Front and Center: Guitarist Briana Alexis

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitarist Briana Alexis

BrianaAlexisPromo2By Tom Gilbert

An Orange County, Calif. native, guitarist Briana Alexis got her start on the Sunset Strip, and over the years has participated in numerous side projects as well as her own solo efforts.

In 2007, Alexis formed her award-winning female-fronted band, Absinthe. While Alexis is known for her big rock leads on stage, she has quite a diverse background and studied with the legendary jazz guitarist Ted Greene in her earlier years. This is one passionate player!

In addition to plenty of stage experience, Alexis has participated in many other fields of the industry having worked for a number of instrument manufacturers and record labels.
Learn all about Alexis below, and attend the 2013 Women’s Music Summit to see her in action!

WiMN

: Tell us about your earliest music-related memories. When did you first pick up the guitar?

BA

: I started playing guitar in my late teens. Although my father was a professional pianist, my parents never wanted to push music on me. When I did begin playing, it was full-force! I started lessons and learning theory and had a regular practice schedule. For me, the timing was right! I had discipline and was focused on my goals. I was in bands after the first year.

WiMN

: What it was like to study under the legendary jazz player Ted Greene? What’s the most valuable lesson you learned from him?

BA

: Ted opened a whole new world for me. I was blessed enough at that time to have another teacher who also studied with Ted. He encouraged me to take lessons and got me in the door. I still have stacks of crazy chord and scale formations from his methods. They are my guide for everything. Ted was a beautiful thinker, he made harmony and theory seem exciting effortless (for him, at least!). Studying with Ted also helped in my preparation to attend Dick Grove School of Music in Van Nuys where he did clinics. At the time it was L.A.’s mini-Berklee and catered to jazz and fusion styles of music.

WiMN

: Tell us about your band Absinthe. What have been some of your most memorable shows or experiences?

BA

: I formed Absinthe in 2007. Like most bands who’ve been around that long, we’ve had line-up changes and our sound and musical style is night-and-day from where it began. Cherokee Fortune has been our singer for three years now. This girl is a badass with soulful vocals to match! Our sound is finally where we want it. I would classify it as blues-rock with a heavy edge. I actually don’t think I have a standout memorable experience, but the past 2 years have been very important to finding our style and sound as a band.

WiMN

: You’re currently working on a solo instrumental release. When will it be released and what’s the title? Can you tell us some about the recording process?

BA

: Yes! I’ve been wanting to do this for years. I began preparing in 2012, and already have a talented producer and musicians I’ll be working with. I am learning there is no quick process and it is taking me forever to release, mostly because I keep changing things and don’t want to rush it in order to meet a release date. The recording process and getting the sound I’m looking for is a whole venture in itself. This is a side that most have not heard from me. My background and passion is more fusion-centered. I thrive on instrumental music combining various styles, odd timing and syncopated beats. I’m hoping to release something along those lines. That’s about as much as I can tell you. No official release date and the title will be an afterthought, and probably define the process. I’m sure it will be left-brained.

WiMN

: Anything else in the works?

BA

: Yes, I’m also working on scoring a soundtrack for an independent horror film to be released in 2014. It’s expected to hit all the independent film festivals for Fall. In addition, I continue to build my library of music for backing tracks for various projects.

WiMN

: You also work on the business side of music. Can you tell us how you entered this field?

BA

: After years of playing, I thought I should begin to learn the business as well. I lived in Orange County at the time. We basically had two major manufacturers there, Randall Amplifiers in Irvine and Fender in Fullerton. Don Randall hired me right away, and they were like family. I was there for about three years before Casio purchased them. Randall taught me a lot; I learned the process of building amplifiers, research and development, artist relations, music trade shows and marketing.

After Randall was sold I joined with Fender in Brea. Later, I moved to L.A. to attend music school and had a brief stint working at Gibson’s West Coast division, as well as at Capital and Morgan Creek Records. The connections I made were priceless and really helped me learn all the other areas of music where I could apply my craft and survive in this business. I learned the importance of gear and sound from instrument manufacturers, and publishing, licensing, music placement and supervision from the record labels. Along the way I’ve had opportunities to get in the door and work with some amazing players I would have never met otherwise.

WiMN

: Who are some of your female role models in the music industry, musicians or otherwise?

BA

: I have mad respect for Jennifer Batten who helped pave the way for so many. It’s awesome to see so many female players out now. I remember when I started playing there were not many, and Jennifer broke down walls. I attended her clinics all the time. Emily Remler was another. She actually studied with Ted Greene the same time I did. Nancy Wilson, even Carol Kaye. It’s cool seeing the younger generation of female players and how it’s exploded. I love the impact that Orianthi is having among the female audience. I remember seeing her demo and play at NAMM when she was a teenager. I dig her style–that girl hit the ground as a pro from the get go!

WiMN

: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges?

BA

: Haha, that’s maybe a whole other interview. To answer the question, yes. But when you love what you are doing, it keeps you going and you learn ways to overcome any obstacle that gets in your way. Alot of people will try and beat you down and dissect your playing. Just ignore it and move on!

WiMN

: Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for women aspiring to enter the music industry?

BA

: I would say master your craft, stay dedicated and be as diverse as you can be. Always be humble and play with musicians that challenge you and jam as much as possible. Learn other ways to support your music so you can build a career in the business, whether it be playing in bands, touring, going to clinics, teaching, joining a musician’s organization such as ASCAP or BMI, or attending conferences and networking.

You can also try and place your music to get it heard. With all the great quality recording gear out now, it’s easy to record yourself with good sound. Stay focused and don’t loose sight of your goals. People WILL want to work with you!

WiMN

: Can you tell us about some of your sponsorships?

BA

: I’m proudly endorsed by Dean Markley, Floyd Upgrades, Seymour Duncan, Xotic, Trailer Trash Pedalboards, PlanetWaves, Mogami, N-Tune, Carvin, Floyd Rose, MAC, Bogner and I’m also a member of the Gibson family of artists.

Special Thanks to Laura Whitmore for all her support with women in music. You rock lady!

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