The Real Live Fairytale of Alexander Jean
FINE magazine interviews Mark Ballas and BC Jean of Alexander Jean before they rock the House of Blues.
Mark Ballas and BC Jean
It’s a classic fairytale, one everyone knows by heart. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they… form an indie music duo? Or something like that, right?
For new duo Alexander Jean, that romantic—if slightly off-kilter—love story certainly rings true. Guitarist Mark Ballas and singer BC Jean have teamed up to form a new duo taking the world—and the charts—by storm. Their debut single, “Roses and Violets,” hit #6 on the overall iTunes chart, and #1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart after its release in late 2015. Now, on the cusp of releasing their second single, Alexander Jean will be performing at the House of Blues in San Diego on February 19th.
Neither Ballas nor Jean is a stranger to the spotlight; Ballas is a Dancing with the Stars alum, and Jean’s writing credits include the song “If I Were a Boy,” which was recorded and sensationalized by Beyonce in 2008. This is the song that essentially launched Jean’s career, and she still describes it as an almost surreal experience. “The fact that [Beyonce] is singing lyrics about something so personal to me was bizarre,” Jean admitted. “The coolest experience I remember is when someone sent me a Youtube link to a live performance, and there were thousands of people and everyone was singing the song. That moment was just epic.”
It was a well-earned moment. “If I Were a Boy” was one of the top-played songs of 2009. The single showcases Jean’s songwriting strengths, which she brings to duo Alexander Jean. BC Jean is the lyricist of the pair, and she is constantly writing poems, song titles, and lyrics. Her words are soulful and often transcend the fad of the moment, but according to partner Mark Ballas, that’s just how BC Jean is. “There are few artists out right now that give me that timeless vibe, and that’s something that BC does,” he explained.
If you think Ballas sounds like a proud boyfriend when he describes BC Jean, then you’d be right. While Alexander Jean is making waves in the music world, that isn’t the only fairytale in town. Ballas and Jean not only engage in creating catchy songs together, but they are also engaged to be married. In fact, the couple met at a singer-songwriter night in 2012 where they both performed, and their first encounter was the very definition of a classic meet-cute. Said Ballas, “When I got there it was packed and BC was singing live. But I couldn’t see her; I could only hear her. I remember being mesmerized by her voice… I turned to my cousin and said ‘that is a serious, serious God-given gift.’ The sound of her voice reminded me of Janis [Joplin] a little bit, so I was expecting to see someone that looked like Janis Joplin. I wasn’t expecting to see this beautiful blonde, young chick… She ended up staying to watch my performance. After she finished playing, I felt compelled to go and say hello and introduce myself.”
Mark Ballas and BC Jean began dating long before Alexander Jean’s inception, not that BC Jean initially wanted to date Ballas at all. “I was on a different path, I wasn’t looking for a relationship,” she explained. “So he really wanted to go out for dinner or something, and I agreed to get some drinks and see how it went. I drove myself—no commitment, I didn’t want to make any promises—and then he ended up being a really cool guy. The chemistry kept growing very quickly.”
And to think, she almost never gave her now-fiancé a chance; Jean originally turned Ballas down. “I wanted to take her out, but she kind of wanted to work together [instead],” Ballas chuckled. “She blew me off for a couple of months, but eventually she agreed to let me take her out!”
“Yep, we went out for Taco Tuesday,” Jean added. “We had tacos and margaritas. We’ve been together pretty much since.”
So how did the couple make the transition from having a purely romantic relationship to performing together? “About a year and a half into our relationship, we said ‘you know, we should sit down together on the couch and write a song, like with a bottle of wine and notebook paper,’” Jean said. “Old school, like Nashville style. That’s kind of what started the duo.” The pair works hard to keep their music sounding raw and real, and they collaborate 50/50 on writing their songs. Ballas generally creates the guitar riffs and melodies, while BC Jean crafts the lyrics.
This writing style clearly works for them. Alexander Jean produces catchy songs using only live instruments; there are no computer generated sounds or other staples of modern pop music. Jean has a beautiful, soulful voice that bewitches the audience and pairs well with Ballas’s strong melodies. This combination led to the success of their first hit “Roses and Violets,” which is almost heartbreaking to hear.
If “Roses and Violets” is the heartbroken honey in Alexander Jean’s repertoire, then their new single “Thief” is the angry best friend. Guests to the San Diego House of Blues on February 19th will get to hear “Thief” performed live before it becomes available on iTunes on March 11th. “[Thief] is really sexy, and it’s super catchy,” Jean said of their new single. “I think it has a really fun energy and powerful lyrics. I think people are going to want to sing along.” She could very well be right; “Thief” boasts the same powerhouse vocals Alexander Jean is known for but with a catchy, can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head melody that will have the entire House of Blues singing in the shower the following morning.
And in what better city to ensnare the minds of their audience than in San Diego, BC Jean’s hometown? She grew up in the Carmel Valley area, and even went to Torrey Pines High School for a year. It’s that hometown connection that has Jean excited to play at our local House of Blues. “It’s been a year since I’ve performed in San Diego,” she explained, “so it’ll be good to hopefully see some familiar faces… It’s my first HoB show, and I’m really excited that it’s going to be in my hometown.” As are we all; Alexander Jean is known for performing a really fun, raw set with lots of chemistry and a really big sound, which is especially remarkable when you consider that the duo is just that: a duo.
“People are always impressed by how big it sounds for two people,” Ballas noted. “The way we do it, it fills the room and it feels big, and BC’s voice live really is incredible.” His voice dripped with the sweetest amount of sap and affection for BC Jean as he said it, but that doesn’t make his words any less true: BC Jean’s voice is gorgeous, and Alexander Jean is sure to rock the House of Blues this upcoming Friday.
Yes, Ballas and Jean have a fairytale romance on their hands and a trip down the aisle in their future, but they also are at the brink of a fairytale career. You can follow Alexander Jean on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t forget to check out their show at the San Diego House of Blues downtown on February 19th. Doors open at 7pm, and the performance starts at 8pm. Don’t miss what is sure to be a dynamic show!