The Knockturnal had the opportunity to talk with Alex Aiono concerning his newest single: ‘Thinking About You’.
At twenty-one, the singer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, actor, has a digital fan base of over 12 million active followers and subscribers. Alex averages a million views per day on his YouTube channel but the most impressive is how engaged his fans are with every song, image and post, finding refuge in his energy.
The Knockturnal: Inspiration for getting into music?
Alex: You know, music was something for me that was just super organic. I grew up in a family-my dad loved music, he loved playing the piano. My mom was the biggest Michael Jackson fan ever, and so I grew up and they’d always be playing music in the house, and so it was supernatural for me to sing along. And then, when I got old enough to understand, you know-actually learning how to play music, play the piano and everything – my dad taught me how to play the piano, and I taught myself how to play the guitar, and everything so it was just really organic. For me, I grew up in it, you know it was something that was supernatural for me, and very easy for me to kind of have a connection with.
The Knockturnal: How was the process of knowing that you were into music to actually getting into music: to actually making the tracks, and so on. Was Youtube a big factor in this?
Alex: I like to think of Youtube as this little – it was always there, you know, even when I was living in Arizona. My family – they would put up Youtube videos just for fun, with no intention of anything at all, and so Youtube was something that was always there, and I wouldn’t say necessarily played a factor, but it more so played its role in kind of everything, you know? It wasn’t necessarily something. I don’t think that if I didn’t have Youtube, I would’ve never been here or I don’t think that if I didn’t have Youtube, we wouldn’t be playing a sold-out show tonight. I think it would have just been a different route.
But Youtube definitely played a role in my life that I am very grateful for, and I’m very very grateful for the amazing fans that I’ve met along the way, and the amazing relationships that I’ve built. But for me the transition from, you know, being a kid, just loving music and playing it for fun to saying to myself, “man, this is really something I could do, that I could pursue as something I could do for the rest of my life.” It was a lot of finding myself and growing up (like everybody does). And also just having a really supportive family. My parents were always very – I guess cognizant of how passionate I actually was about music, you know? I was just talking to a friend about it and my parents played such a big role to me in understanding that this is not just a hobby or just something that I do when I have free time. It’s something that I was spending more than just free time doing. I was investing myself into and so, it was kind of a big mix of all of that, that kind of turned it into, instead of just a kid who liked to play music to this is something that I could do.
The Knockturnal: Where did you find the inspiration behind your latest track?
Alex: For “Thinking About You”? Oh man, so “Thinking About You” came to me at a very pivotal point in my life. The original track I had was an outside song that I got to finesse and write the bridge-make it my own. But when it first came to me, it was just a very, very raw, straight up song about missing somebody. And I was missing somebody really badly at this time (laughs). So when I heard it I was just like damn, like this is it, like this is how I feel. I need to tell people, because this is real, this is a real emotion, and it’s crazy because…with other songs that I’ve had, or other songs that have been sent to me because, as an artist I love writing my own music, and it’s so important to me to write my own music. Because it’s such a real emotion, and sometimes outside songs that come in don’t have that emotion because I didn’t write them, because they’re not really how I feel.
But with “Thinking About You” it came to me at such an important part of my life that, I was missing somebody, and I was thinking about them, and it sucked. Like I’d tried getting with other girls, I’d tried, you know, being single, living it up, whatever, and I was just missing somebody, right? And so when that song came to me, I knew I had to make it. It was already so raw and real for me. I just wanted to make it more of my own. And so I got to write the bridge and I wrote and finessed it to make it my own. And added different lyrics not even about being able to function and thinking about someone. I can’t even delete the pictures that are on my phone because I think about you when I do that, and it sucks to do that. So I’m (going) to try to just not and so it’s kind of a big jumble of my emotions when I was missing somebody. So that’s kind of the essence of “thinking about you”.
The Knockturnal: It’s universal.
Alex: Yeah! I feel like everybody misses somebody at some point in their life. Even if it’s like a good miss, you know? And everybody thinks about somebody I hope. If not, you know. You do you, you know.
The Knockturnal: Talk about your creative process as an artist.
