For BC Jean, the most essential element in songwriting is sincerity. “It’s being honest with the lyrics so that people can relate to them no matter what they’re going through,” she says. “It’s taking something super simple and making it interesting.”
Now as one half of the duo Alexander Jean with singer/songwriter Mark Ballas, Jean is riding the wave of an evocative power pop ballad, “Roses and Violets,” a song she co-wrote at a writing camp with “Wrecking Ball” collaborator Stephan Moccio.
As Jean and Ballas add to their body of work with their own co-writes, Jean says that an organic approach serves them well. “Mark comes up with different guitar riffs, and he plays them daily. Eventually one of them stands out and that’s the one we begin writing to. It’s raw. We write with paper, a pen, a guitar and a bottle of wine.”
From San Diego, CA, BC Jean (whose given name is Britney Jean Carlson) says that she evolved as a creator from an early age. “When I was very young I started writing poetry. I always loved music, played piano, wrote creatively and sang, so I started turning my poetry into pop songs. From then on that’s the way I expressed myself— to put my emotions on paper. I was very private, but I learned you can’t be like that; you have to be an open book, especially if you are collaborating.”
Influenced by the music of the day, No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Jean also embraced the power of classic blues-rock of Janis Joplin, bands like Queen and Led Zeppelin and the polished pop of Britney Spears. Touring with the cover band Liquid Blue, she was indoctrinated into live performing and learned which songs worked best for diverse audiences. “Cover songs helped me to be in tune with different styles. I think a well-written song can be done in any genre.”
Ballas, an accomplished musician who studied flamenco guitar and plays a variety of string instruments plus percussion, drums and piano, is a studio veteran with a deep well of rhythmic influences that underpin the Alexander Jean sound. He is also an award-winning dancer and choreographer who has competed on Dancing with the Stars since 2007. “Roses and Violets” was spotlighted on the TV competition as danced by Derek Hough and Bindi Irwin in a Viennese Waltz segment.
“Roses and Violets” was also used on Duck Dynasty. “The music that we are creating is very ‘syncable,’” says Jean. “We are experimenting with a more cinematic sound.”
BC Jean’s songwriting career was given a massive updraft with “If I Were a Boy,” a song she co-wrote with Toby Gad. As recorded by Beyonce, it became a worldwide smash from the diva’s I Am…Sasha Fierce, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart in 2009. Jean subsequently signed with Clive Davis for his J Records imprint, and released a series of well-regarded singles.
Jean says that the phrase that became the title “If I Were a Boy” is something that she still says every day. “Back then I said I would do whatever I wanted. Now that I’m in a healthy relationship I would be a good man, work out and enjoy the testosterone.”
BC Jean and Mark Ballas are linked romantically as well as professionally. As collaborators, Jean says that their skills are compatible. “We don’t have disagreements, because we trust each other. If someone feels strongly, then we go with that because our strengths are complementary.”
With the name of their musical pairing configured from their middle names, Alexander Jean has eight songs completed in the studio and will possibly release an EP. “We’re letting the whole process ride itself out,” notes Jean. “We want to keep this organic vibe. When we do what we love and listeners connect, it’s the best feeling in the world—having people enjoy your music as much as you did when you wrote it.”
Contact Lori Lousararian-Hakola, Rogers and Cowan