Alex Aiono
credit: Boris Allin

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with YouTube sensation Alex Aiono

Alex Aiono is a YouTube sensation, best known for his genius covers and mashups. The talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has been gaining popularity online for a number of years thanks to his unique take on hit songs.

However, it was his cover of Drake’s ‘One Dance’, mashed up with Nicky Jam’s ‘Hasta el Amanecer’, which really catapulted him to internet stardom. The world fell in love with his slick vocals and creative style, leading to the cover going viral. To date it has over 51 million views on YouTube.

After blessing the internet with his covers, now it’s time for the world to get a taste of Alex Aiono on a personal level. Having signed to Interscope Records, Alex recently released his first official single, ‘Work The Middle’. The track has exactly what we wanted from Alex – a captivating beat and an irresistible vocal. Following the release of ‘Work The Middle’, Alex will be touring North America with fellow singer William Singe. Their tour kicks off on February 8 in New York, and will continue through until April.

We recently had the chance to speak to Alex over the phone about the latest goings on in his life. After a slight delay (of which the sweetheart was super apologetic for), we got round to talking about his new single ‘Work The Middle’, what we can expect from his tour, what advice he would give to his 14 year old self, that ‘One Dance’ cover and plans for the future.

Credit: Nikko La Mere

Hi Alex, how are you? 

I’m doing alright, yourself?

I’m good, thank you. First things first, I wanted to congratulate you on the release of your first official original single, ‘Work The Middle’! Can you talk us through the inspiration behind the track?

Yeah! First off, thank you very much, I appreciate it! I’m very excited for the first single I’ve put out through Interscope Records. Basically, ‘Work The Middle’ is a modern day song about a girl that you meet and you really like, and that you want to push the boundaries a bit and flirt your way into getting her to go out with you. It’s cool because it’s things that go on in every day life. It’s a song that’s fun, it’s got a great rhythm and a great movement. I love singing it and that it’s my first single!

‘Work The Middle’ was produced by Axident (Jason Derulo, Justin Bieber) and Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II (Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz). What were they like to work with?

The thing that’s crazy about the music industry is that we’ve never even met in person. Everything’s been over FaceTime and email and all that stuff, but like you said, they have an incredible repertoire and they make incredible music. Just being able to be part of a track with people who have made such big hits in the past and are constantly changing the music scene, and are constantly pushing the boundaries is just great fun.

Do you have a favourite lyric from ‘Work The Middle’?

Man, that’s a good one. For me, I’ve always loved numbers, like Brian McKnight “One” [sings tune]. I love when numbers and counting are involved. In the pre-chorus, it [‘Work The Middle’] talks about “Oh, yeah I’m three seconds from way too gone I know, and I’m two seconds from blowing up your phone, you’re the one I wanna see when I get home”. Personally something sticks out about that.

You’ve teased on social media that you’ll be dropping the music video soon. Have you filmed it yet? If so, what can we expect from it?

We already filmed it and I’ve actually been getting little edits here. It’s slowly coming together…actually it’s pretty quickly [coming together] which is pretty impressive on the director and the editor’s part. I love boxing – the last couple of years I’ve been boxing, working out and just wanting to get better with my reflexes, timing and rhythm, and boxing is a great way to do that. I wanted to incorporate something that I love, like boxing, in the music video. I can’t tell you if the video is boxing or not but I can tell you that I love boxing and in the video I’m doing something that I love!!

We look forward to seeing it when it’s released!

Thank you! I’m excited for you guys to see it. I saw a little bit of it last night and I was literally jumping, it was so good. It’s got dancers in it, who are incredible. It’s just sweaty and it’s steamy and there’s dancing, I’m just excited for the world to see it!

How has your personal sound developed since the release of your debut EP Young & Foolish in 2013? 

That’s a good question actually…I feel like it’s a mixture of both – a mixture of development but also I’m proud to say that I’ve always stayed true to myself and I’ve always made music that I love. I grew up listening to soulful music like Lauryn Hill, John Legend, Aaliyah. All of those great artists that I grew up with kinda developed my personal soulful musical taste. I think that’s kinda been a thrill throughout the music, working with John Legend on the Young & Foolish EP, all the way until now, working with Axident, Verse Simmonds, and incredible producers and writers like that. For me, that’s how it’s stayed the same.

