Today’s Feature, August 5-6: Cindy Alexander

January 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm (Today's Feature)

You may recognize Cindy Alexander. As the winner of
NBC’s/David Foster’s STAR TOMORROW that took place
this past November, Cindy’s unmatched talent and
sincere sound blew away the competition. However,
Cindy was not interested in taking home any prizes.
You see, Cindy Alexander has never made music to
become famous, rich or powerful. She’s made music
because it was what she was born to do. And her fans
agree – it is thanks to their generosity and support
with donations to the production fund that her fourth
album, “Wobble With the World,” is due out this
September.

Cindy (or Pnut as some have come to know her), has
always had a mind for music – it’s in her blood
afterall. One of her earliest music teachers was her
grandmother. But it was her realization that the
closest, most personal thoughts bouncing around in her
head were actually songs, that made it clear that she
belonged on stage performing for music lovers around
the world. And “Wobble With the World” is a testament
to that beautiful honesty. The album features a harder
edge than earlier releases, providing “lyrical
identity and a personality stamp,” that tells
audiences Cindy Alexander is not afraid of telling it
like it is.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Cindy live,
please take advantage of it. Chances are you’ll end up
chatting with the artist herself. But be sure not
to drink too much beforehand. Her writing partner,
Pauly, will tell you, “be careful what you say to her
because your life may end up in a song.” Read her
XXQs below to learn more.

XXQs: Cindy Alexander

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did Cindy Alexander first get involved in music?
Cindy Alexander (HR): Seriously, I can’t remember a time when I DIDN’T sing. As far back as I can remember, as soon as I was using language I was using music to express myself. My Grandma was a music teacher so I grew up around the piano and various percussion instruments that she used in her class. If there was a talent show going on, rest assured I signed up for it! As a little kid, I used to dress up in my nightgown (which I thought made me look like a princess) and my Mom’s high heels and sing “Your Mama don’t dance and your Daddy don’t rock ‘n roll.” I had one of those shower soaps on a rope shaped like a microphone and took way too much time in the bathroom according to my brother. I also had a microphone toy that you could plug into a stereo and sing along with whatever was playing. I was really into my Dad’s old vinyl record collection and my favorite song was “Shaboom” by the Crew Cuts. I never said I was cool…. Fast forward….I’m still not cool but I got “involved” in the BUSINESS of music in the late 90’s after realizing that the little ditties I wrote to pour out my most personal thoughts and feelings were actually songs. And it felt great to sing them into a real microphone instead of a bar of soap.

PEV: Tell us how you got the nickname Peanut (Pnut)?

CA: I was only 5 pounds when I was born and the nurse handed me to my Mom and said “Here’s your little peanut.” I became “pnut” without the “ea” when I had to pick a screen name for AOL. The name kinda stuck and most of my fans and friends call me “pnut” instead of Cindy.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage. What was going through your head?

CA: Ok I was probably 4 years old at a dude ranch in Colorado singing at the weekly talent show and I was thinking….”If I do a really good job, maybe Mom and Dad will let me have an orange soda pop and a mounds bar after this.” Nowadays my thoughts are more like…”I hope my boobs aren’t showing”…..”what if this zipper breaks”…..”is my guitar in tune?”….”I wish that woman wouldn’t crunch her potato chips so loud during this sensitive moment in my song.” Stuff like that.

PEV: You also run your own label, JamCat Records. How has controlling the “production” part helped your music?

CA: Well, I have a producer so I do let go of control creatively and enjoy collaboration. Dave Darling and Paul Trudeau (my songwriting partners and producers) have been with me since the beginning of my professional career and I think we’ve all grown as artists, writers, musicians and human beings. I feel very safe with them because I know they have my best interests at heart. The control that I have is that I can CHOOSE who I work with and what songs I’ll put on the record, and how I present myself. But I try to let go of control in the studio otherwise I would never finish, because I tend to over analyze and will beat a dead horse into perfection when what’s really beautiful is the honest, off the cuff vocal or instrumental performance that doesn’t try too hard. Dave and Paul bring a tremendous amount of musical genius to the table. I feel like the lucky one who gets to create with them. We’re like kids with fresh playdough – we all see different colors that we like and we each do our part to build something special. Paul and I are really good at making a mess and Dave is really good at organizing it and cleaning it up.

PEV: What can people expect from your newest/upcoming release, “Wobble with the World”?

CA: The new cd showcases a lot more of my feisty side and it rocks a bit harder than the previous three. The common reaction from people who have heard the tracks so far is “You said WHAT?” I hope that by my fourth cd, people will notice a musical and lyrical identity as well as a personality stamp that will make them say “these songs are very Cindy.”

PEV: How is “Wobble with the World ” different from your previous and highly acclaimed release “Angels and Demons”?

CA: I’ve taken a few more chances on the new one. There is more electric guitar on this cd and the ballads are a bit more eclectic. And I’m doing a cover for the first time on one of my independent releases (a cover of Howard Jones’ “No One Is to Blame” – one of my all time favorite songs).

