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Conversation: Buffalo-based singer Alexis Millace makes a case for local creativity

Conversation: Buffalo-based singer Alexis Millace makes a case for local creativity

Photo by Sydney Millace / Interview by Jeremy Whitaker

We are living in the digital age, where hopeful musicians no longer need to migrate to metropolises like New York City or Los Angeles to find success. Alexis Millace, a Buffalo-based singer and songwriter, is a shining example of this new era for aspiring artists. 

With a voice reminiscent of powerhouses of the past, deeply confessional songwriting, and an eclectic eye for thrift fashion, Millace embodies the recipe for success. What she didn’t know until recently is that Buffalo is a key ingredient.

“I’ve spent the majority of my adult life thinking that I have to get out of Buffalo for my music career to start…Coming back home… it was kind of like the last thing that I needed.” 

From finding local mentorship and the inspiration to write her music, to joining the tight-knit Buffalo music community, Alexis Millace makes the case for creating locally. 

In conversation with Alexis, her photographer/sister Sydney Millace, and mutual friend Jocelynn Lojacono we discussed the insider’s guide to the Buffalo music scene, her One Direction stan account, and the moment she knew she was a star. 

Read the Full Conversation Below: 


Alexis Millace: There’s something about Pauly D that was just so inspiring. Something about them. Guidos.

Jeremy Whitaker: That’s a slur!

Jocelynn Lojacono: No. Oh my god, there was one time I was at a nail salon and I was telling [Jeremy] about these two guidos that were giving me a hard time because they were just being guidos. 

Sydney Millace: Yeah. 

JL: And [Jeremy] was literally calling me racist. I was like, guys, it’s a term for an Italian person. Guess what? I’m Italian so I can say it. 

AM: Exactly. 

SM: It’s also just not a slur. 

JW: Okay, let the record reflect that our interviewees are prejudiced against Italians. 

JL: Oh my god. 

SM: Jesus.

JW: Anyway, Alexis, you were watching Jersey Shore when the lyrics came to you?

AM: We were watching Jersey Shore and I just had this inkling to go into my notes app and revisit the song that I was working on. And for some reason, I was finally able to piece together all the lyrics that I had.

JL: I love that. 

AM: I don’t know why it came to me then, but I was just like a machine.

JW: What’s your typical songwriting process? 

AM: It comes to me at random moments. I’ll just have bits and pieces of inspiration and I’ll write them down on my notes app. I have a specific songwriting folder and anything that could potentially be a lyric I put in there. I don’t typically start a song from the beginning except “Say It Back.” 

JW: “Say It Back” was your debut single, can you tell me about it? 

AM: It was my first single that I wrote after I found out I got cheated on.

JW: Oh! That’s always nice. 

AM: It was literally two in the morning, I went upstairs and I’ve never typed lyrics faster in my life. I wrote the majority of that song in one night.

JW: Wow.

AM: It was just all coming to me out of rage and heartbreak.

JW: I heard you recorded it in Utah. 

AM: I did. I went out to Utah for an artist writing retreat. There were two producers and three artists and we were working with a different producer every day. They would show me beats, and see if I liked them. 

JW: And that’s when “Say It Back” was born. 

AM: That’s when it happened and when “Molly” happened. 

JW: I’m from Utah so I know a little about the scene there, but you’re from Buffalo. Tell me about the Buffalo music scene.

AM: I’m starting to slowly get into it. 

JW: I’ve seen first-hand evidence of a lot of your live performances around there, to an outsider it seems like you’re solidified. 

AM: There are a few well-respected bars in Buffalo that once you perform there you’re better recognized in the scene.

JW: What bars should we be looking at? 

AM: Places like Good Bar, Jack Rabbit, and Nietzsche’s. Everyone in the Buffalo music community is very willing to help out. If they know that you’re an artist, they wanna work with you. I got brought up on stage with another Buffalo artist just because he knew that I was an artist too. It’s a very welcoming kind of small community, but that’s what makes it better.

SM: Buffalo is a pretty artsy city, it’s just not a big city. 

JW: Tough to compare to a city like New York. 

SM: Exactly, here there are more agents and all that, but Buffalo is pretty well-versed in arts and music, and theater.

AM: Once you’re recognized in the Buffalo music scene, you get asked to play at a lot of the same areas again and again. I’m even just thinking of people like Grace Greenan and Slow Animals and the Canetis. They often play at Jackrabbit, and they often play at Good Bar. 

JW: It seems to be such a supportive community.

SM: Oh, for sure. 

JL: Alexis, you should tell Jeremy about your relationship with Elias.

JW: Who is Elias? Tell me! 

AM: I worked as a bartender at a day club in Buffalo and my manager there booked bands for Tappo Wood Pizza. He said that he constantly saw me off doing my own thing, singing with customers, singing while bartending, thinking, this girl has it. He offered to bring me onto Witches Ball. 

SM: Witches Ball is this huge annual Halloween ball in Buffalo, 

JL: Hosted at a really gorgeous hotel called the Statler. 

JW: I remember seeing footage from this show. 

AM: I walked into work one day and Elias was like, what do you think about the song “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence? And I was like, “Yeah, I like that song,” so that is what I sang at Witches Ball. Since then, Elias has been my music mentor. He’s the one that’s been booking my gigs with me and because he’s been in the music field and books bands he’s in contact with a ton of artists. 

SM: It was kind of fate. 

Photo by Sydney Millace

JW: I’m not from a big city and sometimes I feel like there’s more creative nurturing in smaller communities. 

JL: Maybe it just feels more manageable too, not so overwhelming. 

