Alexa Wilding is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has taken the music world by storm with her talent. Wilding chatted with La Femme Collective to share her less-than-traditional musical journey with you. Her EP will be released July 8th, with a performance and celebration on July 11th at Rockwood Music Hall. You can purchase tickets to the event here.
I grew up in Greenwich Village, surrounded by a long tradition of people forging their own path in the arts. My parents worked in film, and my little sister and I spent a lot of time on film sets, watching stories come to life. I took for granted that I was told I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. While my friends felt pressure to become doctors or lawyers, I felt pressure to be different, brilliant, creative! My neighbors were, surely I would be, too. I picked up a guitar when I was twelve, after quitting professional ballet. I loved music but I wanted a different relationship to it. I was obsessed with Sassy magazine, who the It Girls were - who were they? - and I wanted to be cool, too. I taught myself to play guitar and I started writing songs, pretty soon my identity became synonymous with 'girl with a guitar' and it has remained that way since, albeit with some serious bumps in the road.
Unfortunately, I chose an industry that is a bit of a mess. Growing up, we waited on line for a new CD to come out, we read about bands we loved in magazines, we bought tickets to shows, our only access to our heroes. By the time I was ready to share my music with the world, after college, the internet had collapsed the industry and how we experienced music. More than ever I had to depend on the "forge your own path" model drilled into me as a child. I was lucky that, being a girl about town (I never left!) I met people who came to my shows, wrote about me, I enjoyed some early press with my first album without the support of a team behind me. By word of mouth I got to tour with bands I admired, work with fashion designers whose clothes I felt a kinship to, collaborate with artists on music videos. But by the time my second album came out, social media had started to become the prime method of sharing, and I had a hard time with the many hours I was required to spend in front of my computer, making people "like" me!
"I felt a gnawing in my heart to be the girl with the guitar again, except this time, I was a woman, the mother of twins, an artist and a warrior."
I took a break after that record, exhausted after a long tour. I felt very confused about why I was making music in the first place, the joy of being "the girl with the guitar" had worn off. My husband and I decided to start a family, and soon I was pregnant with twins! I played a show, my huge belly behind my electric guitar, wondering if it was to be my last. When my boys were born, I still played, sent CDs off to fans who were, somehow, still ordering them. But I was having trouble accessing that need, that drive to create. Perhaps it was gone forever and it was time to be a "normal" person and get a real job! At the height of this personal crisis, one of my sons was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we found ourselves truly in an emergency. Suddenly, nothing else mattered except keeping our family together, and we did it, we saw him through treatment, successfully. One night at the hospital, after Lou had fallen asleep, I sat in the deep window seat with a toy piano the Child Life staff has given us. As I watched the snow fall over the East River, songs began to come, from a deep place within myself. I felt a familiar joy stirring in my soul.
By the end of treatment, Lou was cancer-free and I had a six songs. I felt a gnawing in my heart to be the girl with the guitar again, except this time, I was a woman, the mother of twins, an artist and a warrior. All grown up, with the release of my new EP Wolves on my own label, I find myself again in an industry that is figuring itself out. The best I can do is assemble musicians and supporters who believe in my voice, and remind myself, daily, to throw fear out the window. Feeling the need to create and share means so much more to me now than being "cool," although I love a good outfit! Sometimes we have to get seriously lost, and lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves, to find our way home again. It feels so good to be back on my mysterious, winding path, with all its twists and turns.
Photography: Jeff Allen