Alex Vaughn is an artist that has been on our radar for a minute. We first interviewed the talented singer back in 2017 when she performed at Sol Village, but a lot has happened since that time. She signed a major label deal with Interscope and LVRN (Summer Walker, 6LACK) and released her critically acclaimed EP “The Hurtbook”. We talk to Alex about her journey in the music industry, her latest EP “The Hurtbook” as well as her experience working with legendary producer Rodney Jerkins in the studio. We also talk about her currently being on the road with Ari Lennox as well as upcoming plans.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We last spoke to you in 2017 at SOBs when you were performing at Sol Village. Fast forward a few years and you’re now on tour with Ari Lennox. Reflect back on what a young Alex Vaughn would be feeling right now about this journey that you’ve been on since our last interview.
Alex Vaughn: Young Alex would be super proud of me right now. We stuck to the vision and mission. It’s been a long journey and a lot of moments where we felt like we were going in the wrong direction and thinking it was something I needed to change within myself, but we figured it out and we’ve gotten to this point. We’re right on schedule and I feel good.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The music industry isn’t easy and there’s always a lot of uncertainty. How did you manage through all of that and stick to the plan?
Alex Vaughn: First things first, I definitely had to pray and I leaned my village. I have an amazing team and people who I can talk to through these moments and I know I can trust them with these vulnerable moments. Sometimes you don’t know how to navigate them by yourself. I think one of the biggest things is to know how to talk to myself and take a deep breath. It’s about teaching myself patience and how to be more present so I’m not driving myself crazy about what isn’t happening and I can put more energy into what is happening. There are lot of amazing things going on in real time.
YouKnowIGotSoul: As an artist, I’m sure you’re impatient and super critical of yourself. What’s it like to hit rock bottom multiple times and having to climb yourself out of that? That must not be easy to go through.
Alex Vaughn: No, it is not. I think it’s really shifting my thinking more than anything. When I get to these super low moments where when you’re creating, you just think it’s the best thing ever. Now you have another channel of people to listen to your art and they have opinions, they may not have the same opinions as yours and you start questioning whether you’re good at music or not. All of these things that just start to rabbit hole into something irrational and take yourself down to a place you don’t have to be. It’s really like how you talk to yourself. I’ve been practicing positive self talk and I’ve been learning that this is all part of the sport. It’s not about shooting slam dunks every time. It’s just about showing up. Once you come to terms that the low moments are part of the process, as long as you’re still showing up, it becomes more fun. It just takes the edge off and it helps you get back up for the next challenge.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I remember back in 2017, we asked if you would consider signing with a major label. Obviously the music industry has changed a lot since then and independence is the way to go at this point. You signed a major label situation with LVRN last year, but from hearing the music it sounds like you’re still be able to be yourself. Talk about signing with them and what made you think it would be a good fit for you?
Alex Vaughn: I’ve always wanted to make sure that my music was protected and taken care of. I never wanted my creativity to be tainted. By the graces of god, that happened to be with a record label. LVRN is like a boutique label and they’re really selective into who they bring into their space. They really care about the music and the soul and preserving that. I got that energy immediately wen I met them. It didn’t feel like I was meeting a big machine. I feel like I was meeting other people that cared for the art and I could make eye contact with them. I can just feel like we’re all on the same mission. My music is my baby and I want to make sure that if I’m going to be sharing my baby with anyone that they are able to take care of it and nurture it as well as I can. It’s been a great partnership so far.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What do you think the label saw in you as an artist?
Alex Vaughn: I remember during the pandemic, they did an Instagram challenge show and I randomly requested to get on. At the time, all you could was nothing in your house. I had a piano and I just sing and played. I think they just saw me. I don’t think my hair was done and I didn’t have on any makeup. I was just singing an original song. They saw my soul and they knew music is the only language that I speak and that’s the language they speak. We realized we speak the same language. *Laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: You first released the “Voice Notes” EP. That project was cool because it let the listeners into your creative space and hear the music in its rawest form. Talk about your mindset with putting out that EP.