PEV: No stranger to recording studios, what was it like the first time you stepped into a studio?
CA: I was 12 or 13 years old recording a children’s album with Cantor Nathan Lam. I was mesmerized and thought it was the greatest experience ever. I sat in the control room and inspected every piece of equipment and platinum record on the wall and wondered if I could bring my sleeping bag and spend the night.

PEV: Is there someone you haven’t worked/collaborated with that you would like to?

CA: Carole King. I had the good fortune of being able to interview her as part of her press package before she released Love Makes the World. She’s not only an incredible artist/songwriter but a wonderful person as well, and I would love to write a song with her someday.

PEV: What were some of the early artists that inspired you and help to shape your sound?

CA: I’m not really sure where the “sound” comes from, because I like to think that the songs morph into what they want to be production-wise after they are written ~ and as a roots influenced artist, I try to stick mainly to guitars, acoustic piano, drums and bass. Pauly and Dave drop in more modern sounds here and there because they, not I, have the “hip quotient.” But my writing has been influenced by people like Carole King, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Petty, Pretenders, Kate Bush, Billy Joel and more recently, Aimee Mann and Patty Griffin.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?
CA: Yep. About ten and a half years ago when I did my first show of all original music. It felt right.

PEV: Is there another band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” as well?
CA: Can I plug two of my best friends?? Marla Sokoloff is a great pop/rock artist and Jenna von Oy is putting out her debut cd – it’s country/pop. I’m a Lloyd Dobbler Effect fan – check em out. Good music, good people.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Cindy Alexander performance?
CA: I talk to the audience, I talk to the band, I tell stories that make my Mom put her head in her hands and cause some to say “TMI,” I play multiple instruments, embarrass myself for the sake of your entertainment and sing my heart out. I stay after every show to meet and sign cd’s, give out hugs and kiss babies. I also think I’m probably a better live performer than I am a recording artist.

PEV: What is the best and worst part about playing live? Why?
CA: The best – it’s supreme joy to do what I love and make a living at it. It’s even better to watch/hear the audience sing a long with me because they know every word to my songs. It sucks when the sound is bad, you can’t hear yourself on stage and someone is eating smelly fish in the front row.

PEV: It seems that you have traveled everywhere, how has life on the road been for the band?
CA: I mostly travel acoustic because of the expense of traveling with a full band. Between airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental vans and gas….it’s difficult as an independent artist to break even with a full band. But when I do take the band – like most recently for our Armed Forces Entertainment tours to Japan and Guantanamo Bay- the costs are subsidized so we are able to play and give 100% of ourselves to the task at hand – entertaining our troops- because all of the expenses and logistics are taken care of by AFE and our amazing tour manager, Crook Stewart.
I love being on the road. Adventure is an important part of my life- and music has been the key to many adventures.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Cindy Alexander?
CA: That I have eczema? That I need 8 hours sleep to function normally but most of the time I’m running on 5-6 which should explain everything…. That despite the angst, hissy fits, and gut wrenching in my most recent tunes, I am happier than I’ve ever been.

PEV: When you get to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?
CA: Brushing my cats, playing Canadian Rummy with the love of my life, cooking, working out, reading, gardening, getting massaged, manicured and pedicured. But not in that order. Oh, and taking a NAP.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?
CA: They don’t really react to my “success.” They are very supportive, but the focus is more on relationships than my career – the quality of them and the quality of our lives. They are very protective of me, and I don’t think I could ever get caught up in “success” because they keep me grounded. I put the word success in quotation marks because it’s all so subjective. I feel somewhat successful in that I have created a catalogue of music that has taken on a life of it’s own ~ my songs have found their way into another persons heart. I am humbled by that. But it’s not the power of me, it’s the power of music. I was given a gift and I hope I’m successful in giving it back.

PEV: In all your travels (US or International, which city has been your favorite to play?
CA: I love playing my hometown (Los Angeles) and have had some of my most memorable show experiences in Germany (they are SOOOO enthusiastic). However, the most profound experiences I’ve had performing, and definitely my favorite so far, are the ones that I’ve done on the Armed Forces Entertainment tours. I’ve never felt so appreciated in my life and I feel like I’m doing something really worthwhile with my music. There is so much to say on this subject but instead, I’ll invite you to read my blogs (“pnut’s ponderings”) on MySpace or on my website.

PEV: When you write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?
CA: I write in many different environments. I write in the car, at home, at the studio…I can pretty much write anywhere and turn anything into a song. Pauly (my writing partner) would say about me “be careful what you say to her because your life may end up in a song.” True… I’m always writing. So the world is my environment and the variety keeps me inspired.

PEV: So, what is next for Cindy Alexander?

CA: A back rub. I need a little break ~ been going non stop for a year and I’d love to relax a little, and tour in between 😉

For more information on Cindy Alexander, check out http://www.CindyAlexander.com

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