We had the good fortune of connecting with Alex Rhodes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alex, why did you pursue a creative career?
I was in corporate marketing for about 18 years, and I had a pretty stable, steady life even though I had bounced around from financial marketing to working at the CO Symphony to media, and even a music therapy company. I always wanted to work for a unique company that involved music.
But bigger than that, I always had that voice in my head, that question – “could I create full-time, be an artist AND make money?” Songs and melodies are always in my head. It’s like a happy illness I can’t shake. I thought everyone had the same thing, but around 37-years-old, I realized that’s not the case.
While discussing the merits of musicals with some co-workers at lunch one day, I was surprised to learn that one person in particular didn’t like musicals because she thought they were too unrealistic for people to carry out their lives in song.
“Alex was literally just singing a song about making his sandwich in the kitchen,” one person pointed out.
It was true. It’s true at probably any part of the day. I’m usually making songs up about whatever it is I’m doing.
Turns out, I have voices in my head.
I had toyed with music before, playing coffee shops and open mics, but I wanted more.
I have a wife and kids, so it’s not like I could just say, “Well, honey. I’m packing up and hitting the road.” It took some serious conversations about money and lifestyle, and a spouse who is unbelievably supportive.
Since leaving the corporate world, I’ve realized how supremely unhappy I was in the work I was doing. I worked with some really smart, inspiring and fun folks, but the work was draining.
So, I pursued a creative career to preserve my own sanity and my family’s sanity. I’m a much happier person, a better husband and a better dad since I’ve made that switch.
Sure, there are still tough days, and the financial piece has been a not-so-easy target for the past year, but overall things are much better.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I write and play upbeat, down-home Americana music.
I’m from a small, rural town in North Carolina, and I moved to Denver, Colorado in 2003. With my music, I aim to find the intersection between small town life and metro living – where the gravel and the pavement meet, if you will. We all have different experiences, but the themes in our lives are relatively the same. When I can find words and music to express that in a way that feels good and makes sense to people in the country and the city, I’m doing my job well.
The hard part, honestly is just doing it. I have been pretty fortunate in life. My parents paid for me to go a great school, I graduated, and had a pretty good career in the corporate marketing world. It just didn’t fulfill me. What does fulfill me is creating and being around other creatives. So, how do you go from a steady, well-paying career with a pretty well-defined trajectory to a creative career with no guarantees? Well, it’s simple, but not easy – you just go do it. Believe it’s going to work out, surround yourself with positive people moving int he same direction and seek opportunities that get where you want to go. That, and I sit silently for at least 15 minutes a day (more if my kids will let me), and attempt to turn my brain off for a while.
I believe everyone should walk around with a song in their head. It makes life more fun, and if you’re having fun, you spread it around.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Okay, so we must first attempt the spring Colorado day: We meet at Union Station and grab dinner.
Then we drive up to Georgetown and stay in a house by the river with a campfire ring – you know, campfires, music, etc.
Wake up early, listen to the sounds of the river, grab some breakfast.
Maybe drive up the Guanella Pass and try fishing for a moment.
Drive to A Basin, park on the beach, get a couple good runs in, make some friends.
Leave a little early and back down I-70 to Denver.
Grab the bikes, ride through Wash Park and catch the Cherry Creek Trail downtown.
I’m old school, so we grab lunch at Wynkoop Brewery, then ride bikes over to Denver Beer Co.
From there, we ride to a Rockies game: hot dogs, peanuts, drinks, Dippin Dots (the ice cream of the future!)
Guess what? I have tickets to a show at the Bluebird. Boom! We ride over to Goosetown, have a drink, then go to the show.
Tired yet? Me neither, let’s grab late night food at Jerusalem on the way home.
We’re tired, so we sleep in until around 9, grab breakfast and coffee at Duffey Roll, then go to our float tank appointments at Easy Float on S. Pearl St. It eases the mind and body after a long day. You gotta take care of yourself.
Hungry? Me too. We split a sandwich at Quiero Arepas on S. Pearl.
Alright, let’s run over to Ruby Hill and throw frisbee
Afternoon coffee at Kaladi on S Broadway. I see Post Chicken and Beer, and make a note to do dinner there at least once while my friend is in town.
And it’s South Broadway, so my friend is going to need to pick up his/her essential “rations” for the week at a shop while there.
And then we see what kinds of weird stuff we can find in antique shops on S Broadway.
Snooze for breakfast.
Read the Westword while we wait.
Then catch the Light Rail downtown for a few brewery tours and expensive drinks at Peaks Lounge, but oh, that view. We side track over to Bull & Bush, then check out a Rugby match at Infinity Park.
It’s been a full day of drinking and eating, so we lay low and grab dinner at Park Burger.
Breakfast at Waffle Brothers. Get the sampler.
Ride up to St. Mary’s glacier. Hike and ski back down, then stop at Tommy Knocker Brewery in Idaho Springs.
Stop by Buffalo Bill’s grave in Golden, then hit the Coors Brewery tour and have lunch on Main St. Golden.
The mountain bikes are loaded in the car, so we ride Matthews Winters park.
Hmmmm, I wonder who is playing Red Rocks tonight…doesn’t matter. Let’s get tickets.
Red Rocks show!
Breakfast at Maria Empanada
My friend is dying to go to Casa Bonitas, and while I’ve tried to talk him/her out of it, we end up there. We avoid food poisoning, and it’s a pretty good time.
We check out some of the shops on West Colfax.
Dinner at Brutal Poodle on S Broadway
Check out who is playing at The Roxy on S Broadway or maybe Hi-Dive
Grab some snacks at Sputnik
End up at Kentucky Inn late night
Punch Bowl for breakfast.
Play some games.
Grab ice cream at Sweet Action. Isn’t it too early for ice cream? Um, no.
Hang out on the deck at the Irish Rover.
Who is playing Globe Hall tonight? What about The Walnut Room or One Up?
Peek in the shops on S Broadway.
Check out the art shops on Santa Fe.
Dinner at Uchi
Denver Biscuit Company for breakfast
I’m exhausted, well fed and behind on work, so I wish my friend well.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh man, there are a ton of people who deserve credit and a shoutout! I’ll try to narrow it down.
My dad taught me to play guitar and to love music. Like a lot of father/son relationships, we had moments where we didn’t see eye to eye, but if one of us picked up a guitar, so would the other, and pretty soon all was forgiven.
Stephen Pressfield, author of “The War of Art.” I have it on Audible so I can listen to it like a pep talk when I get down.
I think every music teacher in America should make $1 mil/year. Mrs. Windley and Mr. Pilson, you both made music fun for me as a kid, and I appreciate it. We’ll keep working on the $1 mil.
Keith Sigel and Joel Turner were the leaders in my first band. I learned a ton from them and I still record and keep in touch with them.
Chris Kresge, Radio DJ and curator for The Colorado Playlist. He cuts the crap and tells you like it is.
My wife, Susanne. No one is more understanding, encouraging and steadfast in the belief that if people share their talents, things will work out.
All photos by Adam Houseman (Denver)