like there’s a community. On the flip side, it’s still so hard to gain any traction, and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. It’s tough sometimes to figure out what to do next, even with the advice of the greater music community.
Let’s talk about your latest single, “Madonna.” What was the inspiration for this track? How did it go from being an idea in your head to a full blown song?
“Madonna” is about defying stereotypes, and I hope everyone that has ever been put in a box relates to the song on some level. For me, it’s about saying ‘screw you’ to all of the critics–particularly male critics–in the music industry that over the years have tried to tell me what I can and can’t do based on gender norms or superficial considerations. I’ve realized recently that a lot of the time I spent in undergrad and law school being unsure about myself and afraid to really take music seriously stemmed from all the negative criticism I was harboring over the years, from my closest male music collaborator telling me I’d need to lose 20 pounds before I would ever make it, to industry professionals telling me to sound more like the latest Top 40 pop star.
The point is, I’ve had some people give me hurtful “advice” over the years, and they did some damage. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to realize that they were wrong, that I know exactly who I am, that I think what I’m doing is dope, and that all I can do is be myself. I think because I’m finally living and thinking that way, this song just poured out of me. My writing partner, Ryan, sent me a voice memo of something he had worked out with some of my other band members, and I immediately came up with the hook as I was walking down the street listening to it on headphones. I went home, chopped up and rearranged the voice memo, and finished writing the lyrics that day. I got to skip the sometimes painful process of coming up with a concept and turning that into a song for this one; it was just how I was thinking and feeling, and so it came out naturally.
Tell us about the music video for “Madonna”!
Yes! I worked with this awesome husband and wife team that specializes in vintage film, and we shot the whole thing on expired vintage film. The vintage film gives it such a cool authentic feeling, and I’m pumped to get it released.
Do you plan to release more new music soon and a full collection of new songs?
Now that I have a clear vision of my music and mission, the plan for the foreseeable future is to roll out a bunch of singles. I want to lay the foundation of who Lexi Todd is, and the best way for me to do that right now is to release song by song. I’d love to release a new single every other month for a year. I’m working on my next single now!
I’d love to know more about how you have been able to balance being a music attorney and a musician. How do you think these two careers work together for you? How have you been able to successfully do both? Is hard finding the time to actively do both?
I’ve actually only recently opened up about being a music attorney publicly. Until now, I’ve tried not to tell anyone in music about what I do during the day. Mostly because people seem to think I’m less serious about music because I have a “serious” day job (there are those stereotypes again!). Understanding how music deals come about, what the important deal points are, how music royalties actually work, and what the marketplace is like is obviously invaluable as a musician, and the connections I make as an attorney have often proved valuable for my music career. To be totally honest though, it’s really difficult doing both, and I’m often frustrated trying to squeeze in all of my music time around my day job. My goal in life is still to support myself by doing music full-time, but for the time being it’s a balancing act.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you plan to tour at all this summer or later this year? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far?
I had a string of more intimate showcases this summer. I really enjoy doing stripped performances because it’s easier to connect with the audience and show them who you really are. I performed at iHeart Radio’s Dunkin’ Donuts Lounge on August 7 and at a songwriter’s showcase at Cafe Feit in Brooklyn on August 22. Now I want to take the rest of the summer to focus on smaller showcases and getting my next single out, but then I’d love to get a local tour together for the winter!
My favorite performance so far was definitely my unofficial showcase at SXSW this past year. I performed with the full band outdoors at the Torchy’s Tacos/DoorDash activation, and it was such a cool set-up with outdoor furniture and free drinks. Everyone in the audience had a great time and I got a really positive response from audience members. Throughout that week people would come up to me like “you were the Torchy’s Tacos girl! That was my favorite performance so far at SouthBy”. I plan to go back to SXSW next year and play as many showcases as possible.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music?
I have grown so much since I first started making music. I always knew I loved singing and writing music, but I never knew why. I think that figuring out who I am has really informed my music and artistry. I’m so much more confident in every decision I make now, and I can feel the momentum finally picking up and heading in the right direction. In the past, I’ve sort of just felt like the wheels were turning, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now? What has social media done for your career?
Something I always used to say is that I hate that social media presence is a part of the job description now because it wasn’t for so many of my idols; they could just worry about the music. Yes, I wish that were still the case, and that I didn’t have to set a daily reminder on my phone to post everyday, but I’m trying not to complain about it as much now. Sometimes it’s overwhelming…I only recently made a Twitter account because I just couldn’t take another account.
Overall, I understand the importance of social media and the potential for connecting with new fans through it. My favorite way to connect with fans is on Instagram. I love that it’s pictures first and words second. My whole life is words as a lawyer and a singer/songwriter, and I appreciate the visual nature of Instagram. It’s also been a really useful tool in finding new people to collaborate with. I met the “Madonna” creative team I mentioned before on Instagram.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with Raveena, who I recently discovered. I’ve also loved Nai Palm and Hiatus Kaiyote since “Nakamarra” made its way to the US. I’m inspired by Your Smith, Emily King, Lake Street Dive, Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers and so many more. The list is extensive and I’m constantly updating my inspiration playlists. I have one that’s on my Spotify artist profile called “Females I Fux With” if you want to hear more!
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
A trippy yoga retreat in an amazing outdoor location somewhere overlooking the water. Full of nature and cool visual effects. I’m from the beach originally, so that surfer/stoner/free-spirited culture is something I’m always trying to fuse with my more cosmopolitan sensibilities/style.
I love So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance. I used to dance as a kid, and it’s something I still really connect with. It would be incredible to see original choreography to my music on live TV.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
Inspiration to break boundaries and stand up for themselves, but also permission to just be. I’m a feminist woman that’s passionate about voicing a strong female perspective, whether that’s with an anthem to empowerment like “Madonna” or a song about working through self-doubt, like one of the songs I’m currently working on. I want people to take away that it’s OK to be a multi-faceted person; you can express all of your emotions and still be you.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
That home studio I mentioned before? It’s a closet. I write most of my songs in here and it’s where I hang my guitars, but it’s also filled with my clothes, shoes, etc. This is NYC after all.