Inspired Southerner sat down with singer-songwriter Alvin Garrett at Workplay in Birmingham, Alabama, hours before his CD release party for his new album This Hill. After the interview, Alvin gave the audience an electrifying musical performance.
Favorite Song on This Hill
Q: What is your favorite track on your new album?
A: The one that means the most to me is the title cut, This Hill, because of what it means. It stands for hope, inspiration, love and loss. Because of hope, I have the inspiration to pursue what I love at the risk of loss. You can’t live on the hill if you’re afraid to take a loss. The imagery I am trying to get fans to visualize is to keep climbing, don’t give up and you can get up that hill.
The song itself represents my mentality, my life mantra; just let your hope inspire you to pursue what you love at the risk of loss. You can’t predict the challenges you’re going to face when you’re chasing your dreams. But you gotta face them or else it never happens for you. So, that song because of what it means, is my favorite.
Q: What is one thing you’re hoping people get from this album?
A: Inspiration. Absolutely, because I feel the state of music, outside of the Christian genre, has become music with lyrics where you have to cover your kid’s ears. I wanted to write and perform music that my kids can listen to. At some point, I believe we lost the poetry of music. Parents need to be able to enjoy music around their children.
My music is not pop or kiddie music, but it’s just good old-fashion music that is in the spirit of the Motown and the Stax Records era. It’s good lyrics and instruments that can be played around children. Garrett has little girls and wants them to be able to listen and sing along to all of the songs on my album.
Q: Favorite part of your job?
A: OOoohh! I have many jobs that I am literally”all in.” I’ve been full-time in the music industry since 2002 after leaving corporate America. When I started out I did everything, from being in the mailroom to the boardroom. I am at the point now, where I can focus more on strategic planning and moving the company forward because I now have a team. I even have a publicist now, and it’s pretty exciting.
Ask me again ‘cause I feel like I got off on a tangent.
Doing less. My favorite part now is delegating. I find that I get so much more done. I have had to learn to trust people and empower them to do what they do and be great at it.
The Music Industry
Q: What’s the hardest part of your job?
A: Handing things off! *Lots of laughter*. It is. Well, I can’t turn off my eyes and ears. When you work for yourself, you have to do everything. I’ve done everything from writing songs to being the sound engineer.
Garret also states that he has had to learn to not to get involved with what his team is doing. He still gives them feedback, but he has to trust that they will do their jobs. He does this because he can’t be in five places at one time.
Q: Who has been your favorite artist you’ve worked with?
A: You know, I can’t say that I have a favorite artist that I’ve actually worked with because I value them all the same. But I will say that there is a favorite artist I have that has sung my music. R&B artist named Joe. Growing up, I was a big fan, and in my early songwriting days, I would always imagine his voice singing my songs. I would hear him in my mind, so when he started singing my music, I literally cried. I was like, “Oh my God, Joe is singing my songs.”
It’s an amazing experience to hear an artist that I’ve looked up to sing my songs the way you wrote them. Oh, he sounds amazing. WOW! That’s been my favorite experience as a songwriter.
Working with Other Musicians
Q: Dream artist to work with?
A: Not really, because of the experiences I’ve personally had in the music industry. I’ve grown to the place where I just want to do good business. I’m more about what I give to people through my business and my art than I am about who I want to work with. I was on the stage with Luke Bryan, I know he’s a big huge star, but he’s just a guy, he came on stage like “Hey, y’all know some Lionel Richie?” Luke Bryan coming on stage with my band saying, “hey guys let’s jam to some Lionel Richie!” It’s freaking Luke Bryan, he’s just a guy who loves Lionel Richie.
I have realized that I am sort of a celebrity figure to other people, I just feel like a regular guy, but to them, I’m somebody special. However, when it’s peer-to-peer, other musicians, they are regular people just like me. When we work together they all say adamantly “don’t bring that star stuff here.” We just want to work together.
Q: Any interesting fan or fellow artist stories?
A: I won’t say a name, all right, but there was this famous, famous, famous, producer-songwriter. I mean you can’t even count all the awards he has. The immense number of songs he’s written for people. I had the chance to be in the studio with him, not as a writer, but just the chance to be in the studio in his presence. Before we went into the studio, he made us wait about three hours in the lobby, but when we got in the room, you knew you were in the presence of greatness.
You just felt it and to hear him talk about his process and types of songs he writes, you’re like oh my god, I’m in the room with this guy.
Q: How important is the history of Stax Records to musicians in Birmingham?
A: Through my personal experience, Al Bell, who was the president of Stax Records actually reached out to me when he heard my song, Wait and wanted to meet me. Some mutual acquaintances told me that Al Bell wanted to meet me. I was like “WHO ME? Little Old Me??” We’re actually like brothers now. He heard the connection in my music to the types of songs he wrote during his era. So he’s excited that there is somebody out here carrying on that legacy of quality soul music.
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Being in Alabama, and for someone of his stature and legacy to hear my sound and say “I want to find the guy who made that song,” it was just mind-blowing.
Purchase: This Hill