Waterloo native used social media to become a country star

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Becoming a country music star hasn’t always been a goal for Alexandra Kay.

In fact, doing anything in music was not something she dreamed of as a child. The Waterloo native’s life was centered around softball until music found it. When she was 15, she started writing songs to cope with the pressures of her teenage years.

“It was just something that completely found me, and (I) fell into it, and I just think it’s because my soul needed it,” said Kay, who is 30 years old.

Now with over 2.6 million subscribers on TikTok and a million followers on Facebook, Alexandra Kay is gaining the traction needed to become a popular name on the country music scene. She is on the third stop of her “In Real Life” tour, along with other country artists Alan Cooper and Thomas Mac. The trio will stop in Saint-Louis for a performance at the Red Flag on December 15.

But the journey to get to Alexandra Kay’s location has not been smooth.

“She always did what she wanted, how she wanted to do it”

Coming from a close-knit family of five in a small town, Kay’s teenage years revolved around family, school and softball. Nothing else mattered. However, softball was actually the conduit that ignited Kay’s passion for music.

“No one in my family sings,” said Kay, real name Alexandra “Lexi” Krekorian. “No one plays an instrument, so it was obviously a huge surprise to my parents every time I decided I wanted to do that. All of my inspiration came from the music they were listening to, which was really. just in the hours and hours of driving for these softball tournaments.

Her parents listened to ’90s country artists like George Strait, Martina McBride, and Garth Brooks, who Kay says is one of her all-time favorite songwriters. It was then that Kay began to write her poems in her journal. These poems eventually turned into songs.

While Kay’s parents were always aware of Kay’s creativity (Kay won an award for her poetry when she was younger and sang often in church), they didn’t expect her to refuses offers of full college scholarships for a career in music after graduation. from Waterloo High School.

“Lexi has always been a bit of a rebel,” said Steven Krekorian, Alexandra’s father. “She always did what she wanted, like she wanted to do. She was an incredible softball player and gave up everything for music. I remember we were sitting across from a college recruiter and the recruiter was offering her a full scholarship and she was like, “Can I do theater too?” And they said, “No, Alexandra, softball is a full time sport.” And she refused. Her mom and I looked at each other like ‘OMG she turns down a full scholarship.’ ”

But his parents, who now live in Miami, Florida, didn’t want to stop him from pursuing his passion.

“We thought about it and wondered how we would go back if we didn’t allow him to pursue his dreams,” said Steven Krekorian.

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Alexandra Kay will perform alongside Cooper Alan and Thomas Mac for the “In Real Life” tour in St. Louis on December 15th. Contributed

It also helped Kay keep her promise to her parents to get a recording deal within two years of their announcement that she wasn’t going to college. Kay signed with Network Entertainment in 2013.

“I started exposing myself when I was 18 to 20,” Kay said. “I started making every connection I could in the St. Louis area, and obviously I couldn’t afford to move to Nashville at the time to do all of this. I was trying to figure out if I was going to go to college or make music full time so I started making all the connections I could and started introducing myself to rappers in the St area. Louis who just needed a female voice for a hook, and I rose through the ranks of the St. Louis music scene that way, just using my voice on their tracks for free. So I ended up meeting Nelly and Huey and working with them on the St. Louis music scene and eventually getting a recording deal.

With the label, she released more pop songs, like the acoustic ballad “No More” from 2014. Although Kay said she was extremely grateful for her work with the label and that her experience was a pivotal moment in her career, given that she was able to explore genres outside of country music, she eventually left the label because she wasn’t making the music she wanted. to create. It was not true for herself.

“I would never feel satisfied,” Kay said. “Whenever I collected my things, I never felt satisfied. I always felt like I was missing the mark and wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Once I realized I wanted to go back to my roots in country music, that’s when I really started to find my sound and understand who I am as an artist.

Kay took a hiatus from releasing new music and started doing covers of her favorite country songs, posting them on social media. One of his most popular videos is a cover of Dolly parton‘s classic “Jolene”. the video, which was uploaded in 2016, has been viewed over 13 million times on Facebook to date. It has over 60 million social media impressions in total, given that it has been posted on other platforms.

While Alexandra Kay has said she didn’t expect to go viral, she certainly was able to use the momentum she received from social media to re-energize her music. And, she’s natural to that. She has the eye of an SEO editor, given that her “Jolene” cover came from her by Google searching her name and finding the trending searches related to it (before posting the cover, one of the first suggestions she saw in the search bar was “alexandra ka chanter jolene”).

Her TikTok content captured the attention of country legends like Randy Travis and Tim McGraw. She also created her “coffee cover” videos in which she covers popular songs while making her morning coffee.

“I mean I really got into it, and I feel like I’m on the cutting edge of it all,” Kay said of her social media presence. “Back then, people weren’t discovered as artists on social media… I definitely hit the gas and learned as much as I could. I think it helped me a lot on all other platforms. I think this will continue to happen on every new platform, just like TikTok, just like Instagram.

Never give up

Kay’s “Jolene” video resulted in her being cast in “Westside,” which aired in 2018. The first season of the Netflix reality TV series followed the nine musicians as they pursued their dreams in Los Angeles. The show was not picked up for a second season, but the opportunity ultimately expanded Kay’s fan base. This was the impetus for his return to the release of new music.

His singles “I Kinda Don’t” and “All the Cowboys”, 2020 tracks that shine for their conversational but vulnerable lyrics about the misadventures of love (“Why do all cowboys go to find them a another heart to break? ”she reflects on this latest single), debuted at the top of the iTunes country song graphics. Kay’s latest single, “Tall Boys”, is a catchy track released in September.

With sold-out shows, chart-topping singles, and support from country icons already under her belt, Alexandra Kay finally seems to be in the position she wanted to approach almost 10 years ago. Losing a label and being sent home after auditioning for American Idol (2011) and The Voice (2017) can be overwhelming for any artist. But Kay was determined not to give up.

“It’s just amazing,” Susan Krekorian said of her daughter’s success. “We are so proud of her. She’s worked so hard, and I think that’s a big reason she’s where she is because she never gave up. She went through difficult times. One minute you’re up, and the next minute you’re down. One minute you have a recording contract, and the next minute you don’t.

Lynn Venhaus, who worked with Kay in musical theater as a teenager, is also proud of how far Kay has come in her career. Venhaus was executive director of the community theater group Brass Rail Players when Kay performed in a few of their shows (Venhaus is a freelance writer for the Belleville News-Democrat)

“She’s ready to do whatever needs to be done,” Venhaus said. “She always strives to improve and collaborate, which is truly an admirable quality in the arts.”

Alexandra Kay is currently working on her debut album, which should be released in the middle of next year. She will also continue to tour next year. For Wednesday’s show, she said fans can expect an energetic performance filled with covers and original music.

“Cooper, Thomas and I are really good friends, and we just started all of this because we believe in ourselves and we believe in each other,” Kay said. “It was really cool going out every night and watching the fans screaming the songs, showing up and filling those rooms every night as independent artists, and even better doing that with your friends. . ”

Wednesday’s show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased here or to bit.ly/kaytickets

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Alexandra Kay will perform alongside Cooper Alan and Thomas Mac for the “In Real Life” tour in St. Louis on December 15th. Contributed

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This story was originally published December 11, 2021 5:00 a.m.

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DeAsia Paige joined the Belleville News-Democrat as a member of the Report for America Corps in 2020. She is a community reporter covering East St. Louis and surrounding areas. DeAsia was previously an intern at VICE and The Detroit Free Press. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2020.


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