Alex Maxwell, Talent Buyer at Troubadour
Every week for the last 56 years, Troubadour has welcomed young, striving acts and old faves alike to Santa Monica Boulevard. It's where The Byrds, James Taylor, and The Pointer Sisters had their debut performances, and where Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell, and Metallica first played L.A. Hell, Don Henley and Glenn Frey met in the bar! Now, the responsibility of backing up all that rock history with a constant flow of new and classic acts is in some very young (if capable) hands. At 27, Alex Maxwell is the talent buyer and gatekeeper for a Los Angeles legend. Here, she talks about being a young fan girl, how she rose up the ranks of L.A. music so quickly, and what it's like to book your childhood heroes.
Invariably, everyone’s love affair with music begins in high school. What were you like back then?
“I’m finally comfortable admitting that I was an emo kid. I wasn’t athletic or particularly popular, but I got along with most people. I think I was the token ‘rebellious’ friend. My hometown — Heber City, UT — is really conservative, so wearing tank tops and smoking weed occasionally made me a real black sheep. I was also the kid you saw waiting outside of the venue at 2 p.m. before a show, needing to be at the very front, singing every word.”
And how did that lead to a career in music?
“It was just something I gravitated toward naturally as a freshman in college. I got my feet wet as a production assistant, box-office rep, merch seller, street teamer, runner…I jumped at any random position that needed filling at the various venues in Salt Lake City.”
But SLC is a long way off from Santa Monica Boulevard. How did you make the leap?
“All my earlier work helped me land a job at The Fold Presents the day I moved back to L.A. From there, I dove into booking, starting with The Silverlake Lounge and Bordello and working my way up to Bootleg Theater. My boss trusted me and gave me the freedom to program and really brand the room. For this, I’m eternally grateful. I hustled to put the venue on the map. Apparently, it didn’t go unnoticed."
And when did you know you’d “made it”?
“My first ‘whoa!’ moment was when I booked my favorite childhood band, Ozma, at Bootleg Theater. I listened to that band before I could drive. I was/am a megafan! The 15-year-old version of myself would have never guessed I’d grow up to know them and get to work with them. My second ‘whoa!’ moment was when I booked Garbage...because, I mean... it’s Garbage. Shirley Manson is a goddess, and they have so many amazing hits. My biggest, most obvious ‘whoa, I made it!’ moment was getting the call that I was the next talent buyer at the Troubadour. I always put it on a pedestal — dreamt about one day programming the calendar — but never thought I had a shot in hell at the job. Persistence and hard work do pay off, kids!”
What’s it like working for that legendary venue?
“I’m still in awe that I managed to land my dream job here — it’s surreal. There’s so much history — Neil Young, Springsteen, Hall and Oates, Guns n' Roses, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, Elton John, Metallica, Radiohead, The Cure...the list goes on. I feel honored that I get to continue building it. This is a family business, and it feels like it. It’s warm and inviting — not just to me — but for fans and musicians. The vibe here is hard to describe, impossible to replicate. Special things happen at Troubadour. Honestly, it’s even better than I imagined.”
How do you stay professional while running a venue like that? The freaks come out at night, right?
“People certainly tend to get freakier as the night progresses. I have to imagine that’s due to alcohol consumption. When my parents tell me stories of their rock 'n' roll days in the '80s, it sounds a lot wilder than anything I’ve seen. Either people have mellowed out, or I’m blind to what’s going on around me. I might be a nightwalker, but I’m pretty innocent. I’ll take a Jack on the rocks, sometimes followed by a Corona, but that’s it. I need to keep a clear mind in case I need to put out any fires…figuratively and literally.”
Styled by Danielle Combs; Hair and Makeup by Liset Garza.
Nasty Gal dress, vintage belt and bangles, Steve Madden booties.