Raised between Westchester, New York and Martha’s Vineyard, actress, musician, and chef Lexie Roth came up around era-defining musicians. Her father, virtuosic guitarist Arlen Roth, performed and recorded with the best artists of his generation, including Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, The Bee-Gees, and Phoebe Snow.
Carrying the weight of her inherited mantle of American music traditions, the multi-dimensional artist employs sage wisdom blended with contemporary influence in her own soul-inflicted music. Her new song, “Western Skies,” she says, is “not exactly my story, but also relates to my experience of loss.”
When Roth was 10 years old, she lost her mother, Deborah, and older sister, Gillian, in a fatal car accident on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. Gillian, 14 years old, was an actress, a model, and a guitarist like her father.
“So then it was just me and my dad,” Roth continues. She addresses witnessing her father’s dating life as a young girl, seeing him with other women in a line: They all lay pale in my place. “I was like his romance coach at a tiny age,” she laughs. “I wasn’t afraid to say ‘You’ve got to go,’ whenever there was fighting or dramatic women.”
She diffused this story in her new song “Western Skies” through the lens of a rancher, raising three kids after losing his wife. She explains, “He’s typically a macho guy on the outside, but really kind of shows his sensitivity and that everyone is just trying to do their best. It’s a story I wanted to tell without telling my own—because I have done that in the past. And I wanted it to be more like a storytelling piece.”
After spending a significant time on the west coast and on the road driving across the country—a trek she’s made over six times now—Roth discovered a muse for her lyrical translation.
“There is a certain innate grief that comes over me when driving through small desolate towns,” says Roth. “I wanted to imagine what my personal pain would feel like through the lens of a husband being widowed by his beloved wife and being left to raise their children without her. I wanted to depict how moving it is for him to see her.”
With the help of her father on the slide guitar, Roth closes the gap between earthly grief and the spiritual word throughout this celestial track. Her characteristically brazen vocals oscillate between lullaby-like melodies and piercing high notes. Textured harmonies, paired with her father’s playful guitar riffs exhibit an exceptional bond they share as the loved ones that fate left behind.
Her dear friend and fellow Vineyard dweller, Willy Mason, lent his “Leonard Cohen-like” vocals to the song, further evoking the ethereal soundscape she set out to portray. “He’s just so evocative with his voice, with this lonesome, mournful sound. I think it was a perfect fit,” Roth says.
A forthcoming music video, shot during the pandemic, wields certain “Western” looking landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard’s unique topography to bring the story to life on screen. It features a “brooding, handsome dad” with his children, and Roth plays the role of the mother who has passed, but remains near in spirit, visiting her earthly family.
The track follows a previous 2021 song, “Girlfriend.” Released as a single, the tune marks a full-circle moment in her personal life. She penned “Girlfriend” a few years back as a love song to herself before she met her now partner, Eva. “I wrote that one thinking ‘Man, I wish someone would write a song like this for me,” says Roth. “And then it became a funny, natural progression. I am now with the love of my life, and she is my girlfriend. And now, it just makes sense.”
Like “Western Skies,” Roth feels strongly about “Girlfriend,” and other songs serving as “their own entities.” She cites shortened attention spans of the social media age, and the slow demise of the traditional record cycle, saying, “singles are what people look for.”
These two tracks follow sonic-suit from her latest EP, Move Me. Moving away from her earlier bluesy-folk sound, Roth’s recent work evokes more of a synth-pop vibe.
“Writing songs is a vital need for my soul, to express myself in that way,” says Roth. “But I also want to listen to it and be like, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ I feel that way now, especially about my last EP. When that comes on, I actually really enjoy it and just the energy behind it.”
In tandem with her sonic evolution, Roth shifted her storytelling from narrative to an abstract approach. This allows for a different type of emotional processing. As an actor, as well as a musician, she has always been interested in storytelling.
“It just accesses a different part of my mind,” she says. “I love stepping in someone else’s shoes, doing characters and comedies. I love scratching that itch. And there’s always some truth in fiction, gathering from life experience.”
Listen to Lexie Roth’s new song, “Western Skies,” below.