Alex and Sierra Q&A: 'X Factor' Duo on Scoring Hits, Songwriting and What's Next
Heading into the "X Factor's" finale on Wednesday and Thursday, the iTunes singles chart is making the duo of Alex and Sierra look like significant front-runners. A day after the Dec. 11 show they had five songs bouncing around iTunes' top 50; five days after their performance of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" and the Swell Season's "Falling Slowly," they had five titles in the top 200.
It's the sort of chart performance that has not been seen since Cassadee Pope's run on NBC's "The Voice," which allows chart positions to determine who wins the competition. This is the first year "X Factor" has allowed its track to show up on the chart and, more than any of the other contestants, Alex and Sierra have seen their performances not only spike but hold on for days and even weeks.
"After 'Say Something,' people started to look at their back catalog and then started buying their other records," "X Factor" creator and judge Simon Cowell tells Billboard. "It's a good sign -- you have an artist who would work outside of the competition. I felt like they were recording artists rather than talent show contestants. It's why we do these shows."
Alex and Sierra will be competing against Jeff Gutt and Carlito Olivero for the season three "X Factor" crown. Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton, both 22 years old and hailing from Florida, sat down with Billboard after last week's shows.
Billboard: Now that we're down to the finals, what would you say was the key moment in the show that got you to where you are now?
Sierra: It was the week when Kelly (Rowland) said 'Alex you are really strong, but Sierra you need to do something more.' I was upset in that moment, but I think it pushed me to work harder. (At some point) I will look back and I want to be able to say I did everything I could. Up until big band week, I was super nervous and since then I sit backstage and say whatever is going to happen is going to happen. This is going to be fine.
Alex: After getting negative criticism and dealing with it and coming back the next week, getting positive remarks and then another week of positive remarks solidified the fact that I have to go home, work hard and fight for this. Not that we didn't work hard before, it was a different drive, sixth gear. That was a realization for both of us.
People have really responded to your ability to interpret ballads. How well do you know these songs going into the competition?
Alex: 'Gravity' we knew well. (Of Monsters & Men's) 'Little Talks' we knew the chorus but never took the time to learn. That was a struggle.
Sierra: 'Falling Slowly' I had heard, but I didn't know any of the lyrics. Luckily, as a do we don't have to learn as much (as a solo artist).
Do you find any sort of common ground in the material you have done?
Alex: (A Great Big World's) 'Say Something,' (Sara Bareilles') 'Gravity' and (Ed Sheeran's) 'Give Me Love,' those three songs are incredible songs that bring out emotions in people. They were written well, written with emotion behind them. If you can perform it good enough to pass, then it's going to bring out emotions. We owe our success to the song itself. Hopefully, we can write a song like those soon.
When would we hear original material from you guys?
Alex: If we were able to go on tour, even a five-song tour, after this is over, that's what I would be most excited about. The thing we have the most fun with is performing. That purity in singing for people who enjoy what you're doing.
Sierra: We have songs we've done apart and it's time to write some together.
Alex: We'd love to get with some other writers and see what that would be like.
Can you remember back to when you auditioned, what you hoped would happen and how things have turned out?
Alex: I really wanted to be around Simon Cowell. You want to put yourself around the best people in the business and he is one of them. I really wanted to create a relationship with him.
Sierra: This has become a much longer journey than I thought it would be. Honestly, we came to it really looking forward to having to do a different song every week. Back home we would play gigs every week and it would take weeks and weeks just to figure out what song to do and then we'd learn it in a day or two. We're just looking forward to trying new things.