The first thing noticeable about singer/songwriter Alex Kelly is just how down-to-earth she is. Performing a set at The Studio at Webster Hall to promote her second solo album Orange Circle, there’s a magnetic energy that flows through her as she sings—a jumble of pop-eccentrics and a hard rock edge with a mix of dance. The girl can sing, and such a level of talent might make her seem intimidating at first; but in person, there’s a sweet nature about her that makes Kelly all the more inviting.
Like the individual tracks in Orange Circle, Alex Kelly is unpredictable: She’s an intellectual, an idealist, fierce, and a bit of a hippy. All of which forms a sweet personality that’s excited to be doing what she’s doing—and it’s infectious.
Kelly, who got her big start when Robby Takac of Goo Goo Dolls fame took her under his wing and made her the lead singer of the electronica band Amungus, seems to be on a roll now. With an EP under her belt as well as a successful studio album, Kelly looks to be an emerging artist in the underground scene.
Armed with only a notebook and my own wavering self-confidence, I set out to find what goes on in the ambitious singer’s head.
Christopher Exantus: Who is Alex Kelly?
Alex Kelly: I’m a girl [laughs] I’m starting with the very basics. Who is Alex Kelly? Alex Kelly is an artist. Alex Kelly is a soul searching for deeper meaning in life through music.
So from what I understand, you just came out with a new album, correct?
I did, yes!
The thing is—I don’t want to be presumptuous; I don’t want to be “Ugh—this music.” But [Orange Circle] caught me off guard. The first track I’m like “okay, I think I got where you’re coming from.” But the next song–
It’s a completely different universe.
Was that the intention? Did you want to keep listeners on their toes?
Yes. Every song on the Orange Circle album is completely different. There are no two songs that sound the same. I hate when I’m listening to an album and everything sounds like the same song but a different version. I don’t like it. Each song on Orange Circle has a different feel, a different message. A lot of the things I write have spiritual connotations.
Yeah, I was reading that you said the meaning of Orange Circle comes from a book you’ve read.
I like to write in that way. I think the greats that I admire wrote in that way, especially a band I really admire—The Doors. I love the doors; I love Jim Morrison; I love his writing. A lot of people say that The Doors were a good band, but they weren’t great. But that music speaks to people like me, people who are into mysticism. I don’t want to say spiritualism because that word is used so much, but for lack of a better word—people are spiritual.
You mentioned The Doors—were they your influence when you were growing up? Is that what you’re channeling into your music?
I always say the radio was so different when I was growing up—there was everything on the radio! There was no one sound for every artist, this homogenous—it wasn’t that. On some levels there were, but you can hear George Michael; if you turn the channel you’re going to get Prince. Even as far as Rap music went, I would listen to a lot of Rap when I was a kid. It was so good back then. Music in general, as far as the mainstream, was very diverse, so growing up I truly did listen to everything. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I started to listen to The Doors, Janice Joplin, Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Police—you know, to me that was real music.
So I was reading up on you; I read that you used to be an actress?
Where did you hear that? [laughs]
I read that apparently you were actually casted in a version of American Gangster.
Oh my god! That is true! I was casted in American Gangster in its early stages and it was called Tru Blue. I was supposed to be the girl in the coke den who was apparently naked. But at the end—Oh my god I can’t believe you know this—everything was changed. The location of the movie was changed, the title was changed from Tru Blue to American Gangster, and I was replaced and a bunch of other people were replaced too. But holy shit—no one knows that!
Would you be interested in picking it up again?
Honestly, right now with stage—that is what we do. And you will see, by actually coming to a show, that there is a lot of acting that goes on stage. And I feel like that has been transferred on stage. I’m not opposed to doing it; I’m sure there will be more opportunities in the future.
As an artist yourself, obviously you have some insight into music that someone who just listens doesn’t have. How do you feel that the music industry is coming along?
It’s a double-edged sword, because I have two completely different opinions about it. On the one hand, I feel like it has been a positive thing: You have more power now; you can put things out on your own; you can really control what your sound is, what you’re look to be. That’s the positive, right? Now the negative: At least back in the day, you knew where to take your stuff to. You knew you had to be at a certain level and someone would come and show up at a club and take you to that next level—that does not exist [anymore]. Especially with what I’m learning from the New York Scene—there’s so many bands, so many people doing this stuff. It’s rare that that sort of thing happens. It’s more like a crap shoot, you really don’t know.
Now, what are your thoughts of the music industry as a woman?
Well, I kick-ass! Any guy that’s gonna get on the stage—you better fucking rock. When I’m on stage, I don’t let the fact that I have a vagina hinder me or stop me. I’m one of those women who embrace their femininity.
Is there anything else our readers need to know about Alex Kelly?
I love humanity; I think we should all love one another. That is a quote directly from Jesus—I know. But it’s true. And I think the only way to do that is to love yourself. When you really take time to go inside—this is not a battle that’s going to happen by going on the outside; it’s not gonna happen on the streets—that’s the past. I think if everyone on the planet earth took that attitude, we’d have no problems about war, no worries about violence, and no worries about any of that low-level emotional stuff. I think it would be a better world.