From selling merch on the road for artists like Shenandoah, Jo Dee Messina, and Easton Corbin to co-writing Dustin Lynch’s hit single “Party Mode,” country music newcomer Roman Alexander is now on his own path as an artist.
With his new single “Mess Me Up,” Alexander asks his love interest to come over regardless of the consequences. The singer-songwriter penned the track with Grammy-winning songwriter Josh Kerr and Jordan Minton (Keith Urban, Dan + Shay).
“Mess me up, call my phone / Say you’re on your way cause girl you know I can’t say no / Mess me up, cause I want you too / Slip into my sheets so when you leave they smell like you / Throw your keys and tear that t-shirt off / Leave me hanging by a thread when you’re gone / Mess me up / Girl, mess me up,” Roman Alexander sang.
Alexander talked to Music Mayhem about the writing retreat that led to “Mess Me Up” and Dustin Lynch’s “Party Mode,” his journey to becoming a singer-songwriter, and his aspirations to appear on the Grand Ole Opry.
Recalling when he wrote “Mess Me Up,” Alexander admits that some of the details are a little fuzzy. “I think it was the ‘Party Mode’ retreat. I don’t know. We did it at the same lake house and tequila can cloud your memory sometimes,” he laughs. “They kind of just painted the picture and they started playing around with the melody and I jumped in when I could because on a writer’s retreat you jumped from room to room. So I was kind of bouncing from room to room and trying to spread my time equally. And then when I heard that melody and I heard those lyrics, I kind of sat in with that one a little bit longer than I probably should have out of respect for the other guys. But I just love the song. And we wrote it in about an hour and a half, which is pretty quick.”
One of the other songs that came out of that same lake house was Alexander’s first cut and radio single as songwriter – Dustin Lynch’s “Party Mode.” The purpose of the writer’s retreat was to write songs for Alexander’s project, but this particular song took a different turn.
“We’d all been kind of drinking all day, and it had been a long day of writing. So the night was kind of winding down and I was eating dinner and I heard a couple of the guys just messing around on guitar and they were messing around with the melody of ‘Party Mode.’ And I walked over, I said, ‘What are you guys working on?’ And they jokingly just said, oh, the song for Jon Pardi. And I was like, oh, well, good for him and I just walked off cause I was going to go to bed, and then I heard the melody and I was like, hmm, if I’m smart, I’m going to get my butt back out there and force myself into this.”
When he went back to the room, he asked one of the writers to repeat a line they’d said. “I said, ‘that’s a really bad line. Can I help?’ Even though it was a great line, I just wanted to force my way in,” Alexander laughed. They spent the rest of the evening finishing the song. “I knew right away it wasn’t a song for me, it just wasn’t my sound. It wasn’t what I was going after, but I knew there was something cool about it.”
Co-writer Jerry Flowers took the song to Dustin Lynch, who recorded it and took it to top 20 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Since it was Alexander’s first radio single as a songwriter, he was tempted to watch the charts. “I wanted to constantly check it every day, every hour. But no, I try to stay away from the numbers and the metrics. I don’t even do that with my own music. It’s like if there’s something alarming, it’s not performing well, it’s a whole different thing. But if I know it’s on the right track, I’ve just got to let it do its thing.”
Alexander signed his publishing deal in 2018 and says that he’s grown tremendously as a songwriter since then, calling the difference “night and day.”
At first, he was laser-focused on becoming an artist. “I had no idea that most artists were writing their songs and not every single one does. I still cut outside songs, and I think that’s super important since there’s so many great writers and songs in this town. Just for me, it was like I had no idea where to start. I had no idea what I wanted to say. And so my publisher just put me on a long train of writing with people and a lot of first dates the best way to describe it. And you kind of learn what you like to say and what you don’t like to say and what you want out of a writer, what you need out of yourself. So definitely it took a couple years really to get my feet wet, and then I wrote ‘Between You & Me’ and ‘Cocktail Conversations’ within that time period.”
“Cocktail Conversations” was Alexander’s debut single in 2020, which was featured on the TODAY Show. He teamed up with Ashley Cooke for the duet “Between You & Me” which has garnered more than 45 million streams. Alexander was named one of Spotify’s Hot Country Artists to Watch 2021 and charted on the Spotify US Viral 50. He is also one of the longest-running independent artists on Spotify’s Hot Country playlist, which was one of his “pinch me” moments. “Living on the Hot Country playlist for as long as I did, it was nine, almost 10 months of just being on that playlist and not coming down. The song always had momentum and that was really cool.”
The Missouri native moved to Nashville in 2015 after high school and worked odd jobs before starting his career in the music industry selling merchandise for touring artists. “I was washing cars at the Audi dealership at the time, and my buddy was like, hey, have you ever done merch?” Since he had never sold merch before, Alexander embellished his resume to get the gig. “A few nights later I was on a bus with Shenandoah and I did merch for them for a year. Then I went to Jo Dee Messina for a year, and then I finished off my last year with Easton Corbin.”
Alexander learned different things from each artist. “It was getting to be out there with the boys, of course Shenandoah, the older dudes but growing up, they were one of my favorites. So it was really cool to kind of be around Marty Raybon and Mike McGuire and the guys. I learned a lot from them, a lot of life lessons from them. And going out with Easton, a younger group of guys, I got a taste of what the road is actually, especially for a young dude. So I knew he was going to do one or two things. He was going to make me more hungry to be out on the road and want to be an artist or he was going to burn me out.”
Roman Alexander found himself calling the merchandise company, Richards & Southern, asking “what other things can I do? I don’t want to come off the road. I want to stay out here.” He would stay on the road for three months at a time and realized that he wanted to become an artist.
That dream has come true and now, he has crowds singing back to him at shows. “When I played Joe’s on Weed Street in Chicago and the whole crowd, I literally just stood back and let them sing a whole chorus to me.”
Touring is at the top of Alexander’s plans for the rest of this year, as well as new music. “We plan on releasing a lot of music this year, so we want to give equal time to everything.” He also has hopes of making his Opry debut. “I’m not pushing, not rushing for that. I would like to make sure it’s the right songs and the right time, but that’s definitely where I’m aiming for.”