After a long time in the shadows, singer/songwriter Lexis Yelis is stepping into the limelight with her new song “Canadian Quesadilla,” the first of a three part self-described trilogy to find her sound.
“When you write for others for so long it is hard to find your own voice,” she says. “So “Canadian Quesadilla” is my little indie folk, manic pixie dream girl song, it is cheesy and definitely pairs great with a bowl of tomato soup.”
Since cutting the track, Yelis says she has found her voice and sound which is very different than what is heard on this track. But, it is a part of the journey that has been taking shape since childhood and still has a ways to go.
“According to my mom I started singing when I was 9 months old, before I could even talk,” she says. “I started playing piano at 5 and didn’t get any professional vocal training ’till I was 11.”
Despite other kids less than savory thoughts about opera, she did her first opera with the Washington National Opera at 11 years old. At the same time her musical theatre “obsession” blossomed from a CD called Broadway Kids. Her love for different styles of music came to fruition as well.
“It wasn’t until I saw this boy in the 5th grade wearing a Good Charlotte shirt that I thought ‘hmmm what is THAT’,” Yelis says, who made her mom take her to Hot Topic to buy their discography and merch. “It blew my mind that the story telling was so similar to Musical Theater but the delivery was obviously different.”
Until the age of 17, Yelis didn’t sing anything outside of opera, art songs or musical theatre, saying that “High School Musical was too contemporary.” Even when she did sing pop, it was for musical theatre. It was an accidental creation after moving to NYC that changed her career path and pushed her to create in a different way.
“I moved to NYC when I turned 18 to pursue Musical Theatre and accidentally created a Panic! At The Disco Musical which changed the trajectory of my career for the better,” she says. “I used that as a jumping off point and dove into making music.”
Music, for Yelis, is a way to connect herself with emotions, giving her the freedom to listen, feel or convey that through song.
“In musical theatre you sing because words aren’t enough and that is truly how I have utilize music,” she says. “I can hear songs and remember key points of my life, and when I write I pour all of my trapped emotions out into a song.”
It also allows her to build tradition and shape experiences that can be shared with others.
“Every time I drive into NYC (granted I live there now) I play the LIVE: Barry Manilow 1975 album because I listened to it driving into the city with my mom, grandma and great grandma,” Yelis says. “Over time, and over loss, we still listen to that album. I still listen to it and remember all the memories that are enveloped in Barry Manilow’s “Rider’s to the Stars.” I can only dream that my music becomes that to someone else.”
Yelis has a lengthy history, including a Panic! At the Disco musical attempt – which got overshadowed by the Spongebob Squarepants production – time on sustainability teams during Vans Warped Tour and ghostwriting for other artists.
“Currently I have an amazing collab with Couchsurf that is going to be coming out this summer so stay tuned,” Yelis hints. “It’s going to be called “Between My Thighs” and yes it is a sexy one.”
In 2019, the songwriter was given a cancer diagnosis which “has been a whirlwind.”
“The crazy thing to me was that it was a blood cancer and a super rare one at that,” she says. “ It made me feel weirdly alone because the average demo [demographic] to get this cancer, or at least get diagnosed, are people over the age of 50 and mostly men.”
While the support groups were unrelatable for Yelis, it gave her the wake up call to “just do the thing,” pushing her to plan and get the ball rolling for her own sound and debut.
“I just has a different grasp on life,” she says. “I did all the things I wanted to do but for whatever reason I didn’t do before.”
Proudly identifying as queer, Yelis says she came out after a Girl Scout Camp around 11 or 12 years old, knowing that she was attracted to boys and girls. While middle and high school had teasing for her – which she brushed off. She says that life since her teen years has been much different.
“I honestly didn’t really care that much and kept being proud of who I was,” Yelis says. “The crazy thing is that years later after high school I had a handful of people find me on Facebook and reach out telling me that because I was so sure of who I was that they felt comfortable coming out and being who they are now. That was shocking to me because to be honest I was just doing my own thing, I had no intentions of making a change back then but I’m glad I did.”
In her experience, identity has influenced and help her to relate to a wider range of people, including sparking a collaboration with NYC drag queen Fancy Drew.
“We were both going through texting related boy drama,” she says about their song “Where Is The Lie.” “It was something we both experienced regardless of identity.”
Looking ahead, Yelis is hoping to have moved a few times, release more music and tour with her own music consistently.
“I also plan to continue changing the world with sustainability, specifically within the music industry,” she says. “I also will have a super-secret project debut that will once again touch on musical theatre.”
You can stream “Canadian Quesadilla” on Spotify along with Yelis’ other 2020 single, “Where is the Lie.”