Q&A with Tampa-based Alex Lopez, an acclaimed musical artist quickly taking the blues/rock scene by storm

"I think blues brings people of all backgrounds together as everyone can relate and honestly, I believe that it's a very open accepting genre. I've seen where other traditionally rooted African-American music has remained in the black community where as in blues it's become a wonderful blend of all people."

Alex Lopez: Alter Blues/Rock Mixology

Alex Lopez is an acclaimed songwriter/guitarist and musical artist quickly taking the blues/rock scene by storm. Alex was born in the heartland of rock ‘n’ roll Cleveland Ohio and started playing keyboards before becoming inspired by British blues/rock bands to master the guitar. Influenced by greats like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, Alex spent his young adulthood performing in clubs and recording/producing his original songs in studios while polishing his songwriting skills. After his move to Florida to attend college and then taking some time to raise a family, Alex spent years as the vocalist and lead guitarist of the wildly popular rock band Reminiscion before striking out on his own. In September of 2013 Alex released the album “Back Bedroom Blues” a collection of all original blues and blues/rock songs displaying his formidable skills as a blues guitarist and singer/songwriter. And in 2015 Alex Lopez released his second CD “Is It A Lie” to excellent reviews. With his third album “Slowdown”, Alex achieved a new level of success, international recognition and critical acclaim.

(Alex Lopez / Photo by Jim Hartzell)

The album appeared on blues, jam and Americana charts received worldwide airplay and earned Alex fans across the globe. With the release of his fourth album “Yours Truly, Me” (2019), Alex continued his ascent in the blues rock world. Cleveland born Alex Lopez, who has established himself as a prominent figure on the Florida blues scene, released his fifth album Rising Up in 2021, striving for a stronger more authentic sound of straight-ahead blues, rock and soul. Alex Lopez is a man on a mission to spread his musical vision around the globe. His sixth album, Nasty Crime (2022), comes out firing on all cylinders with a high-powered collection of rocking blues, jazzy soul, heartfelt pop, and a touch of swing, fueled by his boundless passion. Lopez is joined again by stalwart band mates The Xpress – Kenny Hoye on keyboards, Steve Roberts on bass Kana Leimbach on drums – for eleven original tracks recorded at Creative World Recording in Largo FL. Engineer and co-producer George Harris (Cheap Trick, Rick Derringer, Brian Johnson of AC/DC), together with Alex, again capture the wide array of sound textures from the tight quartet of seasoned pros.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

As a musician the Blues rock counterculture to a degree is about suffering for your art and struggling grinding it out playing in an intimate club style setting, it's an almost anti-success mindset. It puts you in environments where at times you are up and close with the fans and that's made me connect with people in unique way, getting to really know their stories. It's also driven career decisions, as it forces you to select which direction you take at the crossroads - stay with clubs (gritty close and personal) or go for a larger platform to deliver your music.

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I call it Alternative Blues/rock mixology: contemporary blues that blends melody and groove with elements of rock, pop, and jazz to expand the boundaries of the genre. My sound is a mixture of the diversity of influences I had musically growing up. As for songwriting, its honestly something I've done as long as I can remember and for me its not creative drive, writing songs is like breathing. I can't live without it and I don't think about it as I've just been able to do it. That said, emotions good and bad typically are a catalyst for my songwriting.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I think you can sum it up in a few things. Musically - You get better at your craft by the sheer exercise of repetition. You learn and develop the art of arranging and how instruments work together. You learn that more is not always better and that surrounding yourself with the best musicians really is the key to success. And lastly you develop the confidence to stick to your vision for your music and that's a tough thing to do when everyone seemingly has a perspective. The process of writing a song really hasn't changed for me since I was 12, you become inspired by something whether it be a lyric, a riff or a melody and then let that speak to you until you have a section, sketch or phrase. You have to listen to the universe for those moments. And from there the craft takes over, working a song until it feels right. I am not sure that will ever change for me.

