Xzela is a powerhouse. Xzela has been making waves since she stepped onto the scene. Xzela transcribes her trials and tribulations into feathered melodies that float across soundscapes with ease; Blending R&B with soulful urban flare, she keeps an intimate yet powerful demeanor both on and off the stage.
Tell us about the new album!
The new album is titled Crystallineand it was named after a majority of the songs were already completed. It stems from the feeling that I had during the creative process while writing and putting everything together, but it also embodies how I feel when I listen to the project completely through. I was in sort of a strange place during the writing portion of this album. I wouldn't necessarily say that I was in a bad place, but everything I was feeling was very clear and concise to me, whether it was good or bad. It started with a few tracks that my friend Berkli produced, and then quickly turned into an entire collaboration between the two of us. There's only one song that wasn't produced by Berkli; It's the interlude, "Luck", which was produced by another friend of mine (Isai Morales). Sonically, the entire album has a different feel than most of the work I've previously released. I definitely feel like I didn't hold anything back. As well as that, "Crystalline" is actually the first audio project I've released since my debut mixtape in 2016 that is entirely solo with no features. It's also the first body of work of mine that I have recorded and mixed by myself, so I'm pretty amped to get some feedback from the listeners and see how they feel about it!
What prompted your stage name? Does it hold meaning?
Xzela began as Xela, which is just my given name (Alex) backwards. I looked it up once I decided upon it, and it felt very serendipitous because the name Xela is actually meant to give whoever holds it a clever mind, good judgement in business, a sense of responsibility, and appreciation of life. It's defined as someone who will set out to accomplish whatever they do in complete accordance with what they consider to be "right". These people tend to be very inclined towards keeping their word, and not saying things they don't mean. That meant a lot to me because I strive to be crystal clear with anyone I come across, and I try to always let my real feelings be known, especially through my lyrics. However, after I had already released 2 projects I ran into a copyright issue with someone who already had the same name, so I threw a Z in there and that's how Xzela was born!
What can we expect at the album release at Urban Artifact on June 8th?
You can expect an awesome show, that's for sure! Urban is one of my favorite venues to perform at, and everyone who works there is great. The night should be pretty eclectic and will open up with Heavy Brain, a 5-piece jazz band comprised of some very talented friends I've known for a long time. They will be followed by Lipstick Fiction, new-wave punk babes that I adore very much. After that, See You In The Funnies takes the stage. I've been a fan of those guys for a while now, and they're always awesome to perform with. Myself and my band (Xzela and The Crystalline Dream) will close out the night! It's our second time doing a show together, but we've been practicing for months so I'm very excited. We'll be doing Crystalline in it's entirety, but we also have a couple really awesome hip-hop covers that we're throwing in there. It's going to be a lot of fun!
What is your favorite part of being in the Cincinnati Music Scene?
My favorite part of being in the scene is definitely the easy access of meeting new people. There is an extreme amount of talented people in this city, and sometimes it really zones me out (in a good way) to be quite honest. I just don't think anything will ever beat going to a performance, seeing someone slay their set, and then beginning a friendship and continuing to watch them grow. I have an immense amount of love for this city and the people in it. I also have an endless well of inspiration. I don't want to speak for everyone, but sometimes being a musician and working full-time gets to be a lot and becomes very hard to juggle. In those moments, I look to my peers for support and inspiration to keep going, and I've never once been let down. I'm still here doing it, if that says anything! No words will ever describe how lucky I feel to be a part of a generation in music that is actually striving to make a difference and make the changes we all want to see. There's a lot of people who are becoming more powerful with everything they do, and the transparency of how much they care is something I will always look up to. Cincinnati is very lucky. I think anyone who doesn't see that is looking at a smaller picture, not the big one.
What is next for Xzela?
This summer will involve some new things for me; Out of town performances, festivals, perhaps a light tour. The one I had set up for July just ended up being bad timing, but I'm working on something else at the moment! Musically, I don't think there will be another Xzela album for a year or two. I'd like to take some time off to shape up my bass and guitar skills, start making my own beats, and working on the dynamic of my live performances. I love playing instruments, I'm just still a nervous wreck about doing it in front of anyone so my next step is definitely to conquer that. I don't think I will release another entire album until it's been entirely produced by live instrumentation on my behalf. I've always wanted to do that, so I think now is the time to step back and focus on fine-tuning all the skills I have and creating something big. It should definitely be an interesting ride. I have no intention of stopping shows, I think that's the best form of practice and a great way to learn. Knowledge is power!