Video Credit: Alex & Sierra’s Official YouTube Channel
They do almost everything on a whim, and they owe everything to a rubber ducky shower curtain.
Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton have skyrocketed to fame after their debut on the hit talent show The X Factor just last year as the laidback, indie duo Alex & Sierra. In the past 12 months, the couple have written, recorded, released and toured supporting their own music.
The pair, now 23, have also been dating for the better part of 5 years, which was part of their story that stole America’s hearts and ears on the show.
Growing up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Alex and Sierra learned to love the sea, the beach and everything that went along with the laidback lifestyle of a beach town.
Alex was an avid surfer, and had played piano as a kid. He started playing guitar since seventh grade, but never learned to read music because he says “I just learned the least amount knowledge to get by. Its king of my motto…I don’t mind working hard as long as you work smart. And sometimes you can work smart without working hard.”
Sierra was the opposite. The child of a military dad, her family moved around when she was a tot, but they settled in Orlando when she was around two years old. Her mom, who she says is from a “traditional Asian family” pushed her to learn everything she could, and be the best she could be. As a kid, she was a dancer. In highschool, she got into track.
They met when they were 17, in the most fitting place for this pair: the beach.
After being friends for a long while, they decided to start dating. While Alex had been playing gigs and around the house all through high school, it wasn’t until a year into their relationship that music came into play.
Once they realized they had chemistry in music, they started to play a song or two for fun, and post videos online. Sierra, who had been working as an intern at a local radio station, is responsible for their first real gig. They played in a tent. Outside. At a Taylor Swift/Ed Sheeran show in Florida.
Alex and Sierra agree that that was an awesome experience, even if they did build it up to be more than it was to friends – the duo told friends they were opening for the pop stars.
That little gig encouraged them enough to submit a video to the online auditions of The X Factor.
“Honestly, we were bored in his dorm room and X factor had online auditions,” Sierra says. “We kind of thought, no one probably watches these. But we wanted to send an audition tape anyways. The way we thought about it was someone could see it, something good could happen from it, and we didn’t spend any money on it. So why not take a chance?” We could take ten minutes, film this video, no one could watch it, and we’re still doing the same thing that we’re going to be doing anyways.”
The video was filmed in Alex’s dorm room bathroom, in front of a rubber ducky shower curtain, that Sierra says, they owe everything to.
The producer from the show that saw their video told them later that the only reason she kept watching the video after the first few seconds was because she also had had a rubber ducky shower curtain in college. When she then heard that they had the same alma mater, she knew that she had to give them a shot.
She did, and Alex and Sierra went on to win season three of The X Factor, leading to a deal with Columbia and tons of opportunity to expand their musical careers.
But it was never about the fame or fortune, which is probably why their fan base loves them so much. “It was always for fun,” says Alex. It was sort of like, “Oh cool we can actually play gigs now. People were actually responding well when it was the two of us,” he adds.
Sierra adds that she is glad for the easy, laid back attitude that they have adopted for their career.
“I think that’s what has made it easier, is that we’ve been doing it for fun and not like ‘this is IT,’” says Sierra. Alex adds “I think that’s how you have to do it. Whether you want to be successful or not, if you stop having fun with it, you should just stop.”
Now, the couple are on tour in support of their debut album, Its About Us. They love touring, because to them, this whole experience is really just a dream.
As for working with their significant other, Alex says, its super natural. “Every couple of months we stop and go ‘oh crap, we’re working together’ – but we don’t think about it really,” he says.
Sierra, who is the only girl on the tour bus of seven guys, says that there is really nothing for her to complain about, or for the couple to fight about. “There would be nothing to fight about because what we are doing is so much fun,” she says.
The fun has been going on for exactly a year. It was October of 2013 when the first episode of the third season aired, and according to Alex, the response to their music was almost immediate.
“We were on the first episode, and I went – not that this is an indicator – but I went from 200 twitter followers to almost 10,000,” Alex says. Which he says was terrifying because both of their phones broke within 24 hours of the episode airing from too many notifications from new fans.
Those same fans have supported them through all of their writing, recording and releasing in the past year, the pair says. But the idea that now their fans are enjoying music that they created, poured their heart and soul into is “just nuts.”
“Its been a long time coming for both of us. It’s just crazy to think that we have stuff on iTunes,” Alex says. “You know people can go and listen, and words that we wrote and chords that we came up with … its crazy. And it really comes to a nice apex when we’re playing a show – especially because we’ve been playing some headliners on this tour – and everyone knows the words.”
Being on stage and having people sing their songs back to them is something that the rookie musicians are still getting used to, Sierra says.
“Its weird to think that a few months ago, these songs didn’t exist to other people. I mean we knew they existed because we wrote them. Most of them back in January. But its crazy to see people caring enough about them that they know every word. Its just especially weird because we know all the words to other people’s songs and we go to their concerts and sit in the front row, and I know what that feels like.”
For both Alex and Sierra, the idea that touring and being musicians is currently their full time job seems surreal. Seeing their name in marquee lights is still a surprise. Interviews with magazines, photo-shoots and being able to play to sold out shows is still new for this pair.
But of the past year, one of the best experiences, Alex says, was writing and playing with Jason Mraz. Mraz is a musician that they both look up to, not only because of his music, but because he is also a good person who, they say, has not been jaded by his fame in the industry.
The fact that they got to go to his home, hang out and write for a few days was just a great experience for the young artists.
More than anything though, Sierra says, its wild to see how fast the past 12 months have gone by.
Just a year ago, they had been playing in restaurants for a handful of people who were blasé about their performance. They had actually been tipped to stop playing one time, according to Sierra. But now, they are in cities they have never been to, and they are selling out venues of 12,000 people or more.
“There hasn’t been much time to just sit and thing like ‘oh my gosh this is crazy’ because even when we had a month off – which was during the writing process – none of our original music was out yet,” she says.
As for the next few months, and the upcoming year, the pair says they are excited to tour as much as possible, record and write.
Of course they have goals, but they don’t know what their plans are, even if their management have already set things for them. “We kind of live life not knowing exactly what’s in store,” says Alex.
But from their beach bum, laidback roots, can you really expect anything less? After all, their Facebook page says “We’re just a couple of kids trying to have fun, go on adventures, and never grow up.”
**A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in November 2014