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Salute Interview: Alvester Martin

Singer Alvester Martin is gearing up for the release of his debut album Love Me or Leave Me. The album is set to drop on October 18th and promises to give a full introspective view of the artist. He’s pulled out all the stops and is giving his audience a range of musical sounds and styles.

Known mostly for his work as a professional dancer, Alvester has worked with many great artists including Tamar Braxton, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Jennifer Lopez. He’s made appearances in box-office hits such as Stomp the Yard (2007) and Footloose (2011). His vocal talents have also allowed him to be cast as the lead vocalist in the Michael Jackson tribute production,  “The Man in the Mirror.” The production toured the U.S., Lebanon, France, and Jordan.

In addition to his work in entertainment, his good looks and dancer’s body (6’1, 205lbs) have allowed him to take part in campaigns for H&M, Target, Pepsi, Hummer, and Visa. He was also a starring cast member in the 2017 Lifetime series Black Magic with Vivica Fox. After deciding to step away from his career as one of the most talented and successful dancers in entertainment, he’s managed to usher himself in to spotlight. Now, it’s his time to share his music and story with the world. Love Me and Love Me is both an account of his past and the glimpse at his very bright and successful future

Salute: Tell me about the first single.

Alvester: Actually, there isn’t an official first single, but radio has picked up the title track “Love Me or Leave Me.” I’ve been getting reports that it’s been getting played in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and a lot of college radio stations. It has kind of taken on a life of its own, so I’m thankful.

Salute: What is “Love Me or Leave Me” about and what inspired you to write it?

Alvester: If you listen to the single, you’ll think it’s like your status quo “break-up” song.  It’s saying, if you’re ashamed of who I am, I’m only human, so either you’re going to love me or leave me. I wrote it from a space of a time in my life when I wasn’t the greatest guy to my ex-girlfriend. We all have that one relationship that changes your perspective, and you grow up a little bit.

I wanted to get into her psyche, so I wrote it from her point-of-view. So, I’m like what would she say to me. It’s kind of like my apology to her for the way I treated her and how she was probably feeling throughout the relationship. Especially, towards the end. It was my little dedication to her, my way of saying “I’m sorry.”

Salute: What can people expect from the Love Me or Leave Me album?

Alvester: There is so much on this project, and that’s why I am really adamant about people listening to it from top to bottom. Because I don’t give you one of any type of lane. I actually incorporated a lot of different sounds. It opens up with a Doo-Wop called “Easy” and it’s literally an acapella, heavy vocals Doo-Wop. I experimented with a Heavy Rock song called “Happy Ever After. I would say it’s like Boyz II Men meets Nirvana. I play with some country sounds. Of course, I have R&B, because that’s my base. R&B is what I love and I grew up on it.

It’s just a smorgasbord of music and I didn’t set out to do that. I always say, God walked into the room and intervened and said, “Okay, this is what your project is going to be.” It gives a little bit of everything, slow and fast. There’s a couple of songs that you can take to the bedroom and some that jerk your heart.

The album really details my story, coming from the back to the forefront. I call myself out, and I call all my flaws out on this album. Somebody once told me, “You can’t shun anyone who lives their life on front street.” So I really wanted to give everybody a holistic view of what I’ve been going through for the past four to five years. During this process, I’ve gone homeless several times and transitioned from the back to the forefront. I’ve also been on television. So, I’m literally talking about every single thing and how I’m not that great as well.

I also lost one of the closest people to me, which was my grandfather. I was raised by my grandparents. He passed during the process of making this project and it hit me really hard. I actually include him in the project, because he was my assistant manager. It’s near and dear to my heart and I hope people love it.

Salute: How long did it take you to record this album?

Alvester: To be honest, I wrote “Love Me or Leave Me” about four years ago. And out of all the songs that I recorded over the last four years, that’s the only song that remained constant and another song that I recorded in Atlanta. Everything else, I literally told my manager that I wanted to go back to my grassroots, which was Philly. At one point, I slept on studio floors in Philly. I met a great producer there, who pretty much produced the bulk of my album. During that time, I also met a great songwriter who’s now signed to Song, by the name of Deontrez McClusky, who is apart of Studio Sounds writing team.

