It’s immediately obvious to anyone who hears his work: Alex Isley has spent his entire life surrounded by music. The singer-songwriter mixes all kinds of influences – jazz, classical, R&B, electronic, etc. – on his last album, Worry. And the results will win you over whether you like Solange, Sade or Sarah Vaughan. Take it from Rolling Stone Radio co-host Charlie Cooper.
“Such a vibe,” Cooper said as Isley shared his track, “Such A Thing,” on the final show. “I feel like I could wake up to this every morning.”
Isley joined Cooper and co-hosts Jon Weigell this week for the inaugural edition of Rolling Stone Radio on Amp, the live radio app where you can listen to top artists, creators and athletes spinning their favorite tunes and taking your calls in real time. The musician had recently completed the first US headlining tour of her decade-plus career, so Isley seemed as effervescent as her music when she got a chance to reflect on her summer of performing.
“It was amazing,” Isley said of the dozen tour dates. “It reminded me of how loyal people who listen to my music have been over the years. It passed very, very quickly, so I did what I could to be in the moment because it was gone. There were a few times – and I’m already a bit emo – when I cried on stage. I couldn’t contain myself because there was so much love and energy in every city. I was able to meet and greet and talk with some people and get their stories, “We danced to your song at your wedding” or “You got me through this time in my life”. It was overwhelming, but in a very, very good way.
However, Isley didn’t call to talk just about 2022. If the name didn’t immediately reveal, she’s the daughter of Ernie Isley from the legendary Isley Brothers. As a result, his tastes and inspirations make mixtapes dream, so Isley graciously accompanied Cooper and Weigell through a handful of his all-time favorite tracks during the show’s My Life in 10 Songs segment.
No surprise: Isley’s mix was as expansive and eclectic as the sounds on Worry himself. She started with Anita Baker (“Giving You The Best That I’ve Got”), TonyToneToni (“Anniversary [Extended Version]”), and Jamiroquai (“Manifest Destiny”). It was an opening trio that alluded to a lot of selected tracks for Isley that date back to his childhood, but not always to dad’s record collection. “I listened to Jamiroquai a lot thanks to my mother,” Isley said. “When I think about this list, most of these songs take me back to a simpler time, my childhood. And I often date things based on what grade I was in, so I was in 2nd or 3rd year when I really got to know this LP. I love the song. And there’s so much musicianship in the band, they’re amazing.
When it comes to childhood, Isley has a daughter herself these days, so her My Life in 10 Songs mix had to consider the next generation as well. She added some Christina Aguilera (“Genie In A Bottle”) and SWV (“Weak”) from her own childhood, a classic Isley Brothers track (“For The Love Of You”) for her parents, and then a surprise selection for she. girl – the classic “Moon River” by Henry Mancini.
“My daughter loves ‘Moon River,’ so sometimes I sing to her,” Isley explained. “We also have this huge photo of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in my living room. But my daughter loves this song and she sings it all day, every day. So she also sings “Moon River”.
“I would absolutely support her,” Isley continued when Cooper asked if Isley’s next generation could also get into music professionally. “And I’ll pass on everything I’ve learned as best I can – the bottom line is just that if that’s what you want to do, make sure you really like it. There are parts that can become difficult, of course, but you just have to be patient and gracious to yourself.
Rounding out her stint on the show, Isley dove into this direct Sade influence with “Cherish the Day” (“She’s a big part of my artistry, especially how I write,” Isley said) and then did flex his classical music muscles more. Isley chose pieces by modern French composer Francis Lai (“Vivre Pour Vivre” from the film Love story, that her father often played in the house while she was growing up) and the 18th-century Italian composer Tommaso Giordani (“Caro Mio Ben”). Even though these sounds are not as easy to spot WorryIsley shared with Rolling Stone that they were truly part of his musical DNA.
“When I was a kid, my grandmother on my mom’s side actually trained me classically,” Isley revealed. “I started when I was 12 and made it through college. And that was a big part of me finding my voice. She made sure I did what I needed technically so as not to develop bad habits or do anything that might harm me as a singer.Now over a dozen years into her career, Grandma’s advice and guidance continues to do well do Isley if his recent tour and 2022 album are any indication. It’s not just anyone who can effortlessly fill a room with a chorus like Isley does on “Such A Thing.”
Weigell and Cooper will be back Thursday 10/13 when rapper Smino joins them to share his life in 10 songs on another episode of Rolling Stone Radio (@rollingstone on Amp). Download the Amp app and tune in at 11 a.m. ET. New to Amp? If you want to learn more about the artists and athletes who DJ on Amp and experience their concerts live, head over to onamp.com and just press “play”.