Alexa Lash and the Heartbreak Behind “Heartbreak in Movements”

We break our own hearts. Our self-doubts, our conjuring of the horrible things that might happen if we take a risk, the fear of rejection— we are the conductors of our sadness and our heartbreak, and I wanted to turn those complicated feelings into music (albeit somewhat coincidental). Enter Heartbreak in Movements.

Heartbreak in Movements is a journey through five major feelings associated with heartbreak: disappointment, questioning, bargaining, release, and reminiscence. When I saw the invisible line of connectivity across the songs for Heartbreak, I knew this album had to be special, something unique from anything else I had been listening to in this era of sped-up tracks and heavy production. I heard the strings in my head. I felt the cello deep in my belly. The violin lifting the notes upward in ways I still didn’t understand. The piano felt like a new home, and the songs pulled my voice in a direction it hadn’t ventured before. Plus, I wanted that sound that only strings can give you. I’d grown up obsessed with Tchaikovsky and Debussy, filtering through old classical music CDs from my grandparent’s house and from random bin purchases at FYE. A piano and strings EP was the decision from the beginning of this album’s inception, and that decision never swayed.

What a lot of people don’t know is how long an album can take to record, even if it’s just 5 songs. I started the recording process in December of 2021 with the piano and vocals for “Weak,” the second song on the EP. The songs weren’t completed and sent for mastering until August of 2022.

The timing of these recordings happily coincided with two events that, luckily, motivated me to get these tracks finished. The first was witnessing Nu Deco Ensemble featuring Masego that same December, and then Björk Orkestral in early 2022. Two instances of artists working in a classical setting, a hybrid of styles that created something magical. So the process was this: record the piano and vocals for all five songs, then write the music for the strings, present the music to the string players who create the sheet music, bring the string players in to record, wait on final mixes, send mixes to be mastered, and then do everything else in preparation for a release. It sounds like a lot, right? It is a lot. And so this recording process, though similar to my previous releases, has not only taken longer but has been incredibly educational.

A Unique Release

Beyond the fact that this is a piano and strings album, there are three qualities about this release that make it exceptionally unique:

The first is that it’s homegrown Miami. The songs were recorded at Shack North in Hialeah, FL and the string sections were crafted with Ferny Coipel, engineer, producer, and all-around kind human being (insert any other positive word here and it will probably apply to him). Once the strings were established, we brought in two amazing Miami-based string players: violinist Belinda Stohner and cellist Jose Pradas, who both play across the city at events, weddings, and in projects of their own. Additionally, the EP was mastered by Zach Ziskin. And the cover and accompanying art was designed by South Florida-based artist, Jacqueline Lesik (if you’ve ever seen a custom flyer for Kill Your Idol, that’s her work).

The second unique point is that this album is acoustically organic, which is a fancy way of saying that the piano and strings were recorded in an open room with sound hitting air before hitting a microphone. These aren’t digital instruments, these are real Miami players who brought their unique personalities to each track. Also, the vocals are as pure as you’re going to get—just a little reverb and whole lot of passion.

The third unique thing about this album is the way in which some of these vocals were recorded. Many of the song vocals were recorded in the dark, at the piano, pretending to play along to the track. Lights on and lights off. It was a constant and continued experiment. The days when I felt self-conscious about my playing, when I needed to block out the world, were often the days I felt the biggest need to play with the lights off.

A Constant Battle with Imposter Syndrome

Which really brings me here. To the elephant in the proverbial room. The real heartbreak at the heart of my songwriting. What everyone doesn’t know is that this album was a direct response to my growing imposter syndrome, which, coupled with a pretty healthy case of anxiety, has been one of the most difficult parts of being an active singer-songwriter, and even in developing professional relationships with other artists.

Look, it’s a weird thing to talk about. It’s already a strange enough experience to have to prove you’re decent at anything. But to simultaneously prove you’re a good songwriter, while feeling deep down you’re a fraud and don’t deserve to be on a stage in the first place? And then to pretend like that feeling doesn’t exist? To keep it to yourself because, well, you might come off as weak or green? It’s just…a lot.

And so Heartbreak was an active form of self-love. This is a musical snapshot of where I’ve been and where I’m going. I can look at this finished work and say “Hey, Alexa. LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE MADE!” I’m not out here trying to be a celebrity. I’m just trying to remind myself, while reminding everyone else that if you don’t at least try to do what you love, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

One of the songs touches on it briefly. In Miracle, track 3, toward the end of the song the lyric is this: “I’ll admit it really took some time to tell anyone that I’m not doing well. Feeling guilty for this privileged life, who am I to say that I feel like hell?” That’s really the gist of it: I’m not feeling great sometimes. But I keep it to myself because other people have it worse than I do.

It hasn’t cured my self-doubt, but this EP has taught me gratitude. The many people who have come together because they believed in my vision, liked my music and wanted to help me get it out into the world…I can look at each song now with a different kind of affection and even some of the lyrics have had new meaning now over almost a year since my initial recordings of them. And for anyone who was ever curious—what I hope for more than anything with this album, is that it makes you feel, that it draws out of the listener a sense of, I’ve been there and I know what you mean.

The Songs on Heartbreak in Movements

I’ll be honest, I don’t sit at an instrument and think, “today I’m going to write a sad song about love.” Nor did I ever think I’d write an album featuring piano (I only started learning in late 2020). The way I write varies: did an idea come to me in the car? Was I learning a new chord and playing with possible progressions? Did I collaborate with a new musician? Situational factors always affect how a song comes into being – and in this case, I breathed new life into a song I wrote for the ukulele in November of 2018, which complemented four songs I wrote across the last few years.

Disappointment, questioning, bargaining, release, and reminiscence.

“Not Fine,” explores heartbreak through the lens of self. It’s about facing the origins of disappointment and coming to terms with overcoming these struggles to get to a healthier place to love. This song also speaks to my relationship with music and the part it plays in my healing overall.

“Weak” directly speaks to emotional toxicity and coming to acceptance with an unhealthy relationship. It’s a story of a woman (i.e., me) who is questioning the reality of love: “Is this what love’s supposed to feel like?” And after evaluating the moments in the relationship, the way it makes her feel, her answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” This song is a coming to terms, a realization, a self-discovery – and ultimately, a chance to move forward.

“Miracle” is a portrait of a toxic relationship that is being held together by someone who is fighting the realities of its toxicity. This song lyrically calls back to the first track, “Not Fine,” but was motivated by the need for a “miracle to make it all OK.” It’s about the combination of pain and surrender we face when we’re stuck in something we know isn’t right for us and are bargaining for a way to make it better.

“Let Her Move On” is a breakup anthem – a call to a partner to let the relationship go. It’s a mini-history, the background of a woman who had a hard time establishing healthy boundaries because of her past, but who has found her independence. It’s an acknowledgment that a relationship is over, and that “the past serves as the best excuse for why you can’t end up with a woman like me.” This song is an emotional evolution, a display of personal growth.

The long-awaited release of “MIA” (the ukelele song from 2018) is a story of a love that’s long since been over. It’s about nostalgia and reminiscing on a past you looked back at without anger. “Do you ever think of MIA, whenever you’re in NYC? And when you hear a voice like mine on the train sometimes, do you think of me?” It’s a mental meandering and a little insight into nostalgic feelings towards a love lost.

Heartbreak in Movements hit all streaming platforms on Friday, March 17, 2023, with a music video for “Weak” set for release on March 31st. We’ll be celebrating the release on April 28th at Bar Nancy Miami.

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Alexa Lash

Alexa Lash is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Miami, Florida. Outside of music, she is a professional in the brand naming industry, working on brand naming across disciplines and industries.