In terms of being different, over time and over working on this incredible journey that I’ve been on, I feel like it’s developed into what the sound is now. When I put out the ‘One Dance’ video, it gave me that Latin vibe that I started getting into. That dancehall, even Caribbean in a sense, vibe, really influenced ‘Work The Middle’, as you can feel on the drums. I think a lot of it is the journey that I’ve been on and the covers that I’ve uploaded. The new producers that I’ve worked with and signing to the label really helped to shape the development from the Young & Foolish EP until now.

You’ve grown up with music in your blood thanks to your family and can play numerous instruments. Is there any other instrument you’d like to learn?

My family was incredible, in the sense that my parents always made music accessible for us if we wanted to learn something. I remember after the fourth grade, I wanted to play violin and even though it lasted like four months, my parents made it very accessible with lessons. The same with drums, piano, every instrument that I’ve learnt along the way. I play the guitar the most, cos I get to travel with it so wherever I go is where it is. The guitar is definitely my most used instrument but I do love getting to sit down at the piano, playing out my favourite John Legend songs or if we’ve been working on a new song.

If I was to pick out a new instrument to learn how to play, I thought the didgeridoo would be cool and not a lot of people play it. I feel like if I was on stage in the middle of a show and I whipped out a giant didgeridoo….I don’t know if you know what a didgeridoo is but it kinda sounds like this [proceeds to do an impression of the sound of a didgeridoo while we laugh!]…if I did that on stage, I don’t know if it would be the coolest thing ever but it would definitely be different, and I think that being different is cool!

To be honest, I think it would look and sound pretty cool and could fit in quite nicely!

I’m going to quote you on that! When people are like, ‘man that’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done’, I’m gonna be like, ‘Well CelebMix thought it would be incredible!’

You moved to LA when you were just 14 in order to pursue a music career, which is an incredibly brave move. What advice would you give now to your 14 year old self?

Man, that’s a great question. I’ve been in LA now for seven years, I’ve been said no to many times, I’ve been passed on a few times, I’ve got my hopes up and had those hopes broken, but then I’ve had a ton of little victories that I get to look at myself and enjoy. My family always taught me to really relish, enjoy and acknowledge all of the great little victories, whether it’s hitting 100 subscribers, or hitting 1000, all the way to hitting a million subscribers. It’s something that my team has always instilled in me, but if I could look back at my 14 year old self I would say, “hey, really enjoy every single thing” because I feel like I’ve enjoyed a lot of things, but I feel like I also get stressed about things and kind of overlook the coolness of the little victories that I’ve had.

Sounds like great advice! Following your move, you got to work with the likes of John Legend, someone who you’ve named as a big inspiration to you. Can you sum up the experience of getting to work with your idol?

I remember just being the happiest person on earth. Like you said, I grew up singing John Legend music. His voice is what shaped me wanting to sing and what shaped the way I do things when I sing, like how much rasp I put on a note. That was all John. Getting to work with him was, for me, one of the biggest moments of my whole life just because he’s been such a big influence to me. He’s an incredible writer and co-writer, and incredible producer and artist overall so getting to be a part of that, it was just surreal.

Is there anybody else that you would like to work with in the future?

I’ve got idols from every corner of the musical universe. I’d love to work with Pharrell. I would also love to work with Ed Sheeran and people who write incredible heartfelt songs. I just love working with people who consistently push the limits, who try to be different and expand the talent that they have.

We’ve got to touch on your YouTube covers as you’re quite the YouTube sensation and we love the covers that you upload. Your ‘One Dance’ cover is your most watched, but which has been your favourite to record?

Honestly, every time I record a new video, it becomes my favourite video. I want to always have fun and enjoy it. There’s always great music that comes out, and I always cover songs that I love. So if I’m loving a song at the moment, I’m working really hard and I’m having fun. Every time I put up a video, that video’s my favourite but ‘One Dance’ is my baby. It’s really what got me to where I am today. It’s what got me on the phone right now! It will always have a special place in my heart.

A lot of your covers are mashups – how do you go about finding suitable songs to put together?

That’s funny because the reason I was late for this phone call is because I was doing that exact same thing! I start off with a song, I pick one song that I love. I’ll give you a hint, right now I’m working on ‘iSpy’ by KYLE and Lil Yachty. I’ve played that song so many times that my family or anyone that’s been in a room with me get sick of it! I kind of just sing other songs while that song is playing. So I just sing a bunch of songs, some sound good, some of them sound whack, some sound funny and silly but eventually I’ll sing one and be like, wow that fits. I like to add as many songs as I can without making it sound too crazy. 

