Alexis and Ryan on her wedding day
Alexis Grace is sporting a retro, fur-lined jacket and a cropped sweater the color of butter that she buttons primly, so the Peter Pan collar of her print dress just peeks over the top. Her funky style feels like a throwback to the mod look of the 1960s. She’s just finished her shift at the radio station, Q107.5, where she’s a popular midday DJ.
It’s great fit for this working mom; she can be with her on-air fans during the day (I learn my college son is among them) and be off in time to pick up her number one fan from school, 8-year-old daughter, Ryan.
If you’re among her fans
You likely remember Alexis Grace competing on American Idol back in 2009. Just 21 at the time, Grace’s audition meant leaving her then toddler back in Memphis and flying out to Los Angeles to introduce her big, bluesy voice to the rest of America. The two had never been apart for more than a day, says Grace. But her family rallied, “What I learned is that my mother and Ryan’s father’s family are amazing and that family is super important to have when you’re raising a child.” As it turned out, three other contestants were also moms, including Memphis’ Lil Rounds.
Finishing eleventh on Idol opened a number of doors in the entertainment world, but help has also come from closer to home, namely her dad, Randy Middleton. A professional musician and bassist who toured with R&B singer Ann Peebles, he’s long been supportive of her career, but also a realist.
“It’s called the entertainment business for a reason,” he once told me. “You’ve got talent, so learn how to do the business end of it. That’s what kept me going, working hard and not giving up on my dreams.”
Today, life is full. Grace married Swedish musician Thomas Bergstig last March, she’s excited about her new EP, Kiddo, being released on iTunes and Amazon January 20th, and her daughter Ryan is a busy second grader.
“She loves that I’m in entertainment and she’s attracted to it as well. We watch musicals together at home and I take her to shows. I also have her in dance. She takes tap, jazz, and ballet; that’s the highlight of her week.”
“We’re also big talkers,” she continues, “and we laugh. I’ve always talked openly to her. No subject is taboo.”
When I ask Grace about her husband, her face lights up. “Well, he’s cute! And he’s got a good sense of humor, he laughs at my jokes.” Since her husband is from Sweden, they spent the holidays in Stockholm with his family.
As for becoming a mom at 19. “My dad freaked. But my mom didn’t, because she knew if anyone could handle this, it was me. Their basic message was ‘We’ll help you get through this.’” While she and Ryan’s dad didn’t stay together as a couple, he and his mother are involved in Ryan’s life.
Ultimately, Grace credits motherhood with helping her mature, both as a woman and an artist, “I’ve discovered how to be patient. Also, how to be creative, not just having fun but doing something that makes you feel accomplished.”
When Grace played at Branson several years ago, Ryan came along, slipping backstage during intermission. It was in Branson that Alexis first met Thomas. Since both were involved in other relationships, they got to know each other as friends. Love blossomed later.
Today, they collaborate. For Kiddo, Grace wrote the music while Bergstig and bandmate Nikke Karlsson produced the five-song EP. As for the future, Grace says she saves $20 of her paycheck for Ryan each week, a nest egg she’ll give her daughter once she graduates high school, and Ryan “can do with it whatever she wants.”
If I weren’t a performer • I’d consider studying zoology.
Favorite thing • Our two cats, Buttercup and Charlie.
Best mom advice • Express your love to your child. It’s important because it teaches them that they are lovable.