"Every song has it's own unique message but overall I would want people to say that my music is "real" its about real life and real feelings and with a few exceptions there is something in each song that should connect with you. Besides the escapism that a good song can do for us, I want the songs to be part of their memories and be part of their life news reel in a good way expressing for them things that maybe they don't know how to say but need to say... I think that is what I hope my songs can do for people." (Alex Lopez / Photo by Michael McBee)

How do you want the music to affect people? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

As a songwriter, I try (most of the time) to write about real issues and emotions we all go through. My hope is that the songs connect with people and provide them an emotional outlet because they have gone through similar situations or shared the same feelings. So, I want the songs to affect fans in a way that makes them feel not alone and that helps put into words what they are going through. I think that one of the greatest things you can do for people is show genuine empathy and understanding and that's what I hope to do for people through my songs.

For me "soul" as you call it, takes priority over technique and how something feels or makes you feel is more important than skill necessarily. Do I admire great technique? Why sure of course I do...and I try and improve technique as part of delivering quality musicianship. But the right single note in the right place is more powerful and memorable than anything else. And so, putting your heart and soul into music is really what my music is about.

Currently you’ve one release with George Harris. How did that relationship come about?

Actually, Nasty Crime is my 2nd release with George. George is legendary where I am from. I kept seeing his name pop up working on the album of a lot of people I admired. When my co-producer at the time, Frank Calcaterra who is also excellent, decided to take his career in a different direction it provided the opportunity to find someone new and my keyboard player Kenny Hoye strongly suggested I approach George. After one conversation, I knew he was the right person, his approach to recording is very much in-line with my philosophy. George is about the feel of a song and capturing at the source and sonically is a master. It was a great move and took my music to entirely different level.

"Musically I do my best to practice and rehearse daily, keep my chops up and work on stamina - there is no substitute for hard work. Spiritually? For performances I believe that I need to earn every fan in the audience and give them a show they will walk away from feeling that I gave my all." (Photo: Alex Lopez)

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album Nasty Crime?

I think the most interesting is that when I started rehearsals with the band for the album, they approached me after going through the songs and felt the material wasn't edgy enough and challenged me to bring 3 new songs to the next rehearsal - and I had the weekend to deliver. They/that really motivated me and the result of that was 3 great songs including "World on Fire" which became the first release and initial top track from the album. Thank goodness I listened.

How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

Such a great question. Musically I do my best to practice and rehearse daily, keep my chops up and work on stamina - there is no substitute for hard work. Spiritually? For performances I believe that I need to earn every fan in the audience and give them a show they will walk away from feeling that I gave my all. And as a musician the connection and response you get from an audience feeds the soul and is what really provides you the stamina for a great performance. When recording, its simple - I pray or meditate over and over "do your best give your all" and it works.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

To me the music is your legacy and like your children is what stays behind you after your gone and survives you letting the world know you were here. So while there are many facets to the answer to this question, from the musical perspective I believe I was given this gift that I am obligated to share and do something with and part of the meaning of life is to create a music that will connect with people and be with people long after I'm gone.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be patient and keep grinding, it will happen when it was meant to happen. Your faith in yourself must be resolute as it will be tested manty times. Be fiercely independent, and surround yourself with the best people... lastly in a business that is notorious for "shady" characters  - never compromise your activity.

"As a songwriter, I try (most of the time) to write about real issues and emotions we all go through. My hope is that the songs connect with people and provide them an emotional outlet because they have gone through similar situations or shared the same feelings. So, I want the songs to affect fans in a way that makes them feel not alone and that helps put into words what they are going through. I think that one of the greatest things you can do for people is show genuine empathy and understanding and that's what I hope to do for people through my songs." (Photo: Alex Lopez)

How do you describe previous album "Rising Up" sound and songbook? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album From the Reach?