Alex: I think that’s what I love about it. I was just talking to my manager about it. Like, I’m not a big fan of doing things the same way. I didn’t love going to school too much. I had a job for three weeks and didn’t love it, you go into the same thing. And that’s why I love music so much, it’s never the same. Sometimes I start by having lunch, sometimes I start by getting dumped. Sometimes I start by watching a movie, it’s always different and through-out the whole creative process of making a song is different. You know sometimes you start with a beat, sometimes we start with lyrics, sometimes I just start with a melody, sometimes I don’t start with anything. Sometimes I’m literally like I got nothing, let’s just shoot from the hip. And so it’s always different, and that’s why I love creating it, is that it’s always different, but at the same time, I do my best to make the raw pure emotions of what I’m feeling at the time, you know? You gotta lay it out, that’s why there’s some songs I’ve written that I don’t even like showing people because it’s who I am you know? It’s like telling somebody all your secrets, you don’t want to tell everybody all your secrets, you know? (laughs)
The Knockturnal: How does it feel to have a lot of adoring fans, millions of views and hits? How do you feel about all of the love people have for your songs?
Alex: Man it’s such a blessing to have, especially on good days but even more so if I’m sad or I’m missing home or if I’m out on the road, nothing makes me get less homesick and feel a lot better about everything than meeting the fans cause like you said it’s real, it’s raw love, it’s true belief and support.
The Knockturnal: What was the most difficult obstacle that you had to overcome in your career?
Alex: Boy, where do we start, you know what I think honestly the biggest obstacle that I’ve had to face was probably myself… I moved to Los Angeles when I was 14 years old and being a naïve 14 year old I was like, “cool I want to be famous tomorrow and I want all the money in the world the week after that, and then right after that Grammy’s and then that’s it, I retire”. It was six years before I even had any recognition, it was years and years of building and building starting from one fan to two fans and it was that true build that made myself the obstacle. My patience was like, oh man like this is really taking forever and you have to train yourself to really expect and prepare yourself for the marathon… If I could go back and tell myself anything it would be, be patient… I think that the biggest obstacle is myself but it has also been my greatest victory because I’ve found out how to be patient.
The Knockturnal: What comes next for you down the line?
Alex: I’m so excited for 2018. 2017 was wild. It was a mixture of so many amazing things and a lot of hard things. I put out a lot of music and I think 2018 I just want to do that. We started out with this tour, which has been amazing. My first headlining tour in the United States. We’re going to Australia right after this. We’re going to New Zealand and the Philippines after that so it’s going to be a lot of moving around and meeting fans which I’m so happy about. I’ve spent my first six years of building fans and making YouTube videos in my parents’ living room. So I’m excited to be traveling all around releasing more new music, it’s crazy we just started the year off; we already got two new songs out.
The Knockturnal: Where have you been prior to NY?
Alex: We were in Minneapolis, Chicago and Pontiac Michigan and Detroit, right outside of Detroit.
The Knockturnal: Is there anywhere in the world where you can’t wait to visit?
Alex: Oh yeah, I’m excited to play a show in New Zealand, my dad’s from New Zealand so it means a lot to me personally that I get to go and play a show for the people of New Zealand out in Auckland where my dad’s from. So that’s exciting. I really want to go somewhere that I haven’t been, even if it’s not this year is eventually Japan. I want to go to Japan very badly, I love sushi, I love everything about the culture, I’m so ready.
The Knockturnal: Have you experienced culture shock in regards to the places you’ve visited so far?
Alex: I’ve been to so many different places. You go to the richest places in the world and you go to the less fortunate places of the world and the love is so strong no matter where you go. They’re just excited to be with you. They don’t care about how freezing it is outside or what’s going on in their lives they’re just excited to be with you for that moment. As much as I experience different cultures and everything it’s also the same because the fans just come out, they support, they show love and it’s crazy cause I go places that I never thought I would even go.
The Knockturnal: What do you miss most about home?
Alex: I miss my mom cooking me meals. She makes bomb food and I’m such a family person. But my mom actually just flew in town for the show tonight, so I’m excited I’ll get to see her and my sisters too.
The Knockturnal: How does your hometown of Phoenix, Arizona compare to New York?
Alex: I moved out of Phoenix when I was fourteen, I lived in Los Angeles for the last eight years. Phoenix to Los Angeles is completely different; in essence, it’s small- town vs. the big-town. When you go to a place like New York City or Los Angeles it makes anything else feel pretty minuscule. It makes it feel like you’re in the big pond now and you left the small little pond, it’s different but I always love and I cherish the time I get to go back to see my grandparents and my cousins in Arizona.
The Knockturnal: How excited are you about tonight’s show?
Alex: So it’s the first completely sold out show of the tour, so that means something to me, it also means so much to me that I’m in New York City. One of my first shows that I ever played was here in New York City. It was Arthur Ashe Kids’ day. So just coming back, playing a sold-out show for my first ever headlining show in New York City. I’m excited to see what tonight brings.