We finish out the week with our newest West Coast Spotlight – Alex Hughes. Born and raised in Calgary, Alex has been working her way up the rankings with her smooth vocals and great tunes. We got to sit down with Alex and chat about her new single Gentleman which is now available. This is a great up beat track perfect for a drive down the road speakers blasting.
Hello Alex! Hope you are having an awesome summer day. Let us start from the beginning, and that would be:
What got you into country music in the first place? Was it something you shared with friends, family, both?
Hi Hidden Beats, and everyone reading at home! I’m so excited to share a little bit about my musical journey with you all. I’ve been performing since I was 7 years old. I grew up in a large multicultural family surrounded by music and dancing and fell in love with performing as soon as I was thrown on stage at our family BBQ’s. I got into Country music at around 8 years old when I discovered LeAnn Rimes and always admired the nod to the world of old country music in her sound and songs. LeAnn opened up my world and I soon became obsessed with artists like Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. I grew up singing at every school talent show and often had Karaoke nights with friends so this is a passion that I’ve shared with my family and friends my whole life.
I hear a lot of influences of Reba, Leann Rimes in your music, who are some of the artists you grew up admiring and where do you place them in the growth of your musical legacy?
Listening to LeAnn Rimes as one of the first country artists really opened my world to the genre. She covered lots of older artists including Patsy Cline and the Righteous Brothers so even at a young age I would look into these artists to hear the original versions and became fascinated with the world that was Country music in what I believe was its prime. Back when artists like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and countless others were on top of their game. This has been a huge influence on my vocal sound but I also have a major love of Pop music and pop-production and have spent a lot of time listening to top 40, hip hop and rap. All of which I try to take inspiration from and incorporate into my music.
You are from Calgary, which has a huge country music scene of course. How do you feel the city influenced your tastes and independent style?
When I first got into music full-time after high school there wasn’t the same music community within the Country genre that exists in Calgary today. Calgary certainly has always had a booming Country music scene but it is often most enjoyed during the 10 days of Stampede. Now is an incredibly exciting time to be in the Country scene not only in Calgary but across Alberta because of the support from organizations like Alberta Music, Association of Country Music in Alberta (ACMA), and Calgary Country Music. We have some great venues like the King Eddy and Mikey’s that support live music. There’s also an incredible collaborative environment of co-writes and overall support for the collective in the genre that is one of my favourite parts of being an artist in Calgary right now.
Is there something on your current playlist that might surprise your fans?
I’m really into K-pop right now! It started during quarantine because I’ve been trying to get back into jogging. I find that most K-Pop is upbeat and easy to run to, so it’s been my go-to when I’m running. My favourite song is BLACKPINK- “How You Like That”.
I heard a rumor that you have played the Calgary Stampede every year since you were 9. Is that true?
It’s true! I first entered the Calgary Stampede Talent Search at 9 years old. I took part in that showcase every summer and have performed at Stampede-related events (Stampede Parades, Pancake Breakfasts, BBQ’s etc.) through June and July every year. Stampede has had such a massive impact on me. I’m so grateful for my experiences as a gigging musician from such an early age. Last year I got to perform at the iconic Coca-Cola stage and that was a huge moment for me – getting to perform in front of hundreds of people.
Your big breakout hit “Strong as You” came out in 2019, and it is a beautifully melodic love ballad. Walk us through the writing process and the backstory of that song.
I wrote it with my good friend and one of my favourite writers and artists in Calgary, Aaron Pollock. We were both reflecting on past relationships and how especially at the beginning they can be so consuming. I remember literally ditching my friends at the bar for an opportunity to see my boyfriend (now husband) and that is where the sentiment of nothing being as, “Strong As You” came from. No buzz compares to being with the person you love or are really into. I remember leaving that write thinking we had something special and soon after I decided to record it.
Previously though, back in 2013, you released your self titled album. Right away “Run Free” is such a fun summer bop, and a strong track. How do you feel that you have grown as a musician since then?
I’ve had so many ups and downs in the music industry since then. I’ve also spent a ton of time writing and developing as an artist. Truth be told, I’ve grown up a lot since release that first album. I still have a massive soft spot for I poppy summer jams and I love that my first EP is a true reflection of where I was at the time. I was a young dreamer, out having fun and that EP highlights that time in my life. Only now I feel like I’m stumbling into the artist I’m meant to be, with a greater concept of my art and the maturity and confidence to deliver that.
After the success of “Strong as You” you participated in several workshops, charity events and performances all over Los Angeles and Nashville. What was it like going from the small and close-knit community of Calgary to the epicenters of the music, culture, and country scenes?
It can be really intimidating! Being in LA you feel like you’re in the centre of the entertainment world with so much going on but it’s so competitive and cutthroat. Nashville is competitive too because there is just so much talent there. I think there’s something really special happening in Alberta right now. When artists support each other in the ways that they are the sense of community is so motivating. I can’t wait to get back down to both of those music cities for writing and other opportunities but I have to say that being home is pretty awesome right now thanks to the community and support system we have here.
