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October 2015 - Alex Mendenall

Archaeology & Acoustic Guitars: A Tale of Dinosaurs & Musical Paths

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Alex MendenallWhat was planned to be a life full of velociraptors, tyrannosaurus rexes and archaeological digs, took a seriously different turn for 23 year old Alex Mendenall. The Mason native spent his entire life enjoying history and planning to pursue the path of archaeology.

“Growing up, I was obsessed (still am) with dinosaurs and paleontology,” Mendenall said. “That was what I wanted to do right up until applying for college.”

But just as the student was busy unveiling old bones, and sources of lives long since passed, so was he uncovering a new discovery- his future in music. He had grown up dancing around to Frank Sinatra, played music in sixth grade, been in concert band and performed the alto saxophone with his family band, Coolidge. Music was never really ‘the plan’ though. Mendenall was comfortable going along with life on the path laid before him the traditional track: high school, college, work, retirement. All that changed after he lost his father. Suddenly, life’s big picture became much clearer.

“In my second year at MSU, in November of 2011, my dad passed away and that changed everything for me. I suddenly understood the value of time and how short life really is,” he said. “My dad’s passing taught me to never hurry through things; be present in every moment and take advantage of every opportunity.”

Perhaps the best lesson he learned from loss was to “live incredibly", Mendenall’s current mantra on life. The student began spending more time learning chords on the dusty acoustic guitar he had been given when he was 14. He focused on writing songs and fronted the group Phantom Fundamental with his high school buddies. During senior year of college, while peers and professors were discussing grad school, Mendenall was focused on performing music. Fast-forward to 2015 and the folk singer-songwriter is doing music full-time. Mendenall describe his ‘hard-to-pin-down sound'.

“I take elements of soul like jazzy and extended chords, interesting progressions, and expressive melodies and combine them with the earthy, heartfelt feel and storytelling of folk music,” he said.
Alex Mendenall
Plans change, and turns out, he is not for the traditional plans society set for the 23-year-old.

“I struggle with the monotony and rigidity of traditional jobs as I know many others do,” he said. “I just have this innate hunger for freedom and it’s really almost debilitating when every facet of society dictates for you to be still and unchanging.”

Plenty of changes have taken place since Alex’s musical debut. Starting out in a family band, transitioning to a frontman, then going solo could have been enough for an entire album worth of content. But the story continues, with Alex then performing as a folk pop duo with Rachel & Alex, and now returning back to a solo artist. Having met Rachel Curtis in December of 2013, they became a duo in February, wrote and released their EP, Nights Like These and played incredible festivals. Alex spoke about being part of the popular duo and now, moving on.  “We were both happy and surprised with the very positive reception we received and enjoyed tremendous support,” Mendenall said.

The success and support made it hard for the duo to continue on separate ways. “At the end of the day, I think we reached a point where we were ready for something fresh and exciting again, just as the duo was when it started.”

Currently working on his third EP, Mendenall’s craving for adventures has taken him plenty of places on tour. His travels and experiences have led to material he’s most proud of. Armed with his anthropology and archaeology studies, the singer songwriter is thankful for his arts and sciences background. “I think it’s so important to learn things like culture and history and the scale of the universe,” he said.

After a 2-week summer tour across Appalachia and New England, the singer found himself amongst many brand new experiences. “From getting lost and wandering around Charlottesville, Virginia at 3 a.m. to seeing a midnight NYC skyline and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; the tour was life changing,” Mendenall said, “and I hope to spend the rest of my life doing it.”


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