Alex Newell is only 22 years old, but he has already achieved quite a few of his dreams through perseverence, dedication and hard work. Originally from Massachusetts, he competed on the reality series The Glee Project, eventually winning a coveted role on the TV series Glee, namely that of Wade “Unique” Adams, a boy who realized he was supposed to be a girl, all the while channeling the true woman inside himself through song. In the last two years, he has signed with Atlantic Records and recorded songs with such bands as Clean Bandit, Blonde, and The Knocks. He is also putting together an album of his own.
Alex Newell will be headlining St. Pete Pride’s 27/82 Concert, which for the first time ever will be held outdoors, free of charge to the community. The concert will start at 7 p.m. on the corner of Central Avenue and 26th Street in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District. Since this is a fundraiser for Tampa Bay community service organizations, a donation of any kind you can give at the concert would be appreciated.
I spoke with Alex Newell recently about his music, Florida, and Pride, all for this exclusive Hotspots interview.
How excited are you to be performing at St. Pete Pride? How did the Pride organizers approach you to be the lead entertainer?
I’m really excited. I haven’t been down to St. Petersburg in a really long time so I’m glad to be back. As far as booking Pride was concerned, my agent always looks out for me and tells me about things she knows I’d love to do. As soon as I heard about it from her, I said yes.
What do you like the most about Florida?
When I was a kid, Florida always felt like that “secret place” to get away to. Being from Massachusetts, everyone there likes that Florida’s sunny, and everyone would be so surprised and jealous to find out where I were going. “Oh, I’m going to Florida for the summer,” or “Oh, I’m going to Florida for Thanksgiving.” But then, in the summertime in Florida, it rains during the afternoon every day! Even then, I still love Florida.
When did you first realize you were interested in becoming a singer?
I was two years old; I started singing then. My goal has always been to be a singer. I’ve been doing this nearly my entire life. If you look at my résumé, even, it bills me as a “singer/actor/dancer,” exactly in that order. I always knew that singing was not only what I wanted to do, it was what I was going to do.
How did that opportunity come about to record with Clean Bandit, and how excited were you to work with them?
It happened by chance. I knew who Clean Bandit was but I wasn’t really familiar with a lot of their songs. The pitch was very nonchalant. “Hey, there’s this group called Clean Bandit, they want to feature you on a song that they have.” The producer who wanted to create the track was in New York, so I flew to New York and it was so quick…I think I recorded for maybe two hours, and I was surprised to find that one of the band members was actually in the recording studio with me! I didn’t even know!
When I walked out of the studio, I was asked, “Oh, how did you like meeting Jack from Clean Bandit?” And I told them I didn’t remember meeting a Jack. A lot was happening all at the same time. It was quick but it was definitely a fun experience.
Please tell us about your debut album and what people can expect from you. Will we hear any of those songs at St. Pete Pride?
You’re not going to hear any of those songs, because they’re not done yet, but the album is going to be very pop and disco-sounding. It’s going to be like Donna Summer meets Beyoncé. I’ve been very privileged to work with a lot of legendary producers and songwriters, like Nile Rodgers and Diane Warren…the list goes on and on. They make really good, thought-out, planned-out music and they’ve been doing it for a while now. I’m so happy they’ve worked with me.
We’ve come so far in terms of LGBT rights and acceptance over the last few years in this country. How far do you think we still have left to go?
I think with everything we have to deal with in life, there’s always going to be a battle, and that’s not just in the LGBT community. Being a black man, I see that the black community still has so far to go.
I’ve noticed a pattern, and that is that every generation has their own big social problem that they have to conquer, and every generation has to change the world for the better. Gay marriage was a big fight, and before that it was interracial marriage. We’re evolving as a human race. Our thoughts on life, our ways of life and our goals in life all change as we evolve. So when we go to battle, we must pick ourselves up and we must keep our eyes on our goal: to continue the trend of evolution in our society.
Be sure to follow Alex Newell on Twitter @TheAlexNewell.