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September 4, 2011 :: 10:25am ET
Alex Boyd: From the Blueline to the Crooner

LOS ANGELES -- Based in the entertainment capital of the world, we're always looking for a connection between "the biz" and "the game," whether it's Julie Benz's family having season tickets for the Pittsburgh Penguins or finding out that Taylor Kitsch still plays a pretty mean game of puck in a celebrity league.

To be frank, the connections are usually marginal because while the local hockey teams are both likely to make the playoffs, the Lakers are still the hot ticket in town.

With the NBA season heading toward lockout mode, and Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau now skating at the corner of 11th and Figueroa, maybe the "in Crowd" will have a decided chill come fall.

One dude who will never be accused of faking it is Alex Boyd. He was introduced to Los Angeles hockey fans by virtue of singing the national anthem before a Kings' game late last season. "It was the night they clinched the playoffs, they won in an incredibly wicked shootout," relayed the fan in Alex.

Boyd is one of the newest additions to the RCA Records galaxy of stars, but with different karma he could have been skating for his hometown Washington Capitals.

"I started skating at the age of five, I was an 'ankle biter'," he jokes. "I played until I was 12 and was on a travel team out of Delaware. I had a decision to try for the junior Caps as a left defenseman, but at the same time there was opportunity in the entertainment world. I let out a lot of my aggression and angst as a teenager playing hockey and left it all on the ice playing the game. I do continue to skate here in LA."

Though he admits to being a fan of the Red Wings and Flyers more than the Caps ("I like the aggressive style of play"), he cast his lot with his off-ice passion. The ride he's taken has had as many stops as a journeyman in the minors; he's danced with Debbie Allen on the TV show "Fame," sung with Patti LaBelle and acted alongside Bruce Willis. Having touched every facet of the entertainment world, Boyd gravitated to the music business and at 27-years old has encountered both the joys of the creative process as well as the pitfalls of dealing with the suits.

In the midst of securing this interview Jive Records, the label that was Alex's home, as well as superstars like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, was consolidated into RCA Records, another identity owned by Sony Music Group. Gone in a flash was 25 years of history and sadly, jobs of dozen of staffers. Boyd's single, "Light Up Tonight," has been released, but with the restructuring that comes with consolidation, the release date of his album is now in flux, "a lot of artists send over 30 songs for consideration of release, we were so lucky. We sent 10, including one I did with Common and they took them all," he relates with the hopes that the public will hear them sooner than later.

When the corporate types eventually get it right, you'll hear a smooth and silky voice emanating from this former physical defenseman. While his style of music isn't what you'd normally hear at hockey arenas, Boyd pulls from all genres when crafting his songs.

"If you listen to the arrangements of the songs, you'll hear it all from neo-soul to rock to hip hop, there's even some classical in there. I've spent a lot of time emulating my favorite artists since I was 13. At one point, I WAS a punk rocker, had the 12 inch high spiked shoes that were dyed green," Boyd readily admits.

While he committed to learning as much as he could about many different styles, only recently did he focus his efforts on the one that brought him to record deal and potential stardom.

"It's all come from the influence I had from soul music in Washington, D.C. when I attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts," he recalls.

When we queried him on whether this inner-city experience was a major force in determining his style, he was matter of fact about its impact.

"I grew up in middle class white suburbia and went to a school where there were maybe 10 or 15 white kids," he adds. "I was really immersed in black music; can't get away from it. It's 100% accurate that I'm a function of my environment."

Boyd gives credit for a large amount of traction for his talent to a successful relationship with producer Andy Rose. The moniker 'producer' is the most nebulous term in the music business; it can be as broadly defined as a member of someone's entourage as much as someone who is an impactful creative force in the final product. Boyd easily defines what producer Rose brings to the table, a toolbox that is essential as the lyrics are to the work,

He delves into the relationship by disclosing: "A lot of producers today are essentially 'beat makers.' We come from a different direction; everything we record is live and in my opinion gives us a lot more options to take the songs. Andy also provides a place of security for me, I know that he is going to treat my recordings with the utmost respect; he knows how to present them to make them shine as they should.

"Beyond that, he's the best songwriting collaborator I've ever had. He's truly a partner. Beyond having my best interest at hand, Andy helped me to understand myself. In my early 20s, during the confusion of trying to make something of my life, he helped channel my feelings into these songs and made me the songwriter that I am."

As this will be his first release, the songs are a culmination of years of work and while they vary in tone and tenor, there is a central trait throughout.

"The song with Common on it, 'Between the Lines,' I started writing it eight years ago and it didn't get cut until this year. Some of the songs I've been working on for a long time, while others were created when I walked into the studio and found an incredible hook. What consistent in my song writing is that there are all 100 percent honest narratives from my life and experiences in Los Angeles. We don't fabricate stories; I don't believe that the performance is honest unless it's something that you truly relate to."

The disclosure of the honesty in his creative process dovetailed into a conversation about the music business in general. As our discussion occurred the night following the MTV Video Music Awards, we entered realm of the legitimacy of "stars" versus "talent." Many viewers were turned off by the likes of Lady Gaga dressed in drag as a primary focus of the show, leading industry insiders we know pointing to her as exactly why the music business is in shambles.

Boyd has his thoughts about avoiding the trap that most artists wrestle with. Do you sell out to garner a bigger audience or remain true to your art? His response addressed the reality of selling music, but was simultaneously positive in its tone.

