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Music in her blood
A conversation with Lexi Pifer
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Once in a while you come across a singer that just has "it". Lexi Pifer has "it". What does she have? Luck of the Irish? The winning lottery ticket? No, no, and no. What she has is the gift of song. Lexi Pifer is a Fort Wayne gal that has a hell of a voice and songwriting chops to compliment those pipes. I recently saw Lexi do an in-store at Wooden Nickel and she was amazing. If that show is any indication she's bound for great things. I recently caught up with Lexi and talked to her about her music, dreams, aspirations, and how Jeff Buckley's voice gives her goosebumps.
E.A. Poorman: So Lexi, tell me about you. How did you get started writing songs? What instruments do you play?
Lexi Pifer: Oh, man. Where to begin? Well, I come from a very musical family. My grandma was a pianist, my dad is a singer, and my sister plays piano and sings. Music was always present when I was growing up. I really got my start singing in musical theater productions from elementary school up through high-school. Iíve also been studying classical voice since I was about 12 or 13. Iím currently a music major at IPFW and Iím still studying voice.
I started getting serious about songwriting when I was in high-school. When I was 16 I had a boyfriend that was a guitarist and we would play music together. Like most high-school relationships, we eventually broke up. I wasnít as upset about the break up as I was the fact that I didnít have someone to play guitar for me anymore. I just decided that I would learn to play guitar for myself. Fortunately, my dad had an old acoustic guitar sitting in our basement so I went to the local music shop, had it restrung, and signed up for lessons. After a few months of lessons I was able to start coming up with my own material as well as learning songs by my favorite musicians.
I sing and play guitar. I think of myself primarily as a vocalist, the guitar is accompaniment for me. I can play a little piano too but I use the piano primarily for writing or for learning new music. I donít think anyone will be hearing me play piano in public anytime soon.
EAP: How would describe your songs? Your sound?
Lexi Pifer: I had to really think about how to answer this. I write primarily from personal experiences. Whether it be relationships (good and bad), dreams Iíve had, my thoughts, my experiences, or whatever is happening in my life it all comes from a very personal place. My songs feel like an extension of myself. Music is how I release all of my negative energy and itís also how I can capture a feeling of bliss. I also think that a lot of what I write about is relatable. I think everyone has a moment when a song comes on the radio and youíre like ďI get it, I get everything this person is singing aboutĒ. Knowing that other people feel the way you do makes the bad times easier and the good times even better. If I can have someone listen to something Iíve written and have them have an ďI get itĒ moment then Iíve done my job.
As far as my sound is concerned I guess itís kind of folk-sy. I focus a lot on melody. I like writing songs that other people can sing along to.
EAP: What's your songwriting process? Do you start with a musical melody and then worry about lyrics later, or the other way around?
Lexi Pifer: It goes both ways. A lot of the time I get a little melody stuck in my head and Iíll write it down and then put words to it later. I also have a notebook full of lyrics and poems that eventually turn into songs. I always keep something to write with on me. Sometimes Iíll think of a line or an idea; Iíll usually write that down just in case itís something that I can expand upon later and turn into music.
EAP: Where do you pull your influences from? Who inspires you, both musically and in your own life?
Lexi Pifer: Iím really influenced by great songwriters. Lennon and McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, the list goes on and on. Lately Iíve been listening to a lot of The Avett Brothers, Josh Ritter, The Civil Wars, The Head and The Heart, and J. Tillman (Father John Misty) and their influence is starting to find a way into my music. Also as a singer Iím really attracted to great singers. I love hearing how they portray words through their singing. Stevie Nicks, Ella Fitzgearld, Amy Winehouse and Jeff Buckley come to mind. Especially Jeff Buckley. Heís one of my favorite musicians of all time. Iíve never heard someone who could sound so vulnerable and yet still so beautiful. I canít listen to his version of Nina Simoneís ďIf You KnewĒ without almost being reduced to tears. His voice gives me the chills. He was near perfect.
EAP: You have a Reverbnation page with some of your songs on it. Where do you record at? And speaking of songs, do you have an album out? If not, are there plans to release one?
Lexi Pifer: I had almost forgot about that Reverbnation page(laughs.) I recorded those songs in like 2 hours at a friendís apartment my Freshman year of college. Now I mostly post music on my Facebook. I keep that and my Twitter (@misslexisaree) updated on current gigs and new music. Iíve just started booking gigs for March and April. Iíve actually just begun the recording process for a new album. I have new material Iím really excited to share. Hopefully everything will be done by this summer.
EAP: Bob Roets, owner of Wooden Nickel Music, is one of the great champions of local Fort Wayne music. You recently did an in-store performance at the North Anthony Wooden Nickel location. How was that experience?
Lexi Pifer: Bob Roets is a great guy! I had so much fun at the Wooden Nickel. It was a different experience playing there rather than just stopping by to dig through crates of records. It was a great low-key experience. Iím really happy they asked me to play.
EAP: How often do you play shows?
Lexi Pifer: I try to play out as much as I can. I love playing in coffeehouses. I think they work well with acoustic music because theyíre normally such chill environments. Iíve played at the Dash In on Calhoun a few times. I love it there. The crowd is great (and the beer is delicious).
EAP: Mmm...beer. So, anyways, do you have any shows that stand out in your mind? Good or bad?
Lexi Pifer: A few weeks ago I did a gig at the Firehouse with my friend Eric playing lead guitar. It added a whole new color to my songs. Thatís one of the most recent ones I can think of. It was a fun time. Iíve gone to play a gig before and there have been like three people there which is a bit disappointing, but Iím still happy to play for whoever will listen. I also used to be kind of awful at speaking to my audience. I can sing to people all I want but public speaking used to sort of freak me out. Iím getting better though and Iíve become far less awkward when speaking to a group of people(laughs.)
EAP: The Wooden Nickel show was just you and an acoustic, with some vocal accompaniment. Would you ever consider putting a full band together?
Lexi Pifer: Currently I perform mostly by myself. Sometimes Iíll have other people play guitar or sing with me. I would love to get a full band together if I found the right group of musicians to perform with.
EAP: Where do you see yourself and your music in five years?
Lexi Pifer: Bona-fide rockstar? Haha. I really just want to keep playing music and writing songs. If I could make money from my music that would be great. If I canít then thatís okay, too. As long as Iím still playing and writing music Iíll be happy.
I don't think the bona-fide rock star thing is that far out of the question. With a songwriter like Lexi Pifer, the skies the limit. Check her songs out at http://www.reverbnation.com/lexipifer. Also be sure to check her out at https://www.facebook.com/lexipifer and at Twitter(@misslexisaree).