Lexie Roth, the daughter of legendary guitar player Arlen Roth, has had one foot in the door of the music industry since birth. Surrounded by music at a young age, Lexie developed a love of classic country and artists such as Stevie Wonder and Sam Cook. This infatuation with music led Lexie to begin working on her first album at the early age of 15. By the age of 18 and with the extensive help of her father, she had finished and released her debut album entitled ‘One Long Blink’. Now 25 years old, the stunning songwriter has returned with her self-titled second album that can be best described as a dark experience. This new album represents a purging for Lexie and she has now moved on and is working on new material that is lighter and more adventurous. While she maintains a close relationship with the father who has shaped her life, it is clear Lexie is stepping from under his looming shadow and is looking to take the music industry by storm. Steve Johnson of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Lexie to discuss her influences, what it is like working alongside her legendary father, how she has evolved as a musician, and her recently released self-titled second album.
We’d like to give the readers background on you. How did music first come into your life?
Music first came into my life when I was practically in the womb. My dad has played his whole life. He taught himself, as a very young kid, to play a guitar with a few strings on it. Then he continued to teach himself on records of The Beatles and everything. He learned every single part and taught himself. He played professionally his whole life. So, it was around when I was growing up, but it was never forced at all. Like, “Now young lady. You have to go practice and be just like me.” It wasn’t really like that. [laughs] So yeah, it was just around forever. As long as I can remember for sure.
Other than your dad being that great influence, what or who else drove you to make music your career?
I listened to classic country. I would go to Nashville to see live performances. I travelled with my dad a lot. I was very inspired by Dolly Parton and all of the classic country greats. They really got me excited. To be able to hear so much music in my young age … Great Motown. I like Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, all the greats. Music made me feel happier than anything else and I was kind of surrounded by it. I was singing along and started picking up instruments. I realized this is what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. So, it just kind of happened.
You recently released your second self-titled album. For those who haven’t heard it, how would you best describe it?
I’d hate to say it, but it is a little dark, for sure. I went through a bunch of crazy hard experiences in my life and a lot of songs needed to come from that. I tried to keep it light in some ways, but really it was like almost a purging of all of these things through the songs. It was a cleansing album for me and now I feel like I can move on to do more fun tracks and get a little more adventurous. It’s a pretty heavy and dark album, but there’s light in it. The message is not like, it’s over, it’s like, life goes on. With the drums and the bass and how it chugs along, it helps bring it up. That’s a confusing answer! [laughs]
It’s alright! It’s fine! [laughs] Tell us about your typical songwriting process.
The songwriting process pretty much starts with … I would come up with a guitar part first. I just fiddle around until I start repeating something that I really like the sound of and makes me feel something. Generally, I get that feeling like, “I have to write right now!” I can’t force it. I come up with a nice guitar part and then I can let it sit for a little while or I can write a full song in one fell swoop. It totally depends. Sometimes I have to really try to like get a good bridge in there. Usually the music always happens first. I never write lyrics without the music. So, music first. I try to keep everything lyrically simple and to the point and not be super wordy. Sometimes they say, “You’re a singer-songwriter.” I hate that term. You immediately think of a girl strumming a guitar and the most wordy, long breath verses. So, I’m trying not to make it too wordy. I let the words have some air, some breathing room.
You worked with your father on this album and your previous work, including his own work. Tell us about what it’s like working with him and what he brings to the table.
This album was a lot less, extremely less, which was intentional. My first album I was so young. I started it when I was 15 and finished it when I was 17. I was so young. He helped produce it. I was still in school. He definitely helped me alot with that musically and actually helping make it happen. I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own. I recorded this album all on my own. It’s all original material. All of the arrangements are by me. He wasn’t around at all. He did a couple of overdubs where I thought it needed a little juiced up lead guitar. He was like, “Finally! I get to be on your album!” [laughs] So, I definitely wanted to be completely my own thing. I had him do some frills on top. He definitely listened to it through the process. I did my project, but he gave a little love to it at the end.
Has it been hard stepping out of your father’s shadow and his career?
