When Lexi Krekorian’s blind audition at “The Voice” did not pan out, she was devastated. But 30 days later, her moment arrived. And she has now made her Netflix debut as part of the cast of “Westside,” a new reality show featuring nine struggling musicians.
All eight episodes became available Nov. 9, showing the challenges and excitement of staging a Hollywood showcase, and delving into the personal lives of the aspiring performers. The docuseries is a combination of “The Real World,” “American Idol” and “Glee.”
Krekorian, who grew up in Waterloo, goes by the stage name, Alexandra Kay. She has been working as a country music artist for several years and has played throughout the metropolitan St. Louis area.
“It is so exciting. The amount of love and support I have received is incredible,” she said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Krekorian talked to her fans over the weekend, live on Facebook, while nursing a cold, but clearly excited that the wait was over. She came home to sing at a wedding.
“I figure people were going to settle in this weekend and binge-watch,” she said. “The amount of support I’m getting is absolutely insane. People were setting up watch parties. I’m just so overwhelmed by the love and I’m so grateful,” she said.
She knows that reality television sometimes is staged or does not seem realistic, but she stressed this show was authentic.
“Nothing was planned. It’s not fake. It was genuinely happening in the moment, it’s legit,” Krekorian said. “They documented our lives, loves and struggles trying to make it in the music business. The nine of us were all totally different, and now we are one big happy family.”
She joined fellow singer-songwriters Caitlin Ary, 29; James Byous, 29; Leo Gallo, 32; Arika Gluck, 20; Austin Kolbe, 24; Sean Patrick Murray, 31; Taz Zavala, 29; and Pia Toscano, 30, who was one of the “American Idol” Season 10 finalists, as they navigated the music business.
“I faced my fears and moved my life to L.A. chasing a dream, never in million years did I expect to gain eight best friends and memories I will never forget. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions,” she said.
“We poured our blood sweat and tears — so many tears into this. I’m ready for the world to meet my incredibly talented new family.”
‘You Think You Know Someone’
She was eager for people to hear her music. Her first solo single, “You Think You Know Someone (featuring Alexandra Kay),” which she co-wrote, has been released and so has the music video.
“I wrote a song for the show with Shane McAnally and Josh Osbourne, two of the best songwriters in country music. I was so nervous, But I’m so excited for the world to hear the song. They flew me to Nashville, and I was on Cloud Nine the entire time,” she said.
The soundtrack is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and Amazon, released by Warner Brothers Records. YouTube.com is where all the music videos are posted.
Her duets, “Sure as Hell Hope,” with Caitlin Ary, and “Champagne High,” with Pia Toscano and Taz Zavala, are also released on the “Westside” soundtrack.
Relieved to finally talk about the show after the trailer dropped last month, she discussed during a phone interview about filming in Los Angeles for a year and her music career experiences.
“It was so hard not being able to say anything about it,” she said. “The original concept was completely different than what it turned out to be, but it turned out really great. I can’t wait for America to see it.”
At 27, Krekorian has learned how to navigate the good, bad and ugly in a thrilling yet difficult business. How things transpired are what she still describes as surreal.
“Talk about being patient and waiting for the right opportunity. This project totally changed my life,” she said.
Krekorian still has a house in Millstadt with her boyfriend of six years, Indiana Touchette, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
In the Netflix capsule descriptions of each hour-long show, Lexi is singled out in episodes 5, “Pressure,” with the statement “Lexi reconsiders what she left back home,” and in episode 6, “Critique,” which said: “Lexi explores a critical decision.”
Something special coming
So, how did she get here to this moment? Summer of 2017 turned out to be “the worst of times, the best of times,” as Dickens once wrote.
“I was just devastated that I didn’t get a chair to turn. But had I gotten any farther on ‘The Voice,’ I legally would not have been allowed to participate in ‘Westside.’ I really feel like my not advancing on ‘The Voice’ was God telling me ‘Just be patient. I have something special coming to you’,” she said.
In a lucky moment of preparation meets opportunity, a musician friend who works as an Uber driver on the side, called her 30 days after the crushing NBC defeat. He said he picked up the head producer of this new musical reality TV show as an Uber fare, and the guy started talked about the show.
“He was searching for a country artist to be a part of this amazing project with eight other singer-songwriters,” she said. “My friend pulls up my ‘Jolene’ video on his phone and hands it to the producer in his back seat. The producer watches a few videos, then asks for my information as he was being dropped off at his location.”
On July 28, 2017, she received a call from a casting director, and moved to Los Angeles in October to begin filming. she expected it to take five months; they followed the cast for an additional seven months.
What may sound corny to some, was reality for Krekorian and her bond with the other contestants.
“We have cried together, laughed together, sang songs and wrote poetry together, shared our stories of triumph and defeat. I am blessed beyond belief to have found my place in this family of nine,” she said.
