Former teen star Alexz Johnson chases dreams as indie artist

“The more success you get, the more responsibility you have," singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson told LSY!'s Ashley O'Leary. (Photo by Jessica Earnshaw)

“The more success you get, the more responsibility you have,” singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson told LSY!’s Ashley O’Leary. (Photo by Jessica Earnshaw)

By Ashley O’Leary   

She’s starred on Disney Channel’s So Weird and CTV’s Instant Star.

You may have seen her “riding the same roller coaster hundreds of times” in Final Destination: 3.

She’s toured North America and Europe performing her music.

Canadian-born actress and singer-songwriter Alexz Johnson has an impressive resume.

But the dulcet-voiced entertainer’s career hasn’t been totally smooth. TV series inevitably get cancelled. Record deals fall through. (That’s happened to Alexz twice.) Through it all, the 27-year-old has managed to remain focused on her goal: to create beautiful music for her fans. You can check out her recently released EP, Heart, by clicking here.

Here are some important lessons about fame and success we learned in a recent interview with Alexz. (Side note: For fun, we used her song lyrics to identify each lesson!)

• “When Everything’s Hopeless, You Follow A Compass.” Despite her success, Alexz hasn’t always been winning. Though she signed two major record label deals, neither resulted in a big album. (That’s common in the music industry — artists are signed and dropped all the time as executives switch jobs and plans change.) And while she was waiting for the labels to decide what to do with her career, she could have been playing shows and building her fan base.

Alexz felt vulnerable, but remained strong.

“I had lost two major record deals, and at that point I had no leg to stand on,” Alexz said. “I felt like I wasted so much time signed, and not actually touring. I remember being like, ‘#### this, I’m going to find a way to go on tour and connect with my audience.”

She found the right leg to stand on, moving to New York City in her early 20s and pursuing a career as an independent artist.

“I told myself, ‘If I don’t make it by the time I’m 25, I’m quitting the music industry,’” she said. “And I’m 27.”

Why didn’t Alexz give up? Why wouldn’t she let her dreams slip from her fingertips? Lots of small but important signs have encouraged her to continue.

“The fans, seeing people at my shows cry, people that continue to buy my music,” she said. “Once in a while, that check comes in from iTunes and you’re like, ‘Oh my God! I can pay my rent!’ Enough things have happened where it’s just like, ‘Why stop?’”

Alexz realized that facing constant challenges is a key to being successful.

“Nothing is going to be easy from this point on,” she said. “I’ve given my life to this. Everything is going to be hard and I can’t see myself doing anything I’m going to love as much as this. Why not keep going?”

Alexz succeeded because of her dedication and love for music. She didn’t let the negativity overpower her. She remained patient and did all that she could to come out on top.

And yes, she definitely came out on top!

“I guess I would have never suspected how fulfilling it can be to conquer things that really scare you,” she said. “You can’t have fear of failure. I think people can sense that.”

• “I’ll Use What You Give Me, Like Kites When It’s Windy.” Alexz doesn’t believe luck alone has gotten her to where she is today. Her determinations and unwillingness to give up when times get tough have pushed her to succeed.

“I think luck is something to do with it,” she said, “but you’re only going to run across luck if you have persistence.”

• “You Can Always Believe With A Dream Up Your Sleeve” Alexz told us about the differences between being part of a big label and having a “team” and working as an independent artist. She’s had both experiences, but prefers the control she has now.

“It’s been really good for me to go the indie route,” she said. “I feel like it’s really important to build your own ship that you can sail without having to rely on people.”

• “It’s All On The Table I’m Willing And Able.” Alexz has sacrificed and dedicated all of her time to writing lyrics, recording, and connecting with her fans through social media. She hasn’t seriously considered doing anything else with her life.

“You can’t have a backup plan,” she said. “You can’t have, ‘I’ll try this and if that doesn’t work then…’

“I feel like if you really want this, you have to make sacrifices and bite the bullet.”

Alexz doesn’t just perform for attention and money. One of the many reasons her performances are so popular is because she conquers the stage with her heart, and sings with her soul.

“The reason why you stand up on stage like a fool, open your heart out and share everything inside of you is because you literally feel like there’s nothing else here you can do,” she said. “I feel like that’s what makes music and entertainers, since like the circus. That’s what makes it so interesting to watch people on stage, when they’re so vulnerable.”

Ashley O’Leary is a senior in our program at Mount St. Mary Academy in Buffalo.

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