We caught up with the rising R&B phenomenon Alex Vaughn to discuss her latest EP, ‘The Hurtbook’ and what it has been like opening up for Ari Lennox’s ‘Age/Sex/Location’ tour.

Taking a closer look at what made her project personal, she discusses the pains of relationships; romantic, platonic, and those with herself. From a collection of thoughts from previous relationships, Alex built what she describes as a “quilted map of patterns and events” that was applicable to more than just romance. Her eight-track EP, curated in honesty with how she felt, serves as a reminder to herself and her fans that you are not broken despite your hurts.

In her conversation with GUAP, Alex talks about her family, the formula for her growing success, and what it was like working with Grammy award-winning Rodney Jerkins on her lead single, ‘So Be It’

Bethel: The Hurtbook is a relatable project for a lot of your fans and from what you’ve discovered, your circle of friends too. How important has it been to you to reflect on the relationships you’ve sang about?

Alex Vaughn: The relationships that I have, the way that I carry my relationship with others is a reflection of how I carry my relationship with myself. I want to always hold myself to the highest standards, get myself great and treat myself with respect. I want to encourage anyone who ever listens to me to follow suit. Relationships are super important, in every aspect of life, and it’s not only romantic. There’s so much more to relationships than romance. 

Bethel: That’s really powerful! I’m 27 now, but these are the experiences that I went through when I was like 23/21, and a lot of people, regardless of their age can listen to that and relate.

Alex Vaughn: And you know what? Lots of those songs I wrote, they’re from situations that happened when I was younger, when I was 23. I’m 28 now. As you get older, you just realize a different way to approach it. I’m just glad people can relate to it. 

Bethel: You worked with Darkchild on the production of a few songs from The Hurtbook, what’s been your most memorable experience working with someone who’s work you’ve appreciated for a long time.

Alex Vaughn: I would have to say hands down, ‘so be it’ was the greatest experience! We did about five or six songs when I met him in that session, and I was kind of in a weird space. When you’re meeting someone like Darkchild, someone you’ve listened to growing up and they say they want to work with you, you start getting in your head, “like imma make sure I got the best ideas, or my good water.” Whatever it is.

I’m just so honoured to be able to work with a living legend. 

Bethel: So you’ve been releasing music since 2016, and then you got signed to a label. In a way that kind of adds to a successful career. Where do you feel that you either fill the gap or add to the R&B scene? 

Alex Vaughn: I want to make music to show that work can be play. I want my music to be a safe space. Things look really glamorous and unattainable from the outside looking in, and I want to show people that it’s attainable through my lyrics. I want to break the wall between me and the person that feels like they can’t. I want my music to spark imagination and possibility. The objective is still just for you to live a good life for yourself. 

Bethel: So you said that you’re currently making your way to Vancouver. How has that experience been like touring with Ari and opening up her shows.

Alex Vaughn: It has been a dream come true. I love Ari Lennox. She’s super sweet, a gifted queen, and we’re from the same area as well. There’s just another level of vibes there. Jai’Len Josey, the other opener, she’s just another beautiful soul, beautiful vibe. There’s really good synergy on this tour. I’m just learning as I go and this is just an amazing first experience. I’m loving it!

Bethel: As a talented pianist and singer-songwriter, would you say you’ve treated your skills as a purely natural talent or is it more the will to be talented in those areas that has brought you this far?

Alex Vaughn: I would definitely say, it’s a blending of both. You know I’ve always been gravitated towards the piano. I’ve always loved and been able to sing. But you get to a point where you’re like “how can I elevate it?” 

People always say hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

Bethel Haimanot: Would you give credit to anyone in your family for the natural skills that you have?

Alex Vaughn: Unfortunately, I am the only musician in my family, but I will definitely give huge props to my parents and my brother, and my family in general, for always being very unfiltered, quirky, optimistic, wise and grounded. For just encouraging me to have a broad perspective of the world, and to be comfortable with who I am so that it can reflect in how I create and how I treat myself. I’m giving my grandmother credit because she had a piano in her house when I was really young.

Bethel: How do you express your creativity on the days that you’re not writing or making music?

Alex Vaughn: I used to feel like I was limited to expressing my creativity to music, but sometimes just writing down a note on my phone, having a conversation with a good friend to get a new perspective on something is how I channel my creativity. I’ve also been exploring new ways to express my creativity like drawing and doing things that I used to enjoy when I was younger. I was just introduced to comic books, so that’s like a new thing that I’ve been kind of tapping into slowly. 

Bethel: What kind of comic books are we talking about?

Alex Vaughn: So I literally walked into a comic book store two days ago, and I was just opening them up and looking around. I mean it was going from marvel to some random ones. Just seeing how the angles were shot, the perspective, and how colorful and intense it can get without even hearing it. I’m like my brain has been cracked open!

Bethel: You’re going to get a lot of new fans coming your way in the next couple of months. What is it that you want them to know about your music? 

Alex Vaughn: I would say my music is soulful, quirky and not sad. It’s like a sip of good wine on a good day. It’s soothing but it can also turn you up!

You could get a little freaky, but it’ll also help you sleep. If you’re a little salty during the day, it will make your food taste better and the jokes are funnier. My music is like drinking wine during the day time.

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