Alex Vaughn: It’s funny you ask about my mindset because I was not on board with dropping that project at first. Those songs are literally voice notes, so they are unedited. I wrote and created them in the privacy of my own space and they were very vulnerable moments. The songs have never been made into records, so once I created them, I just wanted to get my emotions out and leave them there. Of course my team got a hold of them after I played it for them and they were like “These can’t sit on your phone, they have to be released”. I was a little embarrassed because there are some songs I create to get the thought off. Not every song is created to be release, it’s just like therapy. Those stories in particular were very dark. Once I was able to get the song off, I just erased the entire scenario from my brain. It was a cool lesson to tap back into old situations and experiences and just finding a new way to channel them and be okay with my vulnerable moments. It was a process, but I’m happy it’s out.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You also dropped your EP “The Hurtbook”. Talk about creating the EP because it’s such a vulnerable project.
Alex Vaughn: Originally “The Hurt Book” was a compilation of love stories between me and people throughout my life and then as I started to evolve and make different moves for my career, I noticed there was a shift happening not only in the romantic aspect of my life but also in my friendships and ultimately my relationship with myself. Those felt a little deeper than the romantic things I was experiencing and it hurt. I didn’t want to make a project about despair, being sad or blaming it on other people. I know that my relationships are a reflection of myself so I wanted to make a project about self. It’s okay to experience these emotions and it’s all part of the growing process. It’s like “You’re not broken, you’re just hurt”. It’s a book of hurt and feelings.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Do You Ever” was the song that stood out to us because of the 2000’s vibe to it. I know you worked with Rodney Jerkins on that one.
Alex Vaughn: Shout out to Rodney Jerkins! There was a writing camp for me back in Orlando last summer with Rodney Jerkins. To be honest, there’s not much of a glamorous story to “Do YOu Ever”. I walked into the room and they already had that song done on a loop. I was like “This songs like a Rodney Jerkins classic!”. I immediately cut it and it was a wrap.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The other one that stood out is “I’m Leaving”. It’s a sad song, but it’s uplifting at the same time.
Alex Vaughn: You know what’s so funny? That’s one of the oldest songs on the project. I wrote that in 2014 and I was fist fighting the entire label to not put it out. It was crazy because it’s old and outdated. It was just a piano and voice memo at first, but that was the first record Rodney heard of mine and he was like “I want to work with her”. That was another lesson for me like I have to get out of my own way at sometimes. To know that people even resonate with the song to this day and love the way it sounds and knew what I was trying to get at, I’m glad it worked out.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Mirage” is one of the older records as well and that’s the song that got you signed. Talk about that one.
Alex Vaughn: That’s another song that was originally a voice memo. It was just two notes on the piano and I was doing it for three minutes. I was singing this sad song and getting my feelings hurt. During the pandemic, I was doing live studio sessions and we created the music around it so it’s not just me banging on two notes. It’s just crazy. I was writing a song in my most vulnerable moments and I was upset. Then I blinked my eyes and that’s one of the first songs that the label hears and that’s the one they gravitate towards which led to me being signed. I’ve been trying to figure out what the science behind why people love that song so much. I think I’m just super vulnerable and I’m just throwing myself out there which is very uncomfortable. It’s always the songs that you think you’re going to keep for yourself that people want the most. I’m becoming comfortable with my vulnerability and being okay with sharing it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: When we first listened to “So Be It”, we thought it was a relationship record but listening to it deeper, it sounds like it was about your friend?
Alex Vaughn: “So Be It” was about a friend breakup. Me and one of my best friends were going through a really tough time. It wasn’t like we were having a fight, but life was separating us. That was the first song we worked on in the Rodney Jerkins sessions. I remember going into that session with Darkchild and I was like “I have to come up with the best ideas and drink Space Jam water!”. When I got into the room with the other songwriters, they were like “What are you going through?”. I was like “I don’t have anything on my mind. I’m going through a best friend breakup!”. They were like “I know exactly how that feelings”. We went through some guitar loops and I started freestyling. We just started word bombing everything out. “So Be It” hurt but it was definitely just about relationships and about how some things have to come to an end and that’s okay.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Talkin” is such an aggressive song!
Alex Vaughn: I was just shocked too! When I first heard that record, I was scared myself but I was like “I feel that!”. I’m a Scorpio and I feel there’s an inner aggression that needs to come out. It’s not necessarily to scare you, but to let it be known that I’m not one to play with. So when I first that record and I had the opportunity to sing it, I was like “Hold on!”. Then a real time scenario occurred in my life that really makes me say these words. It was just life and the universe that brought the whole record to life.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s coming up for you?
Alex Vaughn: I’m on my first tour with my Ari Lennox. Of course you can expect more music and performances. I just plan on being everywhere all at once. I’ve got an deluxe version of “The Hurtbook” coming soon too.