I said to myself, “Let me get this producer and this writer in a room with me and give me two weeks.” After two weeks, we came out with seventeen tracks that literally detailed what I’ve been going through. So, two weeks day and night; probably an hour or two of sleep a night.

Salute: How did you end up being raised by your grandparents?

Alvester: I was born in Miami, Florida. My parents were fairly young. My grandparents are my dad’s parents and my dad got my mama pregnant in college. They were teenagers, and my grandparents stepped up like they’ve always had throughout my life. They also were very young when they got married. My grandmother was 16 and my grandfather was 18.

My grandfather always wanted to best for his kids, so he decided to take on the responsibility of raising me while parents completed their college educations. My grandparents also took my mother in during her pregnancy. I would say that my parents were not ready for a kid. Being young, they were still in that selfish phase. I think about myself at 18 or 19, I wasn’t ready for a kid either. Since my grandparents were established, it makes sense for them to take on the responsibility of raising me.

At that time, my parents also didn’t want the responsibility. So naturally, I gravitated toward my grandparents. My parents and I don’t even have the best relationship now. My grandparents will always be my parents. They were mom and dad.

Salute: You have a very strong background in dancing. Can you talk a little about the life of a dancer?

Alvester: The life of a dancer is completely different than what a lot of people would imagine. Let’s start with the pros. You get to travel the world and have a lot of different experiences. You get to live out a dream to a certain degree. But at the same time, you are also at the mercy of someone else’s vision and someone else’s dream.

We don’t get benefits or 401k’s. When you are working for someone else, you are literally someone else’s slave and I hate to say it like that. I always tell people, being a dancer means “easy hire and easier fired.” There is no human resources.  Let’s say the artist is having a bad day, cool. But if you’re having a bad day, there’s no room for you as a dancer to have a bad day. The key to being successful is to navigate through people’s personalities.

If they’re laughing you have to laugh, even if you don’t want to. If you don’t feel like smiling that day, you have to literally shut off all of your problems and become this personality, that’s subjected to whatever camp you’re working for. I obviously never wanted to become a dancer or at least a commercial dancer. I didn’t move to Los Angeles to be a dancer, I wanted to be a musician.

I became a ballet dancer because a teacher told me that I couldn’t do it as a Black man. So I was like, “Okay, let me prove you’re ass wrong.” And I accomplished it. My ex-girlfriend wanted to come to Los Angeles to be a dancer and I acquiesced to the keep the relationship going. We came out here and lived in a studio apartment. People don’t know that it’s just as hard to become a dancer as it is to be an actor or singer. There’s a lot of people in L.A. trying to do what you want to do. It is really about your talent.

There’s a lot of people in L.A. trying to do what you want to do. It is really about your talent because everybody has the looks. So you have to be that one in the room that’s going to stand out.

We slept in a studio apartment with four other people. My first job came along with me going to an audition that a friend told me about. He told me that I should continue to dance again, just to have extra work. He called his agent, who called me and signed me based on his word. So, I went in and it was Destiny’s Child. I knew nothing about Hip-Hop [dance], I just knew to go for what you want and don’t be the weakest link in the room. I got hired to dance for Destiny’s Child and that started my career. Throughout my career, which has been nothing but a blessing, I’ve learned so much from each and every artist that I’ve worked with.

I also learned that dance is a segway career. Let’s say in the commercial industry you start out at about 17. In all that time, you have to be thinking, “What am I going to do after this?” Because this is only a 10-year career. Especially, if you’re not like me, a person who always had bigger goals. Like for me, dancing was like being a waiter. It was my waiter job while I was trying to accomplish being an artist.

For those kids that just love to dance, they have to figure out what are they going to do after and how to make themselves into a business or a brand. You can be on the biggest tour like the [Beyoncé] “Formation” tour. Once you off of that you’re back in audition pool. You’re back to auditioning right next to someone who just got here off of the bus.

And the money, you can make anywhere between $100,000-$200,000 a year. But, that comes in lump sums. So, one month you may make $10,000 or $20,000. Next month you may make nothing until you book a gig. Then you have taxes at the end of the year. It’s a lot of ups and downs.

There’s probably 100-200 people in the room [during an audtion] and six spots. And it’s really dog-eat-dog. It’s a great life, but it’s also a rough life. It’s not for the weak at heart, at all.