No. We play together all of the time. I have my own band, but … We are actually doing a special at a memorial show for the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and all of the families. My dad is living right near there. I knew one of the little girls. So, we’re doing that next week actually. So, that’s always a constant. He’s really the only family I have. We are so tight and close friends. It’s a very special and unique relationship we have. We’re kind of holding it together for each other. He’s so excited when I have things going on. I also have this side project that’s an electronic project. He also loves that too. He loves my independence, but he’s always there if I have a question or want to learn slide better or want to play better. He’s really the best teacher.
What was the biggest challenge to making the album?
The biggest challenge was not being able to finish it for so long. I recorded it in March at my house in Martha’s Vineyard. I was ready to go and just wanted to finish it, mix it, and do the whole thing. Then I kind of disappeared in California for nine months. [laughs] I finally got back and did some new material and re-did some vocals. I was then able to release it and feel good about it. I did a year that was null and void. It made me lose my momentum with it and made me feel like I couldn’t release it at all, when really that was not true. So, that was difficult to get through that feeling. I released it last April. I feel like at this point in my life it was the better time to release it because I could give my all to it. I worked really hard to get it out there and get it heard. It all worked out. Now I have all of these new songs from that span of time, so we are working on getting tracks together for a third album.
Do you think you evolved as a musician since your first album?
For sure! In a big way! My guitar playing has grown exponentially. I would learn how to play something and then turn it into a song. Very simple guitar parts. I kept it very paired down. Now I can really hold my own on stage and I’m writing more intricate things. I’ve also grown up and my voice has grown with that. The difference between 16 and 25 is a lot! [laughs]
You shot a video for “Stay or Go.” What was that experience like for you and would you do another video?
Yeah! I’m actually in the process of planning the next video. That video was so fun to shoot because I got to go home during the early spring. All of the baby lambs were around. The daffodils were blooming. Spring fever was in the water. It was just gorgeous. No one was there yet and me and my friend Joel Henderson went out to my house for three days. At first the footage was supposed to be a mini documentary, but then it turned into a music video. He didn’t have enough space on his hard drive to handle what the movie was becoming. I was like, “I just need something right now that’s a music video. Let’s shoot it.” We met up in the summer and shot a lot of the city shots. A lot of the city shots were in Prospect Park by the promenade. I’m planning a video for “Windfield.” I want it to be a little psychedelic and use kaleidoscope effects. I want to keep it dreamy because it is a dreamy sounding song.
You participated in the Les Paul tribute album “Thank You Les.” Tell us about your experience working on that and what Les Paul meant to you.
Working on that album was unbelievable. I never got to spend time with Les Paul, but I heard beautiful stories from my dad. He’s such a legend and created everything that everyone takes for granted. Everyone can record at home now and he was the first man to create multi-track recording and the electric guitar. Now everyone can go to guitar center and buy it. He basically started this whole musical world. He was so inspiring and incredible. The footage of him shows that he was hysterical and such a lovable guy. I’ve always loved Les Paul stuff. The song “Vaya con Dios” was one of my favorites to sing for years and years and years. It is an interesting story on how I was picked to do the song. It wasn’t because my dad was on it. They were in the studio with him and they were like, “Man. We need a singer.” I was like, “I have someone in mind.” They still wanted to hear what I have done. I sent them a few songs I did with Levon Helm, my first album, and some new cuts of mine. They were like, “We’d love for you to come in.” So, the one day I had off from culinary school I went out to New Jersey. It was really nice. It was an all analog studio. It was a famous studio where the Stones did a bunch of records. There were two people in the control room and they were cutting the track live. They were like, “Alright! Go for it!” I was learning the words on the way. There’s a camera in my face because they are shooting a documentary as well. So, I did it in one take. They were like, “Alright! Please sign here so we can do this!” Les Paul’s son was there, as well as other close friends. They all reacted so amazingly to it. They were moved to tears. I was very happy. There have been some nice reviews come out. I just like being on that album with everybody. Keith Richards and ZZ Top.
