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Meet Alexis Kesselman of Idarose in West Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexis Kesselman.

Alexis, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve been writing music since I knew what music was – there was never a point where I heard music and didn’t want to be a part of creating it. For as long as I can remember, I have been in some sort of music lesson or doing some sort of musical activity. All my home videos feature me dancing, singing or doing something inherently creative. As an only child, my “playtime” was essentially just an exercise in the practice of imagination. I loved playing with dolls and would make up these elaborate storylines that would evolve over days, weeks and months. You could easily leave me alone for hours on end, and I would never be bored; I would be so deep in my own head with stories that I never really felt alone.

Some of my first original songs that I can remember (and actually hum right now) were written in elementary school. During my music lessons, I was never completely satisfied with just learning the material presented to me – I just wanted to write and sing my own songs. This need to write and create persisted through middle school and high school; with any creative assignment I would find some way to use my songwriting or singing. I would either makeup love stories or write about my middle school boyfriend (which was the only personal love drama I had to pull from), but I never let it stop me; I wrote about anything and everything, and it was through these songs that I could talk about the way I looked at the world, which always just felt a little bit different and magical I guess.

High school was when I think I fully embraced the idea that I was a songwriter – I had notebooks filled with pages of lyrics and ideas, and by the time I was seventeen I had written over a hundred songs. I also discovered that I had perfect pitch in high school. One day in choir class, when I proceeded to tell the teacher that we were singing in C Major as if it were common knowledge, I remember the teacher stopping mid-sentence and looking at me as if I knew a secret I wasn’t supposed to. I looked at my friends because I thought they also knew we were singing in C Major, but they had the same look on their faces that the teacher did.

Choosing to pursue music during my time at college was a big decision for me because up until my senior year of high school, not only did I write music but I was also a complete nerd. I had a group of wonderfully nerdy friends who I hung out with when I wasn’t doing homework. So the ivy league college experience was pretty much in all of our cards until I realized that I wanted to study music more than anything else. I was ready to immerse myself in the musical world at a university level music school.

I decided to go to the Frost School of Music, where I studied songwriting, film scoring and production. Finally, I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were weird like me (for better or for worse). Yet, there were still moments where I felt different, like when I learned that my perfect pitch (which many other music students had) was actually a form of Synesthesia (which only a select few of us claimed to possess). Fast forward through lots of classes, some heartbreak, stupid decisions, changes in my writing, improvement, self-doubt, live performances, loads of new material, a few fortuitous meetings and big life decisions, and I now live in Los Angeles and work as a songwriter and producer with a company called EP Entertainment.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
While it feels like I’ve been doing the music thing for so long, sometimes I have to remind myself that for a recently graduated 23-year-old, I am only at the beginning. It’s hard to be in an industry where you could be competing with a twelve-year-old. Social media doesn’t help – when I see people who are younger than me and doing what I want to be doing, my anxiety peaks. It’s in those moments that I try to remind myself that my path isn’t theirs, and my journey is just as important. I try to be happy with the progress that I make. It can be a struggle to navigate around the falsities that are presented to us on our tiny little screens every day, which is why I try to find a healthy balance between using the outside noise as fuel and tuning that noise out.

If there’s any way to figure out if you can deal with a life in music, it’s music school – the self-doubt, the pressure, the insecurity, and the inherently competitive nature of a program like that really makes you question whether it’s all worth it. Through my four years in undergrad, I met so many talented people and learned so much about creating and just about who I am. But I also struggled because I felt branded with the sound that I came into school with, and when I wanted to branch out, I felt like I needed the approval of the people around me. It wasn’t until I pushed against the stereotype created around my musical sound and honestly stopped caring what people thought that people acknowledged and applauded my musical growth and experimentation (weird how the second you stop caring if people are paying attention is when they do). College was a transformative experience that tested me to my core but helped me figure out that I had made the right decision to pursue music.

Being a woman in the industry comes with its own set of struggles, but I don’t like looking at it like that. I never saw myself as any less talented because I was a female, and I think that in 2019 people are way more open and excited about women doing jobs that were considered to be jobs for men. However, this progress doesn’t mean that we’re completely evolved as a society to the point where we look at a woman who says she is a producer and blindly believe her. When I say I produce, I either hear “Woah, that’s so cool you’re a female producer!” or “We need more female producers!” People are open to it, but it’s not the norm. And I don’t want to be special because I’m a woman doing what men can do. I want to be special because I am a person doing something really well. So while it can be considered a struggle, I don’t like to think I’m struggling, but rather pushing against the standard to create a new standard.

Please tell us about your current music endeavors.
I am a singer, songwriter, composer and producer currently signed to EP Entertainment, a division of Universal Music. My work has played on worldwide platforms such as Radio Disney and Starbucks stores across the country and has garnered millions of listens on Spotify. I think my greatest strengths are my artist development and my lyrical storytelling. I absolutely love helping new artists craft their sound and diving into their brand and world. Working with artists is this interesting mix of being a psychologist, a detective, and a chef. You listen to them, find out what they’re thinking and feeling, and put it together with the elements that will bring out their story in the best light. It’s three jobs within one, and understanding that has helped me help them. Something I’m really proud of is that I produced and co-wrote breakout artist Jimmy Levy’s first single called “Shadow,” which just passed two million streams. I also have my own artist project “Idarose,” where I can get just a little more personal in my lyrics and my production.

I think what sets me apart from others is my ability to work in different areas of music – my film music influences my production, my musical theatre writing influence my pop lyrics, my pop melodies influence my orchestral writing, and it goes on. I think it all comes down to how well you can use music as a tool to tell a story.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Every Friday, my dad would pick me up from the Jewish pre-school I was attending. I would nibble on the chocolate challah they sent me home with, he would play “Livin’ on a Prayer” and we would both sing along to it. Every time I hear the song, I’m immediately happy.

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Image Credit:
Rachel Ohnsman, Baxter, Charlie Velasco, Krispi

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