Alex Aiono moved from Northeast Mesa to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment when he was 15. However, the singer/YouTuber will always carry a bit of Phoenix with him.
“I love doing interviews with Arizona-based reporters,” says Aiono, who last lived at Val Vista and McKellips roads.
“I think of lot of other people might not understand how Arizona I am. I grew up in Arizona. I have very specific details about Arizona, like my favorite restaurant. I will always love the Suns. I will always love the Cardinals. I love flexing my Arizona side a bit more.”
Aiono, who has a following of more than 11.6 million, recently released his debut album, “The Gospel at 23.” The eight-song album blends narrative lyrics with urban/hip-hop melodies with a single kick drum, a piano and a West Philadelphia gospel choir.
Now 24, Aiono was inspired by life to record this minimalist record.
“I’ve been in this music industry now since I was 15, when I met my manager and started working,” he says. “Through the years, I’ve lived the life of a teenager turning into a young man under unique circumstances.
“I think being an adult and recognizing the difference between the artist who does whatever’s popular at the time versus people who just speak about their art and do what feels natural to them even if it’s not the most popular thing at the time.”
Instead, he identifies with what connects with him and his fans. He isn’t afraid to share his beliefs and his heart, he adds.
“It wasn’t difficult,” he says. “I’ve been thinking about lyrics throughout the years. They’re not difficult to come up with when they’re just the truth. They’re sometimes easier than coming up with a creative lyric that has nothing to do with who you are.
“I’m committed to my lyrics—where I stand with my mental health, all of my struggles and things I may have not necessarily kept secret but never addressed before. I don’t mean that in an ‘I’m awesome’ way. I’ve just had the courage instilled in me from the amazing team around me.”
For “The Gospel at 23,” Aiono worked with Chris Soper and Jesse Singer of the multiplatinum, Grammy-nominated duo LikeMinds. Aiono has known them since his teen years on Interscope Records, a label, he says, wasn’t ready for him.
“A lot of the writers and producers are writers and producers I’ve known since I was 15,” he says. “Shout out to LikeMinds, Jesse and Chris. We had a longer-term relationship. A lot of the people I collaborated with on this album weren’t the big names, but they were great.”
Since 2012, Aiono has been steadily expanding a global fanbase. After nearly 1 billion views, 500 million streams, Top 10 hits of his own, sold-out world tours, starring movie roles and crafting songs for other platinum artists, he embraced his calling as a multihyphenate creator on his 23rd birthday.
While living in Arizona, Aiono was hoping to create a career like his. He skipped so many rehearsals for a school musical at Heritage Academy in Downtown Mesa that he was kicked out of it, he says with a laugh. Instead, he was in LA for meetings and traveling to Utah for “mini performances.”
“I found out while I was on the road that I was nixed from it,” says Aiono, who also lived in Chandler and Gilbert. A foodie at heart, he frequented Joe’s Barbecue in Downtown Gilbert during his time there.
After Interscope, he went independent, like Donald Glover and Chance the Rapper. Dedicated to pushing “The Gospel at 23,” Aiono has stopped looking at numbers.
“I really am passionate about this music,” he says. “I don’t care how it performs. The level that I have with the music now, I’ve never had with any of the music I did before. Previously, I wanted the music to do well. If it didn’t, I started thinking maybe it’s not a good song.
“I’m so proud of the people I worked with. It’s a fun, free feeling that I don’t have to worry about. I just want whoever listens to it to feel something.”
In his next chapter, Aiono will star in Netflix’s “Finding Ohana,” produced by Ian Bryce (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Almost Famous”). He launched the debut episode of his first podcast series, titled “Alex Aiono: Let’s Get Into It,” earlier in July on iHeartRadio. On this highly bingeable podcast, Aiono is joined by friends, sexperts, therapists, influencers, actors and comedians to discuss a variety of topics, like love, lust, addiction, heartbreak, grief and fears. New episodes are available each Tuesday.
Now he’s looking for a new house in California, where he formerly lived in Santa Monica and West LA.
“If you know a good Realtor, let me know,” he says with a laugh.
Alex Aiono, alexaiono.com, https://bit.ly/2Xgzd7c.