I was impressed by the lineup when I looked at the track listing before speaking to you!
You mentioned some live shows. What’s that experience been like for you and do you plan to expand out and tour across the country?
I am trying to plan that as soon as possible. I have two jobs that I can say I belong to. I just formed this incarnation of this band. I’m going to do a little more time playing in the city. Just get seasoned. Then we’ll probably do a Northeast tour and then do more of the states. I love to travel and I’m hungry for it. I’m definitely looking to travel and tour very soon.
You mentioned new material and a new band. What can you tell us about that?
I actually played one of the new songs at the end of my set last week in Brooklyn. Everyone responded so well to that song. All of the girls came up to me to buy my CD and were like, “Is the last song on there? We love the last song!” I’m going to try to go in a little different direction than I have. It’s very simple and pared down. I’m trying to write songs that people like and make me happy. I’m trying to be a little more upbeat. All musicians in New York have about five other projects going on, so I’m doing my best to keep up. [laughs] My bass/synth player, Nick Shopa, he’s amazing and he’s in my very dear friend’s band, Papertwin. So, I stole him for a little bit and we’re working on this new song. I possibly have a producer interested in working with me on that new song and getting it down or maybe releasing it as a new single. I want to do something special with it.
That’s a hell of a combination! [laughs]
I know! We’ll see what happens with that! I don’t know if that person will be the one, but we’ll see! So. lots of new material. When I have a moment to myself and I’m not running around a restaurant or cooking for people I’m with my guitar and I’m trying to write and play. The city grind makes it hard to do what you want to do.
You keep mentioning cooking and it seems like a major part of your life. How did you get turned on to that?
Since I was little my mom and dad would always include me in cooking dinner. When I lost my mom, by default I kind of started helping out in the kitchen. I became the woman of the house at 10 years old. My dad still knows how to cook a mean stir fry and whatever else. I just became very interested in food. Two years ago I went to culinary school. I’ve worked at incredible restaurants my whole life as a server and was a private chef for seven years on Martha’s Vineyard, cooking fresh and delicious food for people. I just figured I’d go the full trade school route and go to culinary school.
It’s intriguing to hear another side to an artist. Everything seems to just deal with the music or whatever we happen to be interviewing someone about. It’s cool you have that side career going on.
It’s really fun. I actually did this interview where they wanted two recipes and they played my music. Between songs I talked about the recipes. Yeah … They’re both a creative thing for me. I love doing the private cooking thing because compared to working in a restaurant where you have to work your way up for years to be allowed to make a salad … I do not want any part of that. [laughs] The long hours would suck my life away more than it’s already being sucked away by working in restaurants. But yeah, food is fun! I love doing it!
Do you have any advice for someone who would like to get involved in the music industry?
Sure! Yeah! It’s hard work. Practice and try not to get discouraged by assholes! [laughs] Don’t let people bring you down. Be confident, work hard, and focus. Practice like crazy! Practice! Practice! Practice! You don’t stop learning. Anyone who is at the peak of their fame is working harder than ever. Imagine what Beyonce is doing right now. She’s constantly working, constantly dancing, working out, and working her voice. It’s hard work and it takes dedication. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s so rewarding. It fills me with so much joy to be able to share something so personal with so many people and have them react. Everyone’s connected with an album deeply and you play it over and over again. To be able to actually be that person who moves people is really special. So, focus and don’t be like, “Ah! I quit!” [laughs]
That’s all I have for you. Is there anything you would like to let our readers know before I let you go?
Oh man! This is always the question you know the answer to later, but not now. [laughs] Look out for nice things coming from my direction. I hope I can make people happy. I hope to have the new video out in the next few months. I’m playing a lot more shows and working on new material. I’m going to try to pump out more stuff for everyone to enjoy. Maybe make you dance a little bit.
Not me! I’m not a dancer! If you get me to dance, I’ll call you and let you know! [laughs]
Alright! That will be my goal! [laughs]
We will be paying attention to your career and we wish you all the best!
Ok! Thank you so much for spending time with me!