Orlando Style’s Autumn Barker goes one on two with Orlando’s own Alex & Sierra
When UCF students Alex Kinsey and Sierra Denton filmed themselves singing the Civil Wars’ “Barton Hollow” in Alex’s dorm- complete with a rubber ducky shower curtain as a backdrop- they had no idea they’d just begun the journey of a lifetime. Now, a year and a half later, Alex & Sierra have been crowned the winners of the third and final season of The X-Factor, released their first single and its accompanying music video, and are now preparing for the release of their debut album, It’s About Us, scheduled for release on October 7. Orlando Style talked with the couple about their whirlwind journey, coming back to the Orlando area post X-Factor, and the creative process behind their upcoming album in this exclusive interview.
Orlando Style: What has been like for you coming back to Orlando to perform post X-Factor?
Alex: It’s been amazing. While we were on the show our friends and family would tell us about the support and the buzz that was going on in our hometowns, but we didn’t really feel it first hand. Being back and being able to play for people that have supported us so much- it is just so incredible. It’s a really surreal thing to know that we’re here in our home town, where we were a year and a half ago playing to our friends and family and now we get to play to tons of people. It’s awesome.
OS: Earlier this summer you played at the Red Hot and Boom festival and that was kind of your first show back post X-factor, what was that experience like?
Sierra: It was amazing. Just being back home and playing a show all our friends and family got to go- especially because it was free- and there were so many people. It’s funny because we really, really miss Florida; in California it really never ever rains and it rained earlier in the day [at Red Hot and Boom]- not during our set or anything so that was fine, but it was just cool to be able to play a concert where we got the Florida rain and humidity and to play for that many people.
A: Yeah, there were a lot of people there. That was pretty nuts.
S: I used to intern with XL 106.7-they’re the ones that run and put on Red Hot and Boom- and I used to work it, so it was really cool going from working that festival a few years ago to getting to play it. It was a pretty surreal moment for both of us.
OS: Speaking of surreal moments, what has it been like for you working with Simon Cowell and this whole whirlwind experience you’ve had starting with X-Factor?
S: It was totally insane. We kind of just auditioned for X-Factor on a whim. We saw that there were online auditions so we just kind of filmed a video- we did that like last January- and then we sort of forgot about it, until we got a phone call in May and they were like “Hey, do you want to audition?” We just went with it and it’s never really stopped since. One of the major factors for us auditioning was that Simon was a judge, because we’ve grown up with him being on TV, judging singers, and it was kind of a bucket list thing. Whether he said something good or bad it would kind of be cool just to say that Simon Cowell has heard you sing. And then it was even more awesome to get him as our mentor and him help us develop through the show. It’s still even weird to say that out loud: that Simon Cowell was our mentor and that we’ve actually met him. It’s really insane, we haven’t really gotten much time to really swallow everything and let it sink in.
OS: What has been your most unexpected or your craziest experience throughout this whole entire journey?
A: Both of our favorite things that has happened so far was we actually got invited down to Jason Mraz’s house in San Diego back in February. For me, that was the biggest thing that could have ever happened in my entire life. It was pretty amazing. We went down and we went surfing with him, we went out to dinner, we wrote a song and then we went surfing again. It was just an absolutely surreal two days to just be at his house- he’d just gotten a couple of baby kittens and we got to stay in the room that he kept them in- and he woke us up with smoothies. It was an absolutely crazy, crazy thing. It’s weird to even think that that happened. I have to remind myself that it wasn’t a dream.
OS: That sounds incredible. Is the song you wrote with Jason Mraz going to be on your upcoming album?
A: It won’t be on the album but we love it, the label loves it, and management loves it. It just didn’t really fit in with the songs on the album, which is no big deal because it will have a place somewhere. Hopefully we’ll be able to release it along with a couple of other things that didn’t make it to the album.We don’t really know exactly where they belong just yet, but they definitely belong in people’s headphones.
OS: I hope I get the chance to hear it. What has your creative process been behind the album? You wrote with several big name writers, like John Legend, what was that experience like?
S: As far as songwriting goes there’s really no right and wrong- there’s no magic formula to write a good song. It’s definitely just experimenting. There will be sometimes where Alex is just strumming on his guitar and I’ll be humming over it- we write things, it could not work out, we could change something and then go back to the original version. As far as collaborating with people like John Legend, it was the same thing: We would talk it out, he would play something on the piano, if we weren’t feeling something we’d kind of take a break from it and maybe eat some dinner and come back to it. That’s really how our entire album was written: experimenting and making sure it was magical. We didn’t ever want to force a song to come into being, if something wasn’t working we would go- a lot of the album was written in Malibu- so we would go for a hike, or go get some dinner somewhere we hadn’t gone before…
A: Or have a Happy Hour and have a couple of shots- that always helped.
S: It did help. Many songs came after Happy Hour, but it was really cool for us because we’d never written together or with anyone successful before, so it was fun to see that there really is no right or wrong. You don’t have to go to school somewhere to learn how to write a song.
OS: If you had to describe your album in one word, like the essence of it, what would it be?
A: That’s tough. Us? I don’t know. The thing is we both really enjoy a lot of different music, and as we were writing the songs we’d try to forget every song once it was done. When the album was done and we realized we now had to play these songs live, I literally had to learn how to play all of them. I had to have people help me and teach me how to play the songs because we would just completely forget everything that we had done and we would work on each song like it was a separate entity, which was cool because we got to play around and do what felt right for us. We didn’t really try to lock ourselves into one mindset or into one genre. It was kind of a cool projection of who we are and the kind of music we like that made it to the album. So yeah, “us”.
OS: Speaking of essence of your music, do you have any particular influences or inspirations that you were really wanting to channel? I’m guessing Jason Mraz was a pretty big influence for you.
A: Yeah Jason Mraz was definitely my number one inspiration for sure. We both really love Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran. Some of our favorite music is jazz and some of our other favorite music is bluegrass, which is not what most people would expect. There’s a little bit of a country vibe going on in a couple songs, there’s definitely a jazz vibe going on in a couple of the songs. We just tried to write what we like as much as we could, and we’re really happy with where we ended up.
OS: You released your first music video for your single “Scarecrow” earlier this summer. What was the creative process behind that, where did you get the idea for the video?
A: The video just kind of came from a bunch of brainstorming ideas. At first we did the puppet lyric video- coming off of X-Factor everything was just depressing and kind of sad, so we wanted the first look at the album to be just really light-hearted. We didn’t want to try to force some sort of message down people’s throats; we just wanted the song to be out there and let people like it for what it was and just hear the song for what it was. The actual music video just came from a bunch of different brainstorming ideas between us and people at the label. We came to a general consensus on how the video was going to turn out. It was our first debut in acting, and we’re not entirely sure how we feel about it just yet. But we’re happy with how it turned out, we think it’s beautiful- beautifully shot. We had fun learning how to act.
OS: For our last question, is there anyone alive or dead that you would like to collaborate with?
A: I think any of The Beatles would be my number one.
S: Same. Even just walking by The Beatles and just being in their presence is just something that we would both love to do. So yeah, The Beatles. I think that would be a lot of people’s answer, but for good reason.
A: Yeah, for very good reason.
OS: Definitely. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck with the upcoming album!
Check out Alex & Sierra’s New album, It’s About Us, On iTunes & in Stores now.