Photos Courtesy of the Brett Axell
Some kids have aspirations of becoming a policeman or fireman when they grow up however ever since performer Brett Axell was a child all he’d really wanted was to win a Grammy Award. “Some performers want to win an Oscar or Tony Award but for me it’s all about the Grammy. Winning it shows that the music industry has accepted you and that you’re one of the best of the best,” said Brett Axell. He is currently raising funds via Kickstarter to cover expenses for his debut album, Aspects of Love which is scheduled for release in February 2013. PrideIndex had a very insightful conversation with the actor and entertainer he talked about his work, influences and about his upcoming performance at the Hard Rock Cafe on Friday November 30 at 9:00 PM.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): It’s great to meet you on this blustery fall day. How are you today sir?
Brett Axell (TBA): I’m fine; it’s good to meet you.
PI: You’re originally from Guyana, South American do people get Guyana mixed up with Ghana in Africa?
BA: Yes, some people think I’m from Ghana in Africa because they assume I could not be from South America because South America does not have dark skinned people like me, but they do.
PI: When did your family come to the United States? And when did you land in Chicago?
BA: I came to the United States when I was two years old; my family arrived in 1984 in Brooklyn, New York. I arrived in Chicago in the fall of 2008; I came here to attend grad school for Roosevelt University. Two years after that I started to work on my personal album.
PI: Tell me a little bit more about that album and when did you know first know that you wanted to be an actor and singer?
BA: I started singing when I was in the sixth grade it was really cool because there was an arts program that came to my middle school. I won the vocal chorus award in performance award while in high school. When I first saw Whitney Houston performing on the Grammy Award I knew I wanted to be a performer. She’s one of my favorite female performers; her voice motivated and elevated me to another place.
PI: What do you sing? Alto, soprano, tenor or bass?
TBA: I have a tenor-baritone type voice.
PI: If the Three Mo’ Tenors were looking for a fourth tenor would you be available?
BA: (Laughs) I would definitely become available to be the fourth tenor.
PI: Let’s talk about some of your musical influences, as you stated earlier Whitney Houston was one of them who are the others?
BA: I am a singer first and a songwriter so there is some many different people that have influence over me and my artistic style. There’s Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Luther Vandross, the Carpenters, Elton John, and performers like Michael Jackson and Prince. I also like Barbra Streisand, Meatloaf and Bon Jovi too so my influences are all over the place. There is not one kind or artist or performer I look up to just to imitate them, I am an original artist influenced by many.
PI: How did you become affiliated with No More Wire Hangers’ Art & Soul?
BA: Anthony Galloway, a friend of mine who produces Art & Soul, invited me to perform with them last year. It was a great opportunity so when he invited me again this year I was glad to do it. Last year’s I performed one of the first songs I’d wrote called Closed Door. This year I had more material. Art & Soul prepped me for the show that I’m part of that will take place on November 30 at the Hard Rock Café.
PI: What are some of the themes you are going to cover in your music?
BA: For Art & Soul I sang original songs, part upbeat and slow jams that you could chill to and you never what to expect for me to do on November 30 at the Hard Rock Café.
PI: How would you describe your style more like Luther Vandross or Teddy Pendergrass?
BA: I would say that it could somewhat upbeat, more like a little bit of Luther with a touch of Bruno Mars. One of those songs I am going to perform has a Bruno Mars feel. I will also perform a song called Show Me The Way which has an Eric Bonét-Brian McKnight feel and I have a power ballad called Love You More. It’s a Whitney Houston like song, so again my performances cover the entire spectrum.
PI: You mentioned Eric Bonét, can audiences expect for you to take your shoes off and walk around the stage at the Hard Rock Café?
BA: (Laughs) You’ll never know what to expect, expect the unexpected; it’s going to be good.
PI: Tell me a little bit more about your theater background, which plays or musicals you have performed in?
BA: I’ve just finished doing a performance of the musical Dreamgirls at the Marriot Lincolnshire earlier this fall. And I’ve done Big River and Showboat, which featured the popular song Old Man River this past summer. On the plays side I was in a production of Darfur which talked about Sudanese genocide. Oh yeah I was in the musical Cats so yes I’ve been in many different shows.
PI: What was it like to perform Old Man River from Showboat? Did you draw upon the spirits of Paul Robeson for help?
BA: I definitely summoned Paul. I knew the song from when I was working in North Carolina I did a summer program back in North Carolina so when I was approached by the musical director of Showboat I hesitated at first. When you perform a popular song from a musical people have high expectations of you do it right, I thought to myself “how can I do the song and do it good and yet make it my own?” It took a couple of months to work it out and I would definitely do the part over again the same way if it were offered to me again.
Old Man River is a powerful, uplifting song that you have to pick apart to understand its message. It talks about the transitions of life, no matter what trials you face you have to make it good things happen and keep moving. As a songwriter I made the emotional connection to the song. I realized it was not merely about singing the song it’s about connection.
PI: Is there a Jeff Award in somewhere in your future?
BA: Hopefully! Definitely! (Laughs)
PI: What do you like to do when you’re not performing?
BA: I like to hang out with friends and associate myself with the people who have stood by. They have supported me mentally, physically and emotionally. And they have kept me grounded whenever I got out hand (Laughs.)
Since I am done with school one of the biggest areas I want to work on is the area of philanthropy. I would love to work with youth and help to prepare the next generation for great things. It means going beyond talking to them about going college because there are so many people that did not think beyond getting a college degree only to work in a field they did not study. It means helping the youth to prepare for anything. I also want to work with the geriatric community because you have so much to learn from our elders. And lastly I want to work with people suffering from cancer and to work to help prevent suicide. I wrote a song that talks about suicide, an area that something is not discussed and easily preventable if we just reach out talk to those who need help.
The Brian-Alwyn experience takes place at the Hard Rock Café on Thursday November 30 at 9:00PM Cost $10. For more information visit https://www.brettaxell.com