AM: Right, but I do feel like it’s rare to have mentorship like this fall into your lap. He had dreams of being a rock star, it’s what he wanted to do until he had kids. So now, he said if he ever saw a younger artist that has it, he’d wanna help them. I’m so honored to be that person. 

JL: Just thinking about all the synchronicities that went into putting you in that position. You did the whole L.A. thing and decided to come home. And home is where you found the inspiration to write all the songs that you’ve put out.

AM: I’ve spent the majority of my adult life thinking that I have to get out of Buffalo for my music career to start. I moved to Chicago, then I was living on Catalina Island, then Long Beach, thinking, this is where I’ll start my music career, I’m right in Hollywood. And it never happened there either.

And then coming back home to Buffalo, I got in a situationship and when that ended it was kind of like the last thing that I needed.

JW: Something good came of it, the heartbreak.

AM: I would take that a million times over and over and over. I would never give up “Say It Back” just to have had it work out. 

JL: My favorite song of yours is “Albion’s Lullaby,” 

AM: Based on the same guy. 

JW: So when’s the next song coming out? What’s the timeline?

AM: Soon. It will be “Molly.”

JW: Just before sitting down with you I asked Jocelynn, “When did Alexis decide she wanted to become a singer?” Her response was something like, “Alexis has just always been this way.” 

SM: Alexis has always been this way since she was a kid. It’s true.

AM: Yeah. I mean, I honestly can’t even think of a time in my life that wasn’t all about the music. From childhood, being in little bands with my cousins to being in more adult bands.

JL: Please talk about the videos that you would make.

SM: I was just gonna bring that up. 

AM: I mean, I would sit on my lawn with a video camera and I would be singing to anyone that could hear. There was this one video that I have where I’m singing my heart out and my Mom opens the door and I’m like, “MOM! Can you see I’m recording a video here?”

JW: I feel like we were the generation of dreamers. 

JL: Recently, we asked some of our guy friends from high school, what their perceptions of us were. They said Alexis was the weird girl, but everybody knew that she could sing.

JW: You were the weird girl?

JL: Yes, yes. She was. She was a loser. I’m sorry. And I say that with the utmost respect and I’ve said this a million times, I am actually so happy that the two biggest losers in school allowed me into their loserhood.

AM: Yeah. Yeah. I was the kind of weird where it was like shut the fuck up weird.

SM: Big Directioner. 

AM: Constantly talked about One Direction. Yeah. 

JL: Also queen of no shame right here. Alexis has never been shy in her life. No one would ever describe her that way. She would say and do the most out-of-pocket shit.

JW: Give me an example.

Photo by Sydney Millace, Exclusively for Rain Magazine

AM: In History class, all you had to do was report on a court case. That was the assignment. You JUST had to talk about a court case, but no, no, no. Of course, I was not gonna do that. We decided to take the court case and turn it into a song to the soundtrack of “Rock Me” by One Direction, and perform it. 

JL: This was eighth grade also. 

SM: Eighth-grade, defining year.

JW: If you’re not hot in eighth grade that sets a rough scene for high school.

AM: I actually can remember this specific moment when everyone recognized me as a singer and it was seventh grade. 

JL: I was literally gonna say,

AM: Seventh grade I had a solo and mind you, fifth and sixth grade were the peak years of my weirdness. People thought I was weird as fuck. And rightfully so. In seventh grade, I at least got contacts. I started wearing a little bit of makeup and straightening my hair every day. I had a solo and it was only two lines, but I walked up to that mic and I gave it my all love. I remember I walked the halls and I felt like a fucking celebrity.

JL: Honestly it was a big deal.

AM: Teachers were like, we have a superstar in the room.

JL: Didn’t someone popular tell you that you did really good? 

AM: Many people did. I remember I was like, wow, this is different. And, since then, I was known as the weird girl who did theater who could sing. Even though I never did theater.

SM: The only thing I would add from obviously growing up with you is I feel like there was never a time in the house where I didn’t hear you singing. 

AM: There wasn’t a day

SM: A random fucking clip of a song and you’d be singing it. And I mean that’s just childhood for me in a sense. Mom and Dad never told you to quiet down, they just let you sing and maybe that was a good thing. 

JL: I feel like your Dad can sing too.

AM: Both my parents can sing. My mom did theater, my dad sings, and my grandpa was an opera singer. 

JW: So it runs in the family! Sydney sing something for us.

SM: Oh no,

AM: She didn’t get it, 

SM: It does not run. Yeah, it does not run,

AM: It doesn’t run all the way down.

JL: Can you please talk about 1DSingToMe

AM: I plead the fifth.

JW: Let’s hear it. Let’s hear it.

JL: I remember you’d post your fan art and you know, the fanfic, but also from time to time you would post a little singing video on there.

AM: I did post singing videos from time to time on there and people were definitely like, you’re very good. I also posted on Vine.

JW: The media training just came in because we successfully dodged the 1D fan account question

AM: It was a One Direction fan page 

JW: Stan page?

AM: Yeah. Yeah. It was my second job

JL: Which you shared with our two other girlfriends that we’re no longer friends with.

JW: Does she know that? 

AM: That we’re no longer friends? Yeah. I think she’s aware. 

JW: There were a few of you! 

JL: It’s thriving. 

SM: Wait, it has a lot of followers.

JW: “Stuck in my world where the boys actually know I exist.” Do you remember the Imagines

JL: Imagine was a staple in Alexis’s vocabulary. Yeah.

AM: I still refer to daydreams as Imagines. Yeah. We’ll be like, I had an Imagine about this,

JL: We would’ve been in Spanish class, and I’d say your name and I look over at Alexis and then she’d be like, oh my God, I just had the craziest Imagine.

AM: What can I say?

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