For Alexandra Scott, singing isn’t just about making pretty sounds. To her it’s a deeply spiritual process, about sharing love and healing. “When I’m singing and playing, I want that to be an offering,” she says. “It’s not about standing up there and saying, ‘This is about me.’ It should be more about giving something to people.”
She’s a beloved artist at home in New Orleans, where her 2014 album, I Love You So Much Always, firmed up the support she’s had there all along. “Gas Station Lover” became a favorite on local station WWOZ and was nominated for Song of the Year at OffBeat magazine’s Best of the Beat Awards. Alison Fenterstock of the Times Picayune noted that she “has an intuitive poetic gift for expressing how things can be tragic, absurd and achingly beautiful all at once. Her songs…sneak up to deliver an unexpected emotional kick and a peek into her strange, lovely, big-hearted mind.” Adds Alex Rawls of the New Orleans Advocate, “Theres nothing theatrical in her singing, but her sadness sounds earned, her joy is felt, her heartbreak is painful, and much of it is modulated by humorgallows, antic, or otherwise.”
Local fans have seen Alexandra perform in any number of contexts, whether honing her own material at solo shows, collaborating with kindred spirits, being part of the female singers’ collective the New Orleans Nightingales or playing cover-themed shows for the fun of it. But even in a city full of amazing players, the unearthly beauty of her material stands out. “I play underground rock, a type of country/folk that I call ‘dream-a-billy’ for lack of a better word,” she says. “I like to turn out slow, simple dance songs for long lonely nights to come.”
A child of rural Virginia, Alexandra was raised on family sing-alongs and countryside horseback rides. Her uncle was a folksinger who performed on occasion with Pete Seeger; her mother had a great collection of Brazilian pop and Nina Simone records. Alexandra’s own tastes went toward Suzanne Vega, The Replacements, Waylon Jennings, and early R.E.M. While studying at Vassar she did some modelling, though the call of music proved far stronger. Her wanderlust led her to New Orleans, where she initially stuck out in a city with just about everything but a big alternative-acoustic scene.
For a while things went great. She played Bonnaroo in 2005, and opened for LeAnn Rimes and Richard Thompson. And she struck up a creative partnership with Duncan Shiek/R.E.M. associate Tim Sommer, who produced two of her albums. They also formed the studio band Hi-Fi Sky, which took Cajun-rooted music into ethereal, Eno-esque territory. Then nature intervened. Not only did Katrina drive her out of town—with her dog, a bunch of T-shirts and little else—but a fluke accident in yoga class changed her life, when her teacher forced a leg behind her head and tore her knee, prompting a round of surgeries that continues a decade later. “Okay, I can stand it,” she says. “I must not be entirely without character.”
Her Katrina travels led her around the Northeast—“I have a long list of states in which my dog peed during our peregrinations”—and ultimately back to New Orleans, this time for keeps. The songs on I Love You So Much Always wrap up a lot of her experiences since then, including a series of personal losses that infused the songs with both despair and generosity. “For awhile I couldn’t separate those songs from the friends I lost,” she says. “But I tried to take the love those people gave me, which was huge, and to pass it on. It makes me feel they’re not entirely gone.”
2015 finds her gardening, meditating, hanging with her dog Jackson, working on a long-unfinished novel and inevitably writing the next batch of songs.