Since finishing second in Seattle’s Sound Off! Competition, Parisalexa has taken the local music scene by storm. Her debut EP, “Bloom,” and the follow-up EP, “Flexa,” were voted the number one releases in 2018 by The Seattle Times. Her track “Ballin” has over a million streams on Spotify, and she’s been featured everywhere from CityArts to the SeattleMet to Seattle Magazine. Her ambitions, however, extend far past Seattle. She’s been collaborating with artists across the country and has a debut album in the works which will surely make big waves. I chatted with Paris about her songwriting process, the unexpected success of “Bloom” and “Flexa,” and how she cultivates confidence.
What was your songwriting process writing Bloom and Flexa?
Well they are pretty similar and not really like the way I’ve written before. A lot of the stuff I wrote I was in the car, so I was either driving or doing something subconsciously, and my radio doesn’t work, so I just played the track over and over again and that’s how I came up with a lot of the concepts. Or walking my dog, doing things where I wasn’t like 100% focused on it; the words kind of just came to me, so I just had to kind of let my mind run while doing something idly.
Do you usually start with beat and then freestyle over it?
Yeah that is how it has happened before, for sure. Sometimes I make the beats myself and then me and my producer will reproduce it, but that’s how it usually works.
How do you get over writer’s block?
Honestly, living life. Taking a step back and sometimes it’s doing something crazy and sometimes it’s just having a good time with your friends or sometimes just listening to what people are talking about in the coffee shop. You have to live a life to have something to write about.
Do you make your own beats or use other people’s?
I do both but mostly somebody else is in the process even if it is my own stuff, but I have the idea, I have how I want it to sound, and even if I am working with another producer, I’ll be like “oh I want you to add this” or “add this” so it’s collaboration. I like to combine my ideas and the sounds I have in my head with other people’s production as well.
You collaborated with a lot of people on the latest record; can you talk a bit more about the process around that?
A lot of them were my friends, like Travis and I met at Sound Off! and we became friends so whenever a song would come up, I’d be like “yes let’s do it obviously,” since it was kind of a seamless transition. Same thing with COSMOs and Campana, they actually beat me in Sound Off! and ever since we’ve been really tight and close. Mr. Beasty I know through either Travis or COSMOs. But everyone I work with are my actual friends because I think music kind of comes from, at least for me, a true and genuine place, so I have to stay authentic with my collaborations as well.
Speaking of Sound Off! You’re one of the artists who has really used the momentum from Sound Off! to really take things to the next level. When did you know it was time to get a management team behind you?
My managers kind of came to me at an appropriate time. I self-managed for 3 years and it was dope and really cool to see the ropes, and I came to appreciate the actual job of being a manager because I knew all that it took. So, it was a point where, I didn’t want to do things like booking all the time. Like, I knew how, but I was like, this is a really good time, and I had enough enquiries to pass it onto somebody. So, everything kind of lined up that way, but I had to do a lot of stuff myself before.
“Everyone I work with are my actual friends because I think music kind of comes from, at least for me, a true and genuine place, so I have to stay authentic with my collaborations as well.”
There are a lot of situations as an artist that require confidence, from reaching out to collaborators to performing. How do you cultivate confidence?
I mean, for me, I feel like there’s only one life and you have to go for it and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always tomorrow or another person or another thing. Your bridges are not going to burn if you don’t have bad intentions. I think positive energy comes back to you so don’t be afraid.
I heard you also ghost write?
Yea, I do. I’m interested in publishing and I might have a songwriting deal soon, so we’ll see how that is all going to go. But I definitely love splitting my creative energy by not only doing things for me. Because sometimes I write about things that I would never want to say, but it’s catchy and I want to get it out, so it can go to somebody else.
Your bridges are not going to burn if you don’t have bad intentions. I think positive energy comes back to you so don’t be afraid.”
How did you get started writing songs?
I actually wanted to do that first, so I did a bunch of songwriting camps in high school and I did Berkley songwriting camp. I got offered a scholarship to Berkeley for songwriting but I turned it down since I wanted to do it full-time, and so I have been taking trips to LA and top lining for a lot of these labels and stuff and already established artists for a while. So, hearing about the success that came from Bloom and Flexa was really unexpected because I prepped my life to be writing. But a good surprise and then it kind of took a turn and now I’m focusing more on performing.
Was it a hard decision to turn down Berkley?
It was a hard decision convincing my parents, since you can’t know if it’s going to be worth it, but they’re pretty OK with it now. It made me work harder since I had something to show them.
I got offered a scholarship to Berkeley for songwriting but I turned it down since I wanted to do it full-time”
How did you get connections in LA?
I was doing it for a couple years before I did Grammy Camp so I made a lot of connections there, and from there, the connections kept snowballing and every time I came back it’d be like “Are you in town?” “Do you have time for any sessions?” That’s kind of how it happened. It was pretty dope and being young—when I was 15, 16—my parents would come into sessions with me and it was embarrassing, but I was able to be advocated for. For example, the business, I didn’t fully get yet, so it was good to have people older than me who got it and could teach me, and I think that really helped me to now understand the business and to continue to advocate for myself as an adult getting into the industry full time.
What’s being in a songwriting session like?
Most of the time the artists are there and it’s kind of like speed dating I like to say. It’s kind of like that because, you kind of have to figure out things like, what do you like to write about? tell me a bit about yourself? what are things you would say? so that it’s authentic. So, that’s kind of what it’s like.
You’re currently working on a full-length album?
Yes, I am. I can’t say that much about it, but it is coming and I’m really excited about it. I’ve been doing it for a while, doing that work, and it’s been cool exploring the types of sounds I want on it.
Have you worked with female producers?
Unfortunately, no, since there aren’t that many, but I’m always highlighting females in art. For example, when I was in Atlanta, I worked with a couple female engineers and I immediately got their contact info and was like, “when I’m back I would love to work with you since there are so few of us,” and just highlighting that is important I think. But I would love to work with more female producers—there are just not that many.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. Everything will come in its time when it’s supposed to. I think if these opportunities had come to me when I was younger, I think I wouldn’t have been ready, so I’m glad it is like it is. So, just being patient, continue writing, and, yeah, do what you love, do what you do.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me is equality. I think that’s just plain what it is. People get caught up in the name, but I think it is really just equality for women.
I think if these opportunities had come to me when I was younger, I think I wouldn’t have been ready, so I’m glad it is like it is. So, just being patient, continue writing, and, yeah, do what you love, do what you do.”
Cover image credit: Hayley Young