You’ve also collaborated with a number of people on your channel, including Conor Maynard and William Singe. Do you have any collabs in the pipeline?

It’s funny that you say that also cos on this ‘iSpy’ video, I’m collaborating with somebody but I don’t want to tell you guys just yet!

I guess you’ve got to keep some things a secret, right?!

I gotta keep a little bit, I can’t tell you the whole thing or you’d already have half the video! [laughs]

We’ll let you off with that one! Speaking of William Singe, you’re about to go on a North American tour with him. What can fans expect from the show?

A lot of new music that I haven’t played, a lot of covers that I’ve never played live, and original music that nobody’s even heard before! Obviously ‘Work The Middle’ will be played at the show but I’m also going to add, maybe, a song or two of original music that’s gonna come out in the future that I haven’t put out yet, so I’m excited for the fans! At the same time, I’m gonna play the jams! I’m gonna play ‘One Dance’, and I will play the videos that I love and have gotten me to where I am. I can’t play a show without acknowledging why I’m playing the show.

What are you most looking forward to about going out on the road?

I think mainly the fans! For the past seven years, I’ve done a lot of touring but not as much as I’d like to and not as much as I see myself doing in the future. The best part about that all is getting to see fans and getting to meet them face to face. Honestly just thanking them for being incredible and for the support that they give. Every time I get on stage or make a video or whatever, it’s all because of them. There is no way I would be here without them. 

We also know that it’s your birthday on February 16, the same time as you’ll be on tour. First off, happy early birthday! And secondly, how will you be celebrating it on tour?

Yeahhhhh! Thank you very much! Man, everybody’s been asking me that cos it’s kind of coming to that day. We have a show that day and I’m going to be 21. For most people, 21 is a big deal because you can drink and go to bars and party and all that stuff. I personally don’t drink, I don’t do any of that crazy stuff. I think I’m gonna have to maybe eat a piece of pizza or FaceTime my family as I’ll be on the road. I’ll have my little sister with me so we’ll probably do some kind of fun adventure. I’m excited that I get to play a show on my birthday, because I’ve never done that before and it’ll cross something off my list!

I’m sure your fans will be extra loud on that day for you!

I hope so!

As well as being a singer, you’re a host on Radio Disney and have starred in YouTube series Royal Crush. Would you like to do more hosting and acting in the future?

Honestly, I love all forms of entertainment. I [hope to] see myself in the future, if I’m looking at the longer game, like incredible entertainers such Justin Timberlake, Harry Connick Jr., who can kind of touch on different aspect of the entertainment business. Justin Timberlake does great movies, TV shows, YouTube series. There’s also people like The Rock, who just did a bunch of singing in the new Moana movie and is an incredible actor with a YouTube channel. I look up to those people who, I’m gonna say it again, push the boundaries, push themselves and just love entertaining as a whole.

What does the rest of 2017 have in store for Alex Aiono?

Wooo! I am excited about 2017. I feel like 2017 is the year that all of these things that I’ve worked on for the last seven years get to come out to the world. New music will come out, all of the touring, videos, pictures, six-packs, crowdsurfing, giant meet-ups, getting to collaborate with all the people I’ve always dreamed of! I hope 2017 blesses me half as much as I hope it will and I’ll be so happy.

Well we’re excited for you and believe that you have a really bright future ahead of you!

Thank you so much, I appreciate that.

Finally, do you have a message for your fans?

Aw man, this is my moment that I get to say something special! I just want to say, it’s been seven years that I’ve been out in LA and I feel that if it wasn’t for the fans, I would have only been here for a month or a year. I want to say thank you, you are the greatest fans in the world. I know every single artist who does an interview and sends a message to their fans says that, but I believe that with all my heart, because nobody’s ever put somebody up in the world like I have and nobody has as incredible fans as I do. I truly believe that, so thank you guys for all your love and support. I can’t wait to see you guys on tour! 

Thank you so much for an awesome interview, and good luck with the single, tour and your future plans!

Thank you so much, I appreciate it. 

‘Work The Middle’ is available on iTunesApple MusicGoogle PlayAmazon and Spotify now.

Catch Alex on tour from this month! More details available here.

Love Alex Aiono as much as we do? Let us know on Twitter @CelebMix

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Boris Allin

 

Written by Katrina Rees

I'm Katrina, or Kat to pretty much everyone. I'm an editor for CelebMix, a content writer, a boyband lover and an all round music fanatic.
Twitter: @lifeofkatrina
Email: [email protected]