"Live A Little"
Artist Bio >
Dean Alexander still calls it "the real beginning of my music career." He was 17 and living with his preacher grandfather, who had taught him to play guitar but demanded that he stick to church and gospel music. Dean, though, was as attracted to old-school country and rock as any talented and eager-to-learn youngster would be, and he had been climbing out his window at night for nearly a year to play at the bar just two doors down. "My grandfather told me later, when we could laugh about it, that he recognized my playing, even though I didn't play those songs around him. That's why he came over." We went out the door and started walking to the house and he said, 'Get your stuff, Boy.' It was 12:30 or 1 in the morning, and I packed my things into my truck and drove off." The journey set off in that moment led Dean three years later to Nashville and finally to the release of "Live A Little," the single that is introducing the world to this talented and charismatic entertainer. The first single from his upcoming debut CD, "Live A Little" is a hook-filled celebration of life, an up-tempo call to seize the day--something Dean's life has more than qualified him to share about. The touch of soul in his voice is easily traceable to the songs he heard growing up in the Ohio River town of Tuppers Plains. His mom, "a phenomenal singer around the house and in the car," was a Garth Brooks fanatic, with a bit of Tanya Tucker and Melissa Etheridge thrown in for good measure, and his dad's tastes ranged from the Temptations to the Allman Brothers. But it was his grandfather whose influence helped set the tone from the beginning. "One of the earliest things I remember," Dean says, "is seeing him play his guitar in church, stomping on the stage to keep time. I liked it from the beginning and I learned to keep time by watching his boot." Dean took naturally to music, asking for and receiving different instruments regularly. His wide-ranging musical education and his life were turned upside down in the months before and after his 13th birthday, when his parents were killed in separate car accidents. That was when he went to live with his grandfather and where music became a way of dealing with the tragedy. He stayed with relatives in Ohio for a time and after a stint in Indianapolis, working construction and roofing with his two brothers and again playing he moved to Louisville. He was living with friends with the last of what he'd made in Indianapolis when, at age 20, he heard what he can only describe as his calling. "I woke up one morning on the couch, and this voice says, 'Go to Nashville.' I really listen to my gut and I started packing my things.” He "begged" for and landed a job at Gibson, using his skills as a woodworker in making guitars and other instruments, and began visiting clubs and writers' nights, landing a four-hour-a-night shift at a Lower Broadway honky-tonk called Layla's. He left Gibson and sought a part-time gig instead, working with friends in painting and landscaping during the day and spending his evenings on Lower Broad. One day the owner of a high-dollar home where he was landscaping interrupted his work. "What do you do?" she said. He ran to his car and brought her back a tape of three song demos, then played live for her. That was his introduction to Barbara Orbison, the widow of music legend Roy Orbison and the owner of a publishing company. She signed him and, among other things, flew him to Sweden to stay at Roy's old castle so he could house sit and write uninterrupted. After a few months, Stage Three's Tim Hunze took one of his demos to Warner Bros. executive and producer Scott Hendricks, who signed him to a label deal. He began writing with Nashville's biggest and best writers with an eye to his first album, which is now nearing completion. "Live A Little" came out of his first session with co-writer Laura Veltz. As he was putting the finishing touches on the rest of the project, he road-tested the songs he was working on. "Last summer we did a bunch of shows and I wanted to test a lot of the songs I was writing. That helped shape it, allowed me to see what was working and what I needed to tweak." He is eager to get back out to those crowds with the end result. "I love having a good time," he says, "and there's no better place to do that than in front of a crowd where everybody's having a good time with you. That's where I'm comfortable." As he looks back over the journey that has brought him here, to the brink of national attention, he recognizes that it took everything he's been through to bring him here. "When Scott was pushing me to work harder on my songwriting," he says, "I was reminded of what it felt like to have my grandfather pushing me out the door. I have to thank both of them. Without that, I would not have gone out on my own and worked as hard. I wouldn't have been ready for the breaks that came. I get giddy sometimes driving down Music Row, thinking of how far I've come from that small town. Yeah, I'd get frustrated, but here I am." He pauses, smiles and looks up. "Thanks, Grandpa."