"I'm not afraid of it," he said. "At the end of the day when I go into the studio to record, I'm not able to fake it. You're going to hear if I feel it or not. The perfect example was the VMAs. I think you saw a plethora of reasons this business should be really afraid. But I think we saw one very bright, shining light and a reason that this business should have hope and that's (female vocalist) Adele. It sent tingles down my spine thinking about her performance."

As for working the maze on the business side, he succinctly sums in up in one thought, "If you're making great material, it works itself out."

When the madness of the business raises its head, Boyd always can find refuge in the safe haven of his music.


Alex Boyd's current single, "Light Up Tonight" can be found on iTunes and to learn even more about the man behind the music, visit his official website, www.alexboydmusic.com

MOREAU PAINTS THE ICE RED

I've covered the NHL for a dozen years and last week was the first I'd ever been at a 'paint the ice' event. As the days drag ever so slowly to training camp, I welcomed the opportunity to hit Staples Center where selected Kings fans could help paint the lines on the ice for the upcoming season. Since I draw outside the lines, I deferred the invite the team extended.

There was the never-ending random talk about Drew Doughty's contract situation, but the biggest attraction was a live appearance by the Kings newest acquisition, Ethan Moreau.

The additions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne made rival GMs sit up and take notice that LA head man Dean Lombardi was going for it this season (he may not be done either). With the Kings emerging as a serious contender in the Western Conference, defined by us as winning more than one playoff round, it's sometimes the smaller moves that signal the true feelings a general manager has about his team and the Moreau signing is Exhibit A.

The Kings have the depth in their system to fill a spot in their bottom six that Moreau is ticketed for. Plenty of dudes with speed and skill in their late teens and early 20s that would die to grab a roster spot and the NHL coin that goes with it, but Lombardi chose to go with a 35-year-old veteran coming off an injury racked season the hockey player classifies as "bad luck."

Moreau is as tough as they come, he captained the Edmonton Oilers team that went to the Finals in 2006, wore an "A" in Columbus during his one star-crossed Ohio season and likely supplies a missing ingredient in the Kings' stew.

One team executive puts it this way, "That San Jose game (first round playoff Game 3 in LA) when we were up 4-0 and they came with consecutive goals. We needed someone to step in and say that's enough. Ethan is that kind of player."

Lombardi has always liked this asset, there was much speculation at the trade deadline two seasons ago that Moreau would land in Los Angeles on an expiring deal, but as with most rumors, the reality was far different. This time around, the Kings had a major advantage because while Moreau met with the San Jose Sharks too, he has family and many friends in Southern California.

"It's huge. Outside of Canada, I know more people from here than anywhere else in the world, so it did have some impact on my final decision. I know everyone on the team except for the new acquisitions from Philly," conveying relationships with Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner and Matt Greene that were cultivated in Alberta.

While the off-ice aspects are important, Moreau says the Kings' roster compares favorably to the Cup finalist crew he ran with five years ago. "The criteria in making my decision was No. 1, go to a good team. On paper, we're real close to that (Edmonton Finals) team. We're a very deep roster, if you match our lineup against any other team, it's strong, but it's up to the players to make sure we're ready."

While there was mutual interest on both sides, it wasn't a fait accompli until the player and GM sat down face-to-face. Although Moreau's leadership ability is unquestioned, it wasn't the sole deciding factor from the organization's side of the table.

"(Leadership) was a starting point; if I didn't have that quality I don't think there would have been a discussion," Moreau said. "Dean knows what I did in Edmonton; I was part of that leadership group that went to the Finals. Having said that, the next two questions were, 'can you still play' and 'can you play at the high level where you were a few years ago?' That's the reason I'm here, I can and I wouldn't even attempt to play if I couldn't be at that level. I wouldn't come in if I was just a voice in the locker room, I want to produce."

With two of his last four seasons severely truncated due to injuries, we spoke about how much longer he wants to take the grueling ride through what are basically 100 game seasons in this NHL. Entering his 16th season in the show, Moreau doesn't think the sunset has appeared on the horizon just yet.

"It hasn't crossed my mind NOT to play. Physically, I feel like did when I was 28. It's true, I've had a few rough years, but all my injuries are ones that heal, I have nothing that's degenerative, no bad hips or knees and no concussions. When I don't feel I can compete, my game is all about speed so when I don't think I'm fast, when that goes, I won't play anymore."

When asked if he's given thought to playing into his 40s like the ageless wonder who skates 50 miles south of Staples Center named Teemu Selanne, Ethan says it's not far-fetched. "Teemu's at an elite level and scores a lot of goals, my game is a physical one, but I could see myself playing at 40. It might be a little harder in your 40s, but I love to play. I think the main reason a lot of guys don't play as they age is the amount of work that you have to put in during the off-season, it takes a lot out of you."

With heightened expectations in Los Angeles for the coming season, Moreau says while it's different to play in a market where hockey is not the central focus, it doesn't make his job any easier.

"When you come to your place of work, you're going to prepare the same way regardless of the city. You can't get away from hockey in Edmonton; your privacy is next to nothing. You can't live your normal life without talking about hockey 10 times a day, whether if it's at your kid's school, grocery store or restaurant, you're constantly talking about the team, It's okay, but after awhile, it does wear on you. You don't have as many conversations here, but there's still a passionate fan base and an organization that wants to win."

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine and a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com.
You can also visit Dennis on Twitter.


 

 

Archives:
Jul. 28, 2011 Dean steals the spotlight
Jul. 10, 2011 Silencing the Mantra in LA?
Jul. 07, 2011 The Heat is On
Jun. 28, 2011 Mike Richards enters the Pacific
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