Powerful, prophetic, determined: there are many adjectives that could be given to Colorado-based musician Xanthe Alexis. A self-aware woman, mother of two, accomplished musician and counselor, Alexis is a staple of her community, both at home and a bit of a rising star in the national Americana scene, and now that she's back on the road again, she reflects on the past, the present and the future.
One of five siblings, Alexis was born outside the Apache Reservation in the Superstitions Mountains near Mesa, Arizona. With a rich heritage of Greek and French Native roots, her family settled in the small town of Portland, Michigan.
"I grew up with a keen awareness of sheltered Middle America," she says. "My mom was the only ethnic person in town, and we witnessed a lot of prejudice. Natives, by far, are on the lowest rung amongst people of color."
Even though she was raised primarily by her mother, Alexis found artistic influence through both of her parents, being introduced to artists like Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt by her mom and receiving an acoustic guitar from her father in her late teens. Her high school years allowed her to branch into musical theater productions like Annie and Sweet Charity; a self-taught musician, Alexis began writing her own songs by the time she was 19.
The first breakthrough was becoming a protege of musician Barry Wedgle, whose credentials include touring with Harry Belafonte.
"He was a well known guitarist and hosted an open mic," Alexis recalls. "He taught me everything—especially how to lead a band and carry an audience."
When it comes to touring, Alexis says things run more smoothly now than in her early days. She remembers her first tour with four other men, including semi-regular Santa Fe visitor and singer-songwriter Ashley Rains.
"That tour taught me a lot," she recalls. "I had to learn to be resilient and professional, and most importantly, how to hold my own against anyone. We were all friends before, but things got really harsh."
It was a similar story with another early project known as The Hopeful Heroines.
"We wouldn't speak sometimes while touring," she tells SFR. "You could be a literal saint, and still lose it on the road."
And it's been a long road. Over the last few years, Alexis lost a sister, left a painful marriage and wound up raising two boys on her own; one 19 and in college, the other 15 and an aspiring musician himself. She's also set about conquering personal demons.
"My father was an alcoholic, and he wasn't around. I became a closet drinker, myself, and I used it to medicate a lot of pain," Alexis says. "I realized that if I didn't set the drink down now, I would've lost the reins on my life."
These days, Alexis and her mother run a healing center in Colorado Springs, dealing specifically with Somatic Trauma Resolutions.
"We work on retraining the nervous system from a fight or flight position, to a position of calm, allowing our patients to heal," she explains. "We encounter the faces people carry, but don't normally show to the public."
Such growth is obvious on Alexis' newest album, The Offering. It might be her greatest musical achievement yet—raw, honest and ready to criticize
America's political climate.
"Since the 2016 election, I've seen a shift in music listening," Alexis points out. "We as musicians are cultural narrators, and we need a strong message of unity more than ever."
The song "Siren" is especially reflective of this notion. Percussive elements and low bass notes accompanying Alexis' soft yet urgent voice and a grim tone.
"People speak about this general feeling of anxiety and fear now, almost going back to what we saw in the '60s and '70s," she says. "We need to be brave again. We need to speak out."
Elsewhere in her new music, Alexis' profession carries through.
"I want to help soothe people," she says. "These songs are about faith and divine health. I want to touch [the audience]."
Now celebrating three years of sobriety, she finds the newfound sense of
clarity invaluable to her writing process.
"Every artist fears you lose the muse with sobriety," she notes. "I'm more open, now. The safety net has been lost with my sobriety and songwriting. There are no walls, just open doors."
7 pm Friday Sept. 20. Free.
Leaf & Hive,
1208 Mercantile Road Ste. A,