Of the many acts I caught at Upstream Music Fest and Summit, soul artist Parisalexa (Paris Alexa Williams) was one of the most thrilling, both because of her age (19) and ability—her voice gives off light and she has a lyrical fluidity that’d make an agile rapper jealous. In January she debuted her first full EP, Bloom, and last week she released a new mixtape, Flexa. On Friday, June 15 she plays Neumos with Macklemore mentee Travis Thompson. She’ll also be playing sets at Capitol Hill Block Party in July and a free Downtown Summer Sounds show on the new Pike Place MarketFront stage on August 31. It’ll be a whirlwind year for singer who’s just catching the first beams of the limelight.
You’ve been making music for three years or so?
I’ve been making music my whole life. But I started considering myself a performing artist about three years ago. I’ve always been a songwriter. I got a loop station, and the songs don’t sing themselves, so I ended up performing them at Sound Off where I made my artistic debut.
What did you think of Upstream? It’s a strange festival in a lot of ways—both good and bad.
It definitely is. I did it last year as well and I love it. I think last year was really really cool. But this year actually topped it for me, just the amount of acts and my really close friends that were onstage. The only thing is that I’m 19 and couldn’t go to a lot of my friends’ shows because a lot were 21-plus. The stuff that I could get into was awesome. I was just pleasantly surprised as a performer and as a listener.
How has it been working in a genre that people don’t immediately consider when they think of Seattle? Compared to maybe hip-hop or punk…
A lot of people, on that front, tell me, “You should move to LA, you should move to LA.” But because this is not a prominent place for soul type music, I view that as an opportunity. Thankfully, the city’s welcomed me with open arms. This is my opportunity to be that voice of soul. I want people to think, when they think of Seattle music, not just Nirvana. I want to be that curve ball.
How’s Flexa different from Bloom?
Bloom was really conceptual. I wrote it about falling in love. And I’m not in love anymore—well, we broke up. But besides just that, it’s kind of evolved. I like to think of my EPs as time stamps of where I am when I’m writing them. So the songs [on Flexa] are about me finding myself, remembering and knowing my worth, not having someone there as a crutch. One of the songs, “Like Me Better,” is about how people in the past underestimated me. I’m serious about this craft. Even though I’m young, I’m very determined. It’s about me reclaiming my power as an individual.
Is there a longer album in the works?
I’m focusing on the small ones for now. In my off-time I write songs for other people. I do plan on starting some type of full-length something, hopefully in the fall. I’m not sure yet…. I’m at a cool place where I can decide what I want to do, whether I want to focus more on writing for others or focus more on writing for myself. I’m waiting to see where the music takes me.
Who else have you been writing for?
Ariana Grande, Keke Palmer. One of my tracks Rihanna heard, which was pretty cool. There’s a couple local people I’ve been writing for. There’s this girl named Jaz, who’s an up-and-coming R&B artist, and I’ve been working a lot with her. There are also some really cool collaborators—some people who wrote for Kesha, some people who wrote for Iggy Pop. Because I love music as a whole I’m trying to not just stick in my R&B wheelhouse and trying to venture out to a little bit of rock, country, electronic. I want to cover all the bases.
Capitol Hill Block Party will be, hopefully, my best show to date, because I’ll have my whole band. I’m really looking forward to that one.