By Alexa Johns
I want to jump ship. As I think to myself about what I plan to write, it makes me want to close down my computer and do anything else. This is hard. Writing about something that is still so unresolved is probably the very thing I should be doing to resolve it, yet it feels agonizing in a dull, under the surface kind of way. I set a timer of 20 minutes to sit down and write through this because it’s still so triggering, yet I’m opening the space to allow it to come out, even if only in segments. Now, where do I begin? Each blog of mine has been in conjunction with a song I wrote, and this one is supposed to be using the same format. However, this particular song feels tough to write about. While it was written as a romantic relationship breakup, it was actually about the split from my first love: Music and the duo with my sister.
It was 2012, and we were on our way to Nashville to record music for our self-titled album “Falk.” Talks about moving to Nashville were in the air, but I had put my foot down with a definitive “no.” Growing up having six record deals fall apart, I wasn’t interested in chasing the “Nashville dream.” For the first time ever, my sister and I were making music we loved, we were growing our fanbase organically, performing locally, and I loved it. I loved the feel of just being real, having a real-life, in a real little town, writing real music, and connecting to real people no matter how big or small the audience was. I was also in love and living with my now-husband Ty. He had two years left of school and was captain of the university’s hockey team. I had him, had friends, had my passion for music and zest for life back, and I thought I had it all mapped out. I was genuinely happy. A big part of that happiness was my freedom. I was making my own way in life. I wasn’t in communication with my parents at the time because a few months prior, my sister and I had posted a cover of Damien Rice’s song “Rootless Tree,” and due to the chorus being a constant stream of “fuck you’s” as the lyrics, my dad wasn’t happy about it.
After discovering the cover song on YouTube, he shut off our phones the night before one of our music meetings. I knew something was up but couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. In the meeting, he gave us an ultimatum. We could choose to take the song down and have our phones and our “freedoms” back, or we were “cut off.” He did real estate for the Mormon church at the time and didn’t like the family image represented in an unflattering way. I don’t remember the specifics of what happened next; I just remember how it all ended. Me, leaving the meeting, telling him to go fuck himself. I knew full well not to disrespect my dad because of the enormous consequences that always followed. But I had it with being controlled. I didn’t have any clue how I would make money if I was cut off from my music revenue, but I didn’t care anymore. The chokehold my parents had on me my whole life was suffocating, and I needed freedom like I needed oxygen -no matter the price, no pun intended! So, after only two months of dating, I moved in with my boyfriend, Ty. That was another “no-no,” according to how I was raised. There were a lot of strict family standards around how relationships “should” go and how women “should” be in them. But I did it all MY way. For the first time, I was making my own rules for life. I chose to no longer ignorantly believe the societal lies I was made to think were truths anymore.
When I finally did figure out how to get a new phone, I changed my number and didn’t give it to my parents or any family members who could give it to them. I didn’t call my siblings for a long time for that very reason, and it was so hard. Instead, I drove to my sister’s apartment one day and decided to discuss what went down. I thought she was on my side. I thought it was us against the world. I thought that we would figure it out and that she and I, together, could be a true success story. I thought we could stay in creative integrity and own our freedom. We could do it together. By the time I left, we were both feeling revved up and excited with some nerves, or so I thought. My parents must’ve gotten to her with the pressure because she had taken the cover video down two days later. I felt betrayed, disappointed, and alone. It caused me to rethink everything I was doing in my career and with whom I was doing it. It made me reassess my values and what I stood for. If anything, it just pissed me the fuck off and strengthened my conviction to not conform ever again to please anyone. I decided to take a sabbatical, and I felt free. Looking back, it wasn’t the end of our duo “FALK,” but it was pivotal in that it was definitely a significant fracture.
It took quite a few months, but Natalee and I eventually mended things enough to get back to music together. I couldn’t find work that accommodated my summer college schedule, so truthfully, I needed to get back to music. In addition, I needed the income since I had lived off of credit cards for months. At the same time, I was beginning to heal things with my sister. I had also gradually introduced my family back into my life. Finally, with Ty’s encouragement, I was able to start the tough conversation, which allowed me to take baby steps towards repairing what was broken.
I thought my sister and I were on the same page with letting Nashville come to us, moving there when we had something there to move for, rather than following the old pattern of trusting ourselves, then betraying and abandoning ourselves. All for a shiny faux opportunity disguised as “change everything about yourselves,” and then you’ll “make it!” I was done with letting the outside world tell me who I was and what I could write or sing about. I thought Nat was done with that too, so it was startling to me the first time moving to Nashville was put on the table. Now, flash to being back on that plane ride out.
Once in Nashville, I went to a songwriting session with Jason Deere when the girls went and looked at a furnished condo that Nat found online. They signed the lease behind my back with our NaShea company money. NaShea was a business that Nat and I had started with our parents when I was 10 after my songs went multi-platinum in Brazil. It stood for Alexa SHEA, and Natalee, so you’d think that I, the other owning party, would at least get a say in where company funds were located. I thought wrong.
Unfortunately, I was a minor when I started making money, so it was set aside in a custodial account that my parents had control of. I didn’t know that everyone had conspired behind my back to get us to move to Nashville. My parents had the financial clout; therefore, the authority to make their decisions final.
Enraged doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. At first, my parents tried to pad it by saying, “Oh, Nat is just going to move out there with your cousin Amanda, and then you can come out.” But that’s not what I wanted. I wasn’t involved in any of the decisions for this, and I was so fucking pissed off. I’m re-raged just writing about it, so looking at my timer, I think I call it quits for this session and go meditate until I can get back to it tomorrow.
Great stuff, Lex!
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