Grueling, hours-long practices for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars may feel like a hefty commitment to some, but for Mark Ballas, it’s just a day job. At night, the 29-year-old Texas native returns home to his girlfriend, singer-songwriter BC Jean, to record tracks for their forthcoming untitled EP. The duo, who perform under the stage moniker Alexander Jean (a portmanteau of their middle names), specialize in a brand of infectious pop-rock-soul reminiscent of Alicia Keys—and listeners have noticed: Their debut single, “Roses and Violets,” recently charted at #4 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. “It all happened really organically,” Ballas tells InStyle. “We took our time and spilled our heart and soul into the music.”
We talked to both singers about their origin story, and what it’s like recording with your significant other. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
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How did you two meet?
Ballas: “A few years ago, a mutual friend of ours hosted an online concert where people could buy tickets that donated to charity, and both BC and I were on the bill. When I arrived, It was so packed that you literally could not move. BC was on stage, and I couldn’t see her—I could only hear her. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. She’s got it going on.’ She sounded like a mix of Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. I was expecting to see someone in their forties slugging whiskey, but I was in complete disbelief when the crowd cleared and I saw a gorgeous blonde.”
Jean: “When Mark took the stage, my immediate thought was that he’s super talented. He was doing a lot of hip thrusts and started flirting with me, but I was all about the business. I wanted to make sure that we could work together. Five and a half hours later, we were on a date, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Mark, how many instruments do you play exactly?
Ballas: “I play steel string acoustic and electric guitar, base, piano, and drums, but I’m first and foremost a guitar player.”
How are you juggling this project and DWTS?
Ballas: “I’m used to the hectic schedule. I was always in school bands and musicals, and constantly living the life of a young entertainer. During the day I have rehersals, and at night I work on the music. It’s second-nature to me at this point. Everything is going on every day. It’s always go-time.”
Jean: “He wouldn’t know what to do if he had free time. We can get to the studio in the morning and be there until 3 a.m. every day. He can literally juggle, too. Really.”
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What’s your process of recording a song like?
Ballas: “Very serendipitous. We light some candles, pour some wine, and write with a notepad and pen.”
Jean: “The best songs come from the heart, when it’s the most honest and the most raw.”
What sound were you hoping to create?
Jean: “Something timeless.”
Ballas: “Something that you could listen to tomorrow or two months from now and still feel the same.”
Who are your musical influences?
Ballas: “The Gypsy Kings. As I got older, I discovered Nirvana. Kurt Cobain was my hero. Also, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Sia.”
Jean: “I love Janis [Joplin], Stevie Wonder, Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette, and Gwen Stefani. Jagged Little Pill and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom were two of my all-time favorite albums.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Watch the lyric video for “Roses and Violets” below, and purchase it for $2 on the iTunes Store.
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