The Writer’s Block: Parisalexa on Writing for Normani, Herself and Others

For anyone who has tried, it’s difficult to write a song.

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And it can be even more difficult to write songs for other people. Not only do you have to craft lyrics (or music) that work, but you often have to interview an artist or channel them, or… who knows what. It can all be so challenging.

But one artist who has mastered the craft is the Los Angeles-based R&B artist Parisalexa.

Paris, who has been featured on the NBC competition show Songland, also recently wrote the verse for artist Normani on the newly released track “Don’t They,” a remix by Josh Levi that featured Normani.

Here, we catch up with Paris to ask her about her process when it comes to writing for others, how she worked with Normani and how she keeps her solo career distinguished from her collaborative one.

American Songwriter: How did you get to be in the position to work with artists like Normani? Obviously, you’re very talented and you work hard, but do these opportunities come from signing with a publisher, appearing on Songland, or establishing relationships with artists some other way—all of the above?

Parisalexa: Honestly, it starts with a love and dedication to the craft. That’s how I was first noticed and I maintained strong relationships over the years through whatever opportunities arose. A lot of my craziest sessions I got on my own before being published by networking on social media or industry friends that believed in me. 

American Songwriter: How do you approach writing a verse for an artist like Normani? Is there an interview process, or ZOOM meeting? Or do you channel what you know about them through their work and interviews you’ve read?

Parisalexa: She’s super sweet and it’s just easy for me to work with other women of color because all of us think alike in a lot of ways. So we chatted a bit on the phone and I knew Josh [Levi] from working together years before. Having some type of connection definitely made everything smooth, especially when it came to making tweaks and edits. Also because it was a feature remix, I really wanted to make sure the lyric catered to the subject of the original song. 

American Songwriter: Do you have to throw away a lot to get to the diamonds that you eventually send off to the artist?

Parisalexa: I’d love to believe that every good song will eventually find its home, so even if the artist you have in mind doesn’t end up taking a record, there’s still potential life in it. You may just have to be creative and think outside the box. Being an artist and songwriter allows me the occasional luxury to choose if I love a song enough to keep it or give it away. 

American Songwriter: How do you balance your own ambitions and aims and solo career with working for/with other artists? Do you save lines, and ideas for yourself, or do you just write on a case-by-case basis?

Parisalexa: If it’s personal enough to me, I keep it. But sometimes it’s case-by-case because someone else with a larger fanbase singing your emotionally charged song could actually change your life. 

American Songwriter: What’s next for you? Continuing to work for other artists, building your solo career? Is one more important than the other?

Parisalexa: Living in L.A. has allowed me to turn many people I always wished I could work with into my peers. I’m taking my time with my solo stuff because so much of my creative structure has changed within the last year. It’s scary doing more stuff by yourself but it feels closer to my heart like I have a hand in every single thing that happens with my career, I’m super proud of that. 

American Songwriter: What do you love most about simply writing songs?

Parisalexa: I love that there are no rules. This is an emotion game. You don’t make a good song by trying to be cool. You make the best songs by shining a light on the things you’re normally too scared to say or feel. I love that songwriting provides a place for that little voice in the back of everyone’s heads to be heard, without shame and without judgement. It’s just art. 

Photo courtesy Parisalexa

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