“I’m Still Learning”: R&B Singer Parisalexa Is a Happy Work in Progress

“We’re all just humans on this planet, trying to figure it out.”
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In a world full of R&B profiteers, Parisalexa stands as all too real. The 21-year-old singer’s enchanting vocals are the stuff of musical fairy tales. Across her newest album, 2 Real, the Seattle-based Paris sings of self-love and acceptance (“Chocolate”), protecting her energy (“Intro”), and searching for a purpose (“Follow Me”). Throughout the album, bubbling beneath Paris’ unctuous voice, confidence is queen. Whether in love or just by herself, Parisalexa sounds positively enamored with her being—and rightfully so. “People going crazy for the clout / You can count me out,” she sings in a lower register. It’s a moment of genuineness that tells us Paris isn’t here for fame or to put forward an image. 

While 2 Real sounds like an incredibly confident album, Parisalexa reminds me, she is always learning and growing, and her supposed “perfection” on wax is hardwon. “I’m still learning how to do that, that’s the whole point of it,” Paris says of learning to put herself first. 2 Real opens with a punchy voice memo where Paris proclaims she cannot give space for what no longer serves her. “People assume there’s a separation between artists who make music and people [who don’t] and there isn’t. We’re all just humans on this planet, trying to figure it out.”

Parisalexa continues: “A lot of these songs are affirmations for myself—I wasn’t going through the best circumstances. I wasn’t on top of the world… You can affirm yourself in situations, and that will do a lot for you.”

The “emotional snapshots” Parisalexa tackles on 2 Real have an incredible bounce to them. Though Paris got her start as early as two, singing little made-up songs, in the two decades since she tumbled into singing, she’s grown into a superb songwriter, capable of producing emotional and songwriting tricks with her voice and pen. On the penultimate “2 Optimistic,” Paris’ depth of emotion is subverted by a rattling percussion and thumping bassline. Her lyrical themes are heavy, but the few seconds where she slips into a breathless delivery alleviate the emotional pressure.

2 Real feels like a necessary exhale during a time when we’re told to hold our breath, hold our tongue, and just go through the motions. Parisalexa’s singing and writing both have rambunctious and brimming energy. Life flows through her album, her every word, her being. Parisalexa may be too real for this world, but we’re happy she’s chosen to bask in that light.

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

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DJBooth: When did you first start singing?

Parisalexa: I first started singing when I was really little. I was humming my little songs around two, three. My parents started to notice I was making up these little songs. As I started to make more sense of my sentences, I was also able to start making songs that made sense, too.

Who were your early influences?

I was raised on classics… Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston—incredible vocalists. My parents were musical, even though they don’t sing, there was always music playing.

When, and how, did you decide to give the music career a real try?

It wasn’t a decision I necessarily made, but I felt there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life. When I was younger, I did a bunch of plays, and so I was [into] acting and performing. In high school, I was posting videos of me singing on Facebook. I made a SoundCloud, and that led to me doing a Battle of the Bands in Seattle, and I actually won second place. I had no idea that would happen. From there, I had to pick a stage name, and the rest is history! That was the turning point. I spent so much of my days singing and writing songs. I’m ready to show the world.

You open your album, 2 Real, with a voice memo about protecting your energy. What inspired you to start putting yourself first?

I’m still learning how to do that, that’s the whole point of it. People assume there’s a separation between artists who make music and people [who don’t] and there isn’t. We’re all just humans on this planet, trying to figure it out. A lot of my message is just that… I don’t have it more figured out than other people. I’m singing about what I’m learning along the way. At times, when I was growing and learning, I wished I had a song like that. I wished artists were talking about not being perfect. Some stuff, like you were saying earlier, it’s just unrealistic, and I wanted to add a realistic aspect. I’m still learning and growing in putting myself first. I’m 21, so I fall in love, and I forget all about that… I’m learning along the way the importance of putting myself first.

2 Real is all about self-acceptance (“Chocolate”). How important is it for you to send a message of self-love to young Black girls with your music?

That’s my main artist message: encouragement. I’m the encouraging friend, for sure! I should continue that energy in my artistry. A lot of times, I’m writing songs for my younger self. I grew up in a predominantly white area, so having a song that celebrates being Black or being thick, or being whatever you are, was so necessary for me. I love seeing the responses. All the people that are encouraged? That makes me feel like it’s worth it.

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The music is tender and playful, but your themes are incredibly necessary. How do you balance seriousness with the lightness of your delivery?

As a songwriter, that’s one thing I try my best to master. When I was younger, a lot of the songs I wrote were pretty emotional, and I was self-conscious about them. I didn’t want people to know, immediately, “Oh, this is a sad song.” Songs like “2 Optimistic,” when I heard the beat, I was like, “This is a bop!” But I was so irritated at the time; I couldn’t write about anything other than this disappointment over my head. My challenge is always, “How do I walk that line?” People are gonna be distracted by the beat, but when they listen for the fifth time, [they’re like], “Wait a minute!” That’s always been my challenge, but it’s my most used asset, and it allows me to get deep with my lyrics while keeping it fun with the beat.

I imagine making 2 Real was healing, could you speak to the album’s creation process and how it impacted the way you see yourself?

People’s reactions and other people feeling like they relate is affirming for me. It’s encouraging to see other people feel like they’re too real. As I was going through the experiences I needed to go through to write the album; I wasn’t feeling like I had many people around me who related. I felt like, “Wow, all this fake stuff is popping off.” I felt a bit alone, and now that I’ve gone through those moments, I feel grateful that I went through that stuff and can write about these experiences. Other people who feel like they’re alone can have a soundtrack.

Which song was most important for you to write?

“11:11” is an interesting one. People are gonna turn up to it and not realize it’s a heartbreak song. That song was sad because the idea of a perfect life, and then it not being possible because of someone’s life circumstances; that’s a situation a lot of people deal with. As far as processing, that was one of the ones, for sure.

“Chocolate” was probably the most cathartic song. I was in the middle of a disappointing moment. The [studio] session I was there for, I was supposed to meet this amazing person, and they ended up standing me up. I was in the studio for hours, waiting. The producer I was there with was like, “We gotta make something poppin’.” It was one session, and we knocked out the whole song. For that to come out of that day… I’ll never forget that moment.

Speaking of heartbreak, on “2 Real,” you sing about love and dying for it. Do you think we have a tendency—in life and in music—to put love ahead of our mental?

That is a pretty common thing that musicians, artists, creatives, and passionate people tend to do. Sometimes, it’s just to feel something. Sometimes, being emotionally stable is boring. Sometimes it’s, “I need to feel like I’m alive.” That’s something we can gravitate towards, even if it’s not for our benefit. That’s what I felt when I wrote [“2 Real.”]

Finally, 2 Real is a confident album. What would you say to a young person who is struggling with their confidence?

When I’m writing all this and proclaiming all these things—a lot of these songs are affirmations for myself—I wasn’t going through the best circumstances. I wasn’t on top of the world, and the fact that I made it sound that way? For me, as a writer, I feel like I did my job. Also, you can do that stuff, too. You can affirm yourself in situations, and that will do a lot for you. And listen to the album carefully! “2 Optimistic” is about feeling like I can’t get excited about opportunities anymore because I’m too jaded. I’ve come out of that space. A lot of these things are snapshots of emotional history. Me being too real? I’m not alone.

Listen to Parisalexa on Audiomack.

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