“In the show, we were all able to dig deep and tell our stories about our struggles trying to come up in the music business. We got to write songs with some of our idols. We also wrote songs together and worked with top producers to create the music for the soundtrack,” she said.
Last month, they began promoting the show and were together again.
“We’re together all the time. We really want to be together,” she said, as she prepared to meet them for a birthday party.
Krekorian said Touchette appears in the show too. He is a union laborer who works on highways and bridges.
“Westside” wanted to show personal lives – drama, conflict and uplifting, all of it.
“It shows it’s hard to be in a relationship and on the road. The distance was really hard, and he ended up moving out here. He’s able to be a part of it as well,” she said.
The band and its roots
The film crew came to the metro-east to look at her roots.
“The film crew actually came to our house in Millstadt and filmed us at Silver Creek in Belleville — it was really cool. I’m excited for the world to see how hugely supportive our little corner of Illinois truly is.”
At the end of summer, Krekorian came home to play music. The Alexandra Kay Band includes Jeff “Schmitty” Schmitz on guitar, Jake Hanselman on drums, Greg Manis on bass and Mark Hochberg on fiddle.
“My band back home and I have a blast,” she said. “They are so excited for me and always helping me out coordinating things for our gigs when I am so far away. We are all a team and they are the best band I could ever ask for,” she said.
Besides Silver Creek in Belleville, Reifschneider’s Grill and Grape in Columbia, Syberg’s in O’Fallon and other locations, Mikey’s Pub and Schmitty’s in Smithton, and Ott’s Tavern in Millstadt are some of the places they played regularly.
“I played the old bar circuit I have been playing for the past three years, and it was really great to be home and see everyone. They are all so supportive of me. They’re happy about the show, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it,” she said.
She is known for playing many country songs popular in the 1990s, like Jo Dee Messina, Faith Hill and her all-time favorite, Garth Brooks.
“Because that’s what I want to hear, music from my childhood, takes people back. It connects with people. I gained a lot of friends by playing it, and I’m grateful,” she said.
Her voice has been compared to another Illinois woman, bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss, who has won 27 Grammy Awards and grew up in Champaign.
Country music niche
Krekorian and her band stood out in the local music scene. She was the local “Uncorked” artist for two years, presented at the annual CBS Radio-sponsored wine-and-festival event downtown St. Louis, and last year, opened for Gavin DeGraw.
Paul Cook, longtime afternoon drive-time host on Y98 Radio, said he could tell Lexi was a rising star.
“She is such a sweetheart, this downhome girl from Illinois, and she sounds so authentic. I can’t wait for America to get to know her,” Cook said.
Before that, she won the Battle of the Bands Contest that 93.7FM The Bull sponsored, Concert in The Corn, which took place at the Gateway Motorsports Park.
What also set Krekorian apart is her work ethic.
At 14, she started writing songs, but didn’t perform until she was 18. She acted and sang in community musical theater in the metro-east. She sang a variety of genres. But she didn’t really play music until she was 23.
“I was preparing myself for playing in front of people,” she said. “I was writing a lot.”
In 2014, she decided that country music was her niche. The songs she were writing were all like the music she grew up listening to, and what her parents listened to at home.
“I just decided that I needed to be who I am,” she said.
In high school, she did not have success auditioning.
“I never got a solo in chorus. I would try out for concert choir, other things. So, it feels good to prove myself as a vocalist,” she said.
“I got shut down a lot. It made me just work harder. Getting a door slammed shut was good preparation for the music business pitfalls. I just kept singing and writing,” she said.
In 2011, she tried out for “American Idol” when they held auditions in St. Louis, advancing three rounds before being cut.
“I was very inexperienced the first time. I was so nervous. I stopped singing, when I should have kept going. They tell you to keep going. It was not meant to be,” she said.
Because her “Jolene” video, posted in 2016, received millions of views, she was contacted by a producer on “The Voice” last year, as they were selecting five people to add to the show when the Blind Auditions started. She did not have to audition and was chosen, but then not a single chair turned when she went before Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson.
Despite not succeeding, she chalked it up as a learning experience.
“I stayed in L.A. It’s so crazy, it was right down from here in Burbank, so I’ve come full circle,” she said. “You just have to keep your nose to the grindstone. Keep auditioning. I got knocked down a lot, but I got back up,” she said.
“The ‘Jolene’ video has gotten me everything I have,” she said. With it on several platforms, she has been viewed about 7 million times.
She handles all her social media accounts, and recently started an Alexandra Kay Fan Club on Facebook and posts many tidbits on Instagram, including some contests.
“Success tastes a lot better once you know you’ve worked really hard for it,” she said.
“I look back and realize I was making progress the whole time. The love I have for creating music and singing, it’s what I want to do. It’s made me realize that I have to keep pushing, keep climbing. I’ll have high points and low points, and I have to be ready.”