Before interviewing Alexis Houston I did a little bit of research a found a whole lotta scandal. Skim over a few blogs and news sites and you’ll discover she’s been called everything from Whitney Houston’s half sister, to Whitney’s cousin, to a man named Wellington who has undergone a sex change and mistress of US TV host Matt Lauer. The mind boggles.
Just who is she? She’s a mystery and I was intrigued. What I can say is upon meeting her I found Alexis has an ethereal essence and a strong passion for music. When we catch up during London fashion week to talk about scandal and her debut album Speak Love: Life Lessons, she was finding the designs and London all rather inspirational… “British style has an edge, someone might be rocking a Chanel suit and then she’ll turn around and have a blue streak in her hair. That’s what I want to bring with my music- a style with range and edge…”
I’m sensing you definitely have a little Brit edge about you. You’re dressed quite European…
Oh Thank you! Well I did live here for quite a while…
Yeah, I did my O’ Levels (GCSEs) and A Levels here. And I went to Kings College and studied Medicine. I got an academic scholarship and I just wound up here.
So from Medicine to music! Can you tell us a bit about your album?
Speak Love: Life Lessons is my musical biography. It’s about a young girls journey to womanhood and how various relationships she’s had have impacted on her life. Everything from puppy love, to strong yearning, to love gone wrong! I’ve written a track about loss, that touches on how I felt when I lost my father. There’s also a song about loving yourself. You may not like who you see when you look in the mirror but you always have the strength within to overcome any adversity.
What musical influences to you have on there?
Well I’m a producer and song writer first and foremost so I have all types of influences including R&B, hip hop and classical, some guitar from my Led Zepplin days!
Do you play the guitar? Were you a bit of a rock chick?
Yes to both! I also rap in segments on some tracks to!
Nice! So you’re a bit of an undercover rebel?
[Laughs] I guess there’s a little rebel in me.
Sounds like you’ve put a lot of yourself into your work. Would you say that the album was a cathartic exercise for you?
Definitely. Initially it was just about getting stuff out. I do that by writing; letters, poems, songs. Now that I’ve written the album its more about connecting with the audience. We’ve all gone through heartbreak so hearing from listeners that a song touched them is important to me, cos I would like to think that my music provides people with comfort.
You talked a bit about being producer/ writer. What caused you to make the switch to recording artist?
I met a former head of Sony Music (Paul Russell) he heard some songs that I had written and produced. We hit it off, we both had a passion for Yorkie chocolate bars [laughs]. When he listened to my tracks, asked who sang on the demo’s and I told him it was me. At the time he was saying I should record. He said planted a seed in my mind but I wasn’t ready. I was passionate about producing and writing so I did that for some years and I wasn’t ready to deal with the pressures that come with being a recording artist. The media always writing about you, your life not being your own. But then I came to a point when I realised that I had a voice and something to say. Sometimes when you are the writer, because the lyrics reflect your emotion you are the best vocalist to get your message across. A bit like Carole King or Billie Holliday. They were not technically the best singers at their time but no one could put across the emotion in their songs like them.
We’ve have to talk press pressure and scandal. You’ve been called everything from a home wrecker [Alexis was accused of having an affair with The Today Show host Matt Lauer] to a 50 year old man. How do you respond to these stories?
It was scary. I live in a small fishing village in New York. I’ve got a great boyfriend, I know everyone in my area. I give my neighbours herbs from my garden. The local grocery man knows me. And then all of a sudden 20 media vans are outside my house it was daunting.
But I’ve come through that. I spoke to whoever I needed to speak to, I held a press conference to refute all of these rumours and now I’m done. Your damned if you speak out and damned if you don’t. Now most people have left me alone. Although I still get followed occasionally and some people do not believe me.
Does it ever make you want to quit the business?
My mum sometimes says why don’t you just become a country bumpkin and forget all this. But the pull I have to the music industry is just too great.
Words by Mary Bello