If Alex G and I were best friends, this is what we would do: After I rummaged through her closet and borrowed her favorite maroon leather jacket and heeled suede brown boots, we would get cupcakes and gossip about Taylor Swift’s current flings. After consuming vast amounts of sugar, I imagine we would bounce around the city and celebrate the fact that she is almost 21 years old, has a growing partnership with Big Frame and just got back from her European tour with Tyler Ward.
An artist with over 269,000 YouTube subscribers, Alex started making music videos after winning a contest with the Tyler Ward Crew. As fate would have it, Tyler turned out to be her neighbor in Colorado, and after winning his contest, Alex and Tyler have been fast collaborators ever since. Originally unable to perform in public because of her stage fright, Alex found YouTube to be the perfect alternative. Determined to show people she could sing, Alex took to her webcam to film her first video “Marry You,” which started her career in the Colorado area. Two years later, Alex has been the opening act for two of Tyler Ward’s tours and now splits her time between Colorado and Los Angeles working full-time developing her YouTube channel. After a lunch that stuffed us with cheesecake and sweet potatoes, Alex and I hiked around Los Angeles to chat about her inspiration to pick up guitar, how the boy next door launched her career and the tattoo she plans to get when she turns 21.
NMR: Lucille Ball is one of your favorite people. Why do you love Lucy?
Alex G: I grew up watching “I Love Lucy” and “The Carol Burnett Show,” and I’m like obsessed with Carol Burnett. And I don’t know, there is just something about that humor, that old humor back in the day that I’ve yet to see captured today. It’s kind of like this innocent — I don’t know how to explain it — I just absolutely love her because she’s a genius. Same with Carol Burnett. She is the only lady, the only person in the world that I would ever cry if I got to meet her, like it’s so weird. You’d think like everyone loves [in high girly voice] Justin Bieber and Zac Efron and One Direction, and I’m like Carol Burnett. She’s like gonna die in the next 30 years; I gotta find her and meet her! It’s so crazy. I don’t know, I have a soft spot for Carol Burnett.
What inspires you about them? What have you picked up from them?
Just something about watching their shows and watching them makes me happy. It’s just like I could be super sad and like literally watch a Carol Burnett show and make my whole day. Something about them is just genuine, and I feel like they are good. Well, I don’t know, but they put on a persona that is very like relateable-ish, and I feel like I’d meet them and they’d be just so down to earth and awesome, and I don’t know, I just love them and how genius their comedy is.
Do you have any other celebrities that you would maybe tear up if you met them, but maybe not full on bawl?
Maybe Taylor Swift. I don’t get too fangirl over a lot of people. Never have, but I just really look up to Taylor Swift a lot and her songwriting, and I guess like I said before how relatable she is to someone like me. And I really respect her for not taking the route every other young star seems to take; like at least if she’s doing crappy stuff, we don’t know about it, so I really like that about her. And she has this kind of — I don’t want to describe her as magical; she is just aww Taylor cute.
What do you think about her dating the Kennedy kid?
[laughs] I didn’t have any thoughts about that. All I know is my mom was like, “Oh, the Kennedys! She doesn’t want to get involved with that! Like woah,” and I was like, “What?” [laughs] And I’ve heard stuff about her from people from people who work with her that she’s not as innocent as she comes across, like she gets around, and I’m like, “Oh dang.” I’m like, “Taylor! Girl, what are you doing!” That’s okay; I still love her.
When you began, you were really anxious to perform in front of people and that stopped you from pursuing music at first. What made you decide to start your own YouTube channel?
Okay, interesting story. A year ago I had a boyfriend, and his sister actually sang, and she was like the kind of person that would sing in front of people and do it a lot and do it loud so that you knew she was singing — “Look at me.” And I was just like, “Man, like I can sing, I know I can sing, I want people to know that about me.” It was like this talent that I was just too scared to show people, so I decided to make a YouTube cover. So I got on my computer and just sang to this karaoke track, and all of a sudden, people from my school would see it and be like, “You sing,” and I was like, “I guess so. I don’t know.” [laughs] And it just kind of took off from there I guess.
Were you anxious the first time you put this video up?
Oh my gosh, yeah! I did like 17 takes, and I was nervous but was a lot easier for me to just do it to my computer even though technically more people were going to see it because it was going on the Internet. It was a lot easier for me to just do it in my room by myself on my computer, but I was still nervous.
Do you still get nervous?
What was your first cover?
[laughs] Yeah, “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. We’ve come a ways. I didn’t know how to act in front of the camera so I was just like … like, “What?”
What was it like watching that video afterwards for the first time and seeing that you had done something you had wanted to do for so long?
I mean, I never really thought that I would be the kind of person to put myself out there in front of the world like that, so it was kind of scary seeing myself on video. And you’re your own toughest critic, obviously, and it’s just like there are little things that bothered me about how I was doing things but you just kind of got to throw it out there and see what people say and be vulnerable. It was scary, but it was really exciting. I was like, “This is so cool. I just did this myself, with a friend. It’s neat!” So yeah, it was cool.
Since then you’ve joined the Tyler Ward contest, and then you’ve collaborated with him and so many other people. How has your channel grown and evolved since these first videos?
Well, lets see. I mean, Tyler helped a lot. He gave me kind of like a platform to go and do things myself and that I could create a fanbase that was an Alex G fan base and not just like Alex G and Tyler Ward sort of thing, because I wanted to be an independent artist, and I wanted to do my own thing. So I guess what happened was I was relying on him a lot to do certain things, and he was helping me, and we collabed, but it got to the point where he would get really busy, and I was like, “What do I do? I don’t want to just end this music thing.” So I found ways to do it myself, basically, so I learned how to edit video. I came out here to L.A. and started working with other producers and stuff like that, so basically he helped me, and I kind of just took off on my own and grew my channel by like just doing the cover thing, and now I’m getting to put original stuff in.
How do you strike a balance between covers and originals? Is there one that you’d rather be doing?
Oh yeah! It’s so much more fulfilling to do originals, and it’s fulfilling when your fanbase appreciate your original work and then respond to it well. So I would rather be doing a bunch of originals. It’s cool to do covers; covers are cool, but covers basically just help the channel stay relevant and it brings in more people.
For both your covers and original stuff, you really like writing about things that you’re passionate about. Is that something you drive to focus on when you’re picking a song or when you’re writing a song?
For writing a song, it’s very hard for me to write if it’s not something that is dear to my heart or something I’m going through that I’m, like you said, passionate about or just having a hard time emotionally with. So it’s much easier when it comes straight from the heart, straight from the mind, instead of just like, “Well,l what would this person say if they were going through this situation?” and yada, yada, yada. And then for covers, it doesn’t have to do so much with what I’m passionate about. I guess if I like this song, and if it’s a big song, it’s like more of like the business side of things with covers, and then originals is more like focus on myself as an artist.
It’s kind of hard doing covers that everyone and their mothers know. How do you keep yours unique to you then?
There are ways. Like some people do a karaoke type version of a cover song, and in my opinion, that’s not going to drive as many people. It will drive views; like there will be a lot of views but it’s important to me to like kind of have this Alex G flavor on the song, like acoustifying it and stuff, so yeah, sorry I kind of like forgot what you said. Wait what was your question? I was like going off and like what was the root of the question?
How do you kind of keep these covers unique so that people feel like they are getting something different from this cover as oppose to everyone else?
You just have to change the cover basically. Like say it’s a pop hit: I’ll make it into a slow acoustic. If you just make it as unique as you can, show a little bit of artistry into it, I think they’ll appreciate that. A lot of them will download it and stuff like that. Instead of just being a singer, it makes you more of an artist.