Salute: Besides singing and dancing, do you have any talents with musical instruments.

Alvester: I play alto saxophone and you get to hear that in my album. I played in middle school and placed first in the state of Florida. I played bass clarinet and I was a drum major.  Also, I was heavy into the theory of music and reading music. My family always thought that I would be a musician before I was a dancer or singer. I play a little bit of piano too.

Salute: You’ve been seen on television. How do you like being on the small screen?

Alvester: I never wanted to act, at all. That just wasn’t my thing. I felt that it wasn’t something that intrigued me until I met one of the most influential people who’s been in my life professional, Debbie Allen. When I started working with Debbie Allen I was really young and I had once gone to a dance audition. She hired me on the spot. She also told me, “I’m going to turn your ass into an actor, child.” And my response was, “No, you’re not.” If anyone knows Debbie Allen, they know that she gets her way. She turned me into an actor and I fell in love with it.

Acting is one of those things that make you dig deep into yourself. Every single role that I’ve done, it makes me build a different part of myself that didn’t even know existed. I feel that it makes you a better person too because you’re always taking a reflective look at yourself. You’re thinking about what you feel and how do you relate to this character. Whenever you take on a role,  you realize that you are bringing a part of yourself to this character. And you think about how the two relate.

With reality television, to be completely candid, I don’t ever want to do reality television again. I felt with my last experience, I went into it as a complete novice. I was thinking that we were just going to capture my everyday reality and it wasn’t that.

I’m a passionate guy. I think that it’s extremely a privilege to wake up and do art, and what I love for a living. I don’t take that for granted. The field of Black Magic (Vivica’s Black Magic), it was another world for me. It took me awhile to figure out how felt about it. People would ask me, how do I feel about the show and my response would be “I don’t know.” To be honest, I still don’t know fully to this day. I know that there are somethings that I watch and I’m like “You was kind of trippin’ bro, right here.” But then I think about what was going on behind the scenes. And I think that I was really reacting to a situation that was being manipulated. And that’s not everyday life.

We have a lot more control of ourselves in everyday life. Having somebody at the helm,  manipulating situations for how you react, I don’t want to subscribe to that. I had the opportunity to sit down with Vivica [A. Fox] one night and we had the best conversation that we’ve had in months. And Vivica is someone who I deeply respect. She’s another Black talent, a Black woman who has done amazing things in this industry. So, I hated how it was painted to the world.

Like I said, we had the best conversation and everything. We even got a picture on Instagram. It just felt good. What I don’t like about reality television is the negativity of it, because that’s what we want to see. That’s what they’re bringing out of us as a people. I even told Vivica that what I hated most about the show was, I felt like I contributed to the “caged animal” scenario. What I mean by that is, we have this fear of separation and they put you in a cage, here’s the meat and go. That can push people to say certain things and do certain things. And I hate that I contributed in tearing down another Black entertainer. I didn’t like that I was apart of that.

However, at the end of the day, I know that there’s a silver lining. I’m not the guy behind somebody anymore. It gave me a voice and interest. It breathed life into the person and brand that is Alvester. Now, other things that come in the future I know how to say yes, no, or maneuver through certain situations.

Salute: What are your plans leading up to the album’s release and what happens afterward?

Alvester: Right now, I have a lot of shows coming up and I’m so exciting. Now, I get a chance to display this body of work to the world. I get to sing about it and bring people into my dream. We’re even talking about tours right now. I’m sure at some point I’ll jump on with someone.

After the album comes out, it will just be promote, promote, promote. I’m already starting my second project and in talks with several labels.

Salute: Are solely focused on your music, or do you have other things going as well?

Alvester: I would love to call it, but my plan isn’t always God’s plan. I just finished an episode of  BET “Tales”, where I actually make my television debut as an actor. I’ve done a lot of musicals, plays, and even film. But, as far as television, this will be my debut.

It came out the blue. I was at a radio station in L.A., KJLH, and I got a call for the offer. I literally flew out the next morning to do a table read. I’m really open. If it comes up and it’s not going to take me too far away from the music, I’m definitely open to it.  A lot of things have just been coming out sporadically and  I’m rolling with it.

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