The sound on this album is the sound of a band that really worked cohesively and collaborated to do the best thing for the individual song. You combine that with a production approach that was designed to be powerful - I wanted the kick drum to hit you in the chest and the guitars to be rich and have texture with out being over produced. I am really proud of the sound achieved. The Songbook is a simple one, this album was written to be a straight ahead blues rocker but always with my penchant for melody. Combine that with an overall theme about being an underdog, overcoming obstacles and the strength of the human spirit and you have "Rising up".

I guess the most interesting story was keeping up with co-producer George Harris and his grueling work ethic, we really put in some long days. I thought I had energy this guy is off the map! He was masterful at coaxing our best performances out of us and contributing ideas. In our quest for the "perfect" guitar tone I played a 59 Les Paul and the Holy Grail of guitars an actual Fender Esquire... to me that was amazing.

What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

Every song has it's own unique message but overall I would want people to say that my music is "real" its about real life and real feelings and with a few exceptions there is something in each song that should connect with you.

Besides the escapism that a good song can do for us, I want the songs to be part of their memories and be part of their life news reel in a good way expressing for them things that maybe they don't know how to say but need to say... I think that is what I hope my songs can do for people.                                        (Photo: Alex Lopez)

"As a musician the Blues rock counterculture to a degree is about suffering for your art and struggling grinding it out playing in an intimate club style setting, it's an almost anti-success mindset."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have an expression I live by which is "all I want are friends" so the list of people I have met that have ended up having an impact in my life is pretty long. Sometimes the most casual of acquaintances can be life changing and in music that has been very true. One of the best agents I've worked with was someone I bumped into at a festival. Best advice personally and musically has been "be yourself" which is so true. Being the best, you are better than trying to be something you are not...

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

There's the time I had a gig in Florida to a packed house (small venue maybe 75 people?) and the power went because of a lightning storm. so, we improvised I pulled out the acoustic and we did sing-alongs until the power came back. You never know what can happen at a gig.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Blues was the dangerous music of it's time, provocative and sultry. Today it seems like people relate it to "old-timers" music. So, I kind of wish that edge was still associated with the blues. My hope for the blues is to keep making it accessible and continue re-inventing so it can remain a meaningful genre, as the expression goes - keep the blues alive.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

At the risk of sounding like a capitalist, I guess it would be to change how streaming has negatively impacted the ability of great bands and songwriters to make a living without having to stay on the road constantly. It's always been a tough business but no more than ever it is truly hard to make the economics always work.

"Blues was the dangerous music of it's time, provocative and sultry. Today it seems like people relate it to "old-timers" music. So, I kind of wish that edge was still associated with the blues." (Photo: Alex Lopez)

What touched (emotionally) you from the local blues scene? What characterize the sound of Florida?

The loyalty of the fans locally is amazing. There is no better feeling than looking into an audience and seeing the friendly face of a regular fan. Really, that can be emotionally uplifting and creates huge gratitude for their loyalty.

Florida is a melting pot and for sure it has a swampy groove feel that it brings to the blues. The successful Florida bands I see have bring a unique flavor to the blues and experiment with the formula. I also think it's a happier blues. We live in paradise here and unless you have memories of up north (I'm originally from Cleveland) sometimes, in my opinion, Florida blues isn't as gritty as other places.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

It's roots are in black music 100% and so there are no racial divides in blues. NONE! I love that about music in general but specifically in blues. I think blues brings people of all backgrounds together as everyone can relate and honestly, I believe that it's a very open accepting genre. I've seen where other traditionally rooted African-American music has remained in the black community where as in blues it's become a wonderful blend of all people. As long as everyone never forgets to pay homage to those greats that started it for all of us, I think it breaks through the divides.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Wow so interesting a question so tough to answer. The typical answer is I would have liked to have been a musician in the 60's but historically, I would've liked to visit the greatness of Rome or even Athens during their golden age.

Alex Lopez - Home

(Photo: Alex Lopez)

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