Speaking of Nashville, congratulations are in order! While down in Nashville you swept the competition and won big at the North American Country Music Association International Awards. Walk us through how that felt!
Thank you! It was super exciting getting to perform at NACMAI let alone win in my categories. I felt so inspired watching the other competitors as well as the special guests that they brought in to mentor us. This was all thanks to a competition in Edmonton called the Global Country Star Search which is an incredible program that provides opportunity and supports Canadian Country music artists.
Your new single coming out in August, “Gentleman” is a poignant calling out of men and necessary! What made you create and release this track?
Most of us ladies have experienced the guy I’m describing in this song. He’s too big for his boots, and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. Gentleman calls out those guys and lets them know that we see them for who they truly are. This song is maybe directed at the typical guy at the bar but it really can apply to anyone who thinks they’re a big shot. For me, being a “Gentleman” is all about being respectful and chivalrous.
As a female Country artist, I want people to see me as someone who doesn’t take any nonsense and as a relatively shy person this is easier for me to translate through music. I think that this is a time to stand up for ourselves and for the things we believe in and though this song is meant to be fun and taken lightly, I love that the underlying message is one of strength for women. Ironically, I wrote this song with two actual gentleman, Spencer Cheyne (CCMA nominated producer who also produced Gentleman) and Aaron Pollock. The concept came out of a feisty guitar lick and conversations about how those annoying guys at the bar make it really tough on the good guys.
During the lockdown, obviously tours, concerts, and festivals ended up cancelled or postponed, but you meanwhile have not stopped! Tell us the story of your involvement with “Both Sides Now” from The Blue Jay Sessions.
It’s been disappointing not being able to play concerts and festivals, or play live anywhere really, but I’m super grateful for this time to focus on other projects like the collaborative cover of “Both Sides Now” put together by The Blue Jay Sessions. For those who don’t know, The Blue Jay Sessions is a roving platform for singer/songwriters created by Eat North and Calgary Country Music. Dan Clapson from Eat North had the vision to bring together Canadian artists during this time in a collaboration to support Community Food Centres Canada. We all recorded our parts separately at home and producer Ethan Burke brought our voices together. I love collaboration and community and was honored to be a part of this special song which you can stream everywhere.
You also released 2 different tracks with David Bradford that you are not only singing on, but helped write as well, called “Midnight Train” and “Spinning My Wheels”. How did you 2 become friends, and what was it like as a solo performer playing with someone else?
Like most of the collaborations I’ve been lucky to work on, David and I connected through the music community online. It is so special to be featured on both of these songs and to get to perform alongside such a talented writer and singer. I was so excited to sing on these tracks because they’re a little bit of a nod to the more traditional country sound I love and they’re different than the more Pop-Country tracks I’m releasing.
You recently did some online performances for Calgary’s Wildfest, how different of an experience was that, and can we expect some more intimate-at-home shows from you in the future?
Being part of Wild 95.3’s WildFest during the “Calgary Stampede” or what would’ve been Stampede week was so great! It helped to fill the void of Stampede Gigs and was a way to connect with my fans and reach some new fans from my hometown! This performance really helped make it feel like we were keeping some of the Western spirit alive. I was also able to do a feature for the ACMA (Association of Country Music in Alberta) Sizzlin Summer Takeover Series which you can find on my Facebook page. It was so much fun and an honor to be able to perform on this incredible and supportive platform. I have some more at-home performances planned for the near future so stay tuned!
With things slowly reopening, what are some local favorite restaurants, venues, etc. that you are looking to getting back to? I know you’re a big fan of Anju but is there anywhere else?
Sadly, Anju doesn’t exist anymore which I’m super bummed about. I have heard rumors of a new and improved version in the works so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I absolutely love the King Eddy, they’re starting to do shows now too, which is great.
The band gets to be on stage and the singer actually performs in their own room adjacent to the main area. They’ve got a giant window that lets them see the crowd and they actually get to perform right beside the Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio – so if getting to perform right next to where Mick Jagger laid down his vocals doesn’t inspire you to sing your heart out, nothing will. I’m a big fan of supporting local. I’ve already snuck on to a couple of the patios at some of my favourite breweries like Ol’ Beautiful and Last Best. I haven’t had a chance to make it to Railyard or Legend 7 yet but they’re both also some of my favourites.
What would you like to tell your fans?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this interview and I hope you like my new song Gentleman! I love to connect and continue to make new friends online so shoot me a message on Instagram or any other platform if you have any questions or want to talk music! Stay safe and healthy, everyone!
West Coast Spotlight – Alex Hughes is in the books! I want to say a big thanks to Alex for taking the time to spend with us.
Check out the new single Gentleman out now!
Keep up with all things Alex Hughes heres
Get your Spotlight now!