Free-spirited singer songwriter creates music to have fun to
Alexis Ebert’s list of achievements is impressive. When you meet her, it’s even more impressive to realize that she has already packed all this into such a young life. Her resumé includes items that performers twice her age are still dreaming about.
Opening for Tanya Tucker as a child, snagging a song publishing deal at the age of eleven. Then performing in a major theater production and touring when she was twelve, as well as singing for the President. Sharing the same stage as Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Sugarland, Trace Adkins and many more. Having her songs included in the soundtrack of theatrical movies. Arriving in Nashville and cutting an album followed by the heartbreak of a major label record deal that fell apart.
Experiences, both good and bad, that have served to empower Alexis to make her the songwriter and recording artist she is today. Now she has a new single, “Ride or Die” with a full album to follow. During the 2019 Country Radio Seminar, we sat down to talk about her new music (the video for “Ride or Die” includes a cameo appearance by John Rich) and her unique musical journey.
Your new single, “Ride or Die,” will drop March 29, and that’s a real rockin’ song that you wrote with Tammy Hyler. It sounds like you had a lot of fun with that song.
Alexis Ebert: Yes, a lot of fun! I went into it wanting to write a bad-ass song. Basically, the story of “Ride Or Die” is about the guy who isn’t just going to pick you up from jail, but he’d be sitting right next to you, there in jail. That person who is just going to be there regardless, good or bad. They’re going to hang with you. You’re probably going to get into some trouble but it’s going to be worth it. That’s the whole idea behind it. There’s a music video that we shot. There’s a cameo from John Rich in the video. That video should come out in the next couple of weeks.
That song is the debut single from an upcoming album. You’ve been writing with several of Nashville’s top songwriters. You’ve said you don’t write ‘relationship’ songs much …about heartache and breakups. You like to write songs that are empowering and you like to write more for the listener than for yourself to enable them an escape. Will the new album focus on those aspects?
AE: Yeah. It’s a very fun record. There is nothing in it that is ‘woe is me.’ I wanted to write a fun album. I wanted to give people an outlet, an escape and to not think of problems or things going on in the world. It’s rockin’ and it’s fun. It’s Country. It’s kind of an ode to 90s Country music that I grew up on.
How far along are you with the album?
AE: It’s done. It’s mastered. We’re working on a release date.
You were six years old when you performed a professional gig, opening for Tanya Tucker at the Oregon Jamboree. Can you still remember that special day?
AE: Yes! I’m a pretty confident person. I’ve always been that way even as a small child. I remember being super excited, super confident until I got up on stage, and then I was like, errrr, there’s a lot of people in this audience! But I made it through and I did it.
Do you remember what you sang?
AE: I always had an attraction to adult songs, so I sang “Unchained Melody” and “A Girl’s Gotta Do What A Girl’s Gotta Do” by Mindy McCready. My parents let me sing whatever I wanted to sing as a kid, so nothing was off-limits. I would sometimes change the words to songs if they were inappropriate. If the lyrics said ‘beer’ I would change it to ‘root beer.’ Because you can’t have a six-year-old talking about beer!
When you were only 12, you were selected to join the cast of ‘Country Tonight’ in Branson, Missouri, and on tour. You had to dance, sing and act.
AE: Yes. We did two shows a day, six days a week. I did that for about a year. It was ‘Country Tonight’ at the Ray Stevens Theater. It was all country music. Some older country, some contemporary country. I would slide down slides and be carried as I sang. I danced and I acted. One of my original songs that I wrote got picked up in the show.
How did that experience affect you and your musical journey?
AE: I think because I started singing and performing so young, and my love of music started so early on, that I’ve absorbed every genre, every artist, every band, every type of music that I can. I was always a Country singer at heart, but I’ve been able to be exposed to many different types of music.
Did those early years of performing build your feeling of confidence on stage?
AE: I never even doubted it. I never went through a time when I felt that I was not confident. It was just so natural to me. My mom has a story, when I was little and some Award show was on the TV. She says I looked at her and said, “How am I going to know how to get my award? How am I going to know where to go to get it?” And she was, like, “What are you talking about?”
But you could imagine yourself going up on stage to receive an award?
AE: Absolutely! (laughs) My family are not musical whatsoever. They’re not musicians, they don’t play instruments or sing. For me, it just came out of nowhere.
One day, you had tickets to see Shania Twain in concert, but you ended up not going because you received a special invitation. What was that about?
AE: My dad was a Shania fan. He always wanted me to be a strong independent woman. He got us tickets to Shania. I’m not sure if it was for my birthday or what it was. But then I got a call from Diane Hooley who was then working with the Governor [of Oregon]. She said, “We want Alexis to sing for President Clinton.” She had seen me in a nursing home, because I would go and sing and shake people’s hands at the nursing home. So I got asked to sing for the President and my parents let me make the decision on my own, if I was going to sing for the President or go to the Shania Twain concert, because it was on the same night. It took me about two weeks to decide if I was going to sing for the President or not. My bus driver, believe it or not, helped me make that decision. She said, “Alexis, you can probably go and see Shania some other time. But I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to sing for the President again.” So that’s what helped me make the decision. Then radio and TV stations around my home state found out about it. They somehow got hold of Shania and she sent me backstage passes to meet her before the show, so I went and met her and brought my whole family. I met her and then raced across town to sing ‘Cowboy Sweetheart’ and the National Anthem.
You came to Nashville in 2003. You quickly secured a publishing deal, then a record deal. You recorded an album of self-penned songs, then the label shelved the project. That must have been devastating. How did you deal with that kind of rejection? A lot of people would have said, “That’s it. I’m packing the suitcase and going home.”
AE: I’m not going to lie. That was something that was talked about, me leaving. But I just couldn’t. My heart couldn’t do it. Even when I wasn’t signed anymore, I never stopped writing. I never stopped performing. I just kept doing it. I graduated from high school really early as I was home-schooled, because I was performing in Branson as a child. But I did go through a little bit of confusion and heartbreak. I think that’s what’s so important about my journey. Now I’m in my twenties. I’m not a kid anymore. For a while I questioned if I was good because of how old I was or was I just good? But I just never gave up.
Did anything good come from that early experience of rejection? When you look back at what you had recorded at that time, would you be comfortable with that music now?
AE: Yes, I think it was a great record. I think it was just timing. I don’t think I was supposed to be a ‘child artist.’ That rejection, if anything, just made my desire greater to stay in music, because I had to really fight. I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ll never take it for granted.
What were your influences growing up?
AE: I grew up watching CMT, Jerry Springer and figure skating. I think that explains so much about me! My father worked in a mill and a trucking company, and my mother was a makeup artist. So I got two different sides of the spectrum. They were both workaholics. My mom travelled a lot and my dad was always at work. My aunt Linda basically raised my brother and me. She’d turn on the TV and it was always CMT, Jerry Springer and figure skating! That’s how I fell in love with Country music because she watched CMT all day long.
Alexis Ebert has been described as “The Marilyn Monroe of Honky Tonk” which brings to mind two very different entertainment genres. But it makes sense when you meet her. She combines a confident, outgoing personality with just a hint of vulnerability that comes across in her music. And, like Marilyn, Alexis has the strength of character that determines her success.
An established songwriter and performer, she is now signed with two of Nashville’s most prominent independent music publishers: Wrensong Music Publishing/Rezonant Music Publishing. Her new single, “Ride Or Die,” is now at Country radio and drops on March 29.
Story by Preshias Harris