Gentlemen's Corner: Alvester Martin Talks Dancing With Beyonce and Upcoming Album
2015 is multitalented singer and dancer Alvester Martin's year, we're claiming it.
The heartthrob and ultimate man candy has carried the title of backup dancer to some of the fiercest ladies in the entertainment world, and is now making a name for himself as the main act. Move over Beyonce, Mariah, and Rihanna because Martin has inked a deal with Universal Music Group and is looking to carve out a lane all of his own with his upcoming debut album entitled Love Me or Leave Me, which is slated for release during the second quarter of 2015.
Vibe Vixen: Where did your love for singing and dance come from?
Alvester Martin: In all true honesty, not to sound like a lot of artists, but I wanted to be like Michael [Jackson] when I was a little kid. I grew up with my grandparents in South Florida with my aunts and uncles so I was the only little kid in the house, and even though most of Michael’s videos were old they were still played a lot in my house. I remember seeing “Billy Jean” and trying to do the moonwalk into the spin, and I ended u[ breaking my leg right above the growth plate. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to walk [laughs] and grow too much. So for those people reading this I’m six feet tall today in case you were wondering [laughs].
You started your career as a dancer, but have always been very vocal about having a passion for music as well. How did you incorporate the two at a young age?
I always wanted to sing. I would always tell my parents I wanted to be a rock star that was my thing. I started dancing first because my grandma had an affinity for the tap dancer Gregory Hines so I started tap at five years old and then of course you have to take everything else like ballet and jazz. I was also in the church choir from a little kid until about the time I was a teenager so singing was always number one for me.
Photo Credit(s): AlwaysAlvester.com, Getty Images
VV: Unlike most kids you had a jumpstart on your future because you knew what you were passionate about. How did you take your hobby of dance to the next level?
AM: I’ve never told anybody this but I went to a performing arts school, New World School of Arts in Miami, which is probably one of the best schools in the country and the only reason I got in was because I was an African American young man. I filled the quota that year and I could tap. I got in on a tap solo and everybody else was like ballet and other disciplines and was really good. So I got in and I was the worst person in my class. But for me whenever I face adversity like that I’m like “Okay, can’t nobody tell me nothing,” I’m real stubborn and stuck in my ways sometimes so it forces me to work harder. By the end of the year I was one of the top students and became a professional ballet dancer. From there I trained in New York at the School of American Ballet and went on to have a professional career for a little bit.
How did people around you and in your community take to you pursuing dance? While it was accepted at your performing arts school did you receive push back from others who couldn’t fully grasp the discipline of ballet?
It was one of those things where growing up being concentrated on ballet where I was from in Miami, which is an all black area, was frowned upon. It wasn’t cool for me to be walking around in tights, but the athleticism of it made me respect it even more. I even had other people doubt me and say I couldn’t do it so anytime anyone doubts me it makes me go even harder. So I accomplished that goal and ultimately became obsessed with it. It was a moment for me where I could celebrate the fact that I finally conquered something.
While you went on to professionally dance ballet did you decide to just put singing on hold and chase that one goal of dance or did you make up in your mind that dance would be the end all be all?
I did ballet but in my down time I was in and out of the recording studio all the time. I paid for all my studio time with the money I made from ballet and networked with individuals in the business. To be quite honest, I never thought I would be a dancer– never, ever, ever. I wasn’t even that good, in my eyes at least. But once I reached that point where I felt I was mentally fulfilled from ballet I decided to focus on singing more.
VV: What did you focusing on music entail? Did you have to give up some things to allow yourself that space to create?
AM: My girlfriend at the time wanted to be a dancer and move to L.A., and I was like well I’m not going to stop you from doing you because I’ve done everything I set out do in dance. So I pawned my saxophone and moved to L.A with her in a tiny one-room studio and the grind started from there. I decided to get a 9 to 5 at FedEx to pay the bills as well as pay for studio time. My homeboy that danced for Britney [Spears] at the time was telling me I should do extra work on set and I said no being narrow-minded and stubborn. He ended up calling his agent and the agent signed me based on my friend’s word and my commercial look, and within that week I had an audition for Beyonce. It was like 500 guys and I went in there knowing nothing about hip-hop dance so I was nervous, but I went in there and did me and I booked it. Because of that moment ten years ago and my audacity to dream big my life changed.
What was the project that you ended up booking for Beyonce?
That was the year in between Dangerously in Love and Destiny Fulfilled so I did all live performances, tours, etc. From there that started the ten year long working relationship with Beyonce. That was my beginning. I couldn’t believe it. Just for the record, I didn’t even really have a place to stay because at this time it’s money involved, me and my girl are going through problems, and I remember doing a show with her [Beyonce] and I couldn’t even buy anything to eat because I was waiting on a check to come in– you know how those entertainment checks are. Even when I had to fill out the paper work for where they wanted me to send my check I really had no place to so it was a struggle. A beautiful struggle if you will.
How was it working with Beyonce and what did you take away from such a strong, well respected individual in the industry?
I was at a performing arts high school and a girl asked me “Did you go to college?” and I almost said no, but then I said you know what I did. I personally feel like I went to my own college because I worked with people like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, JLo and Tamar, and they were like professors to me in a sense. If I would have gotten a deal when I first wanted it all those years ago I would not know anything that I know today. I would have crashed and burned. I learned so much, specifically from her [Beyoncé] because my introduction to the entertainment industry was in that camp. We could sit here for like three hours if I told you all the great things that I took from that opportunity.
Okay, well we’ve only got about 30 minutes so if there is one thing you took away that you will forever cherish what would it be?
Be about your craft. Fame comes and goes, and sensationalism in the day and age we live in now lasts for about 24 hours and then we’re on to the next story the next day. Talent stays around forever because that’s one thing no one can take away from you. People can say what they want, it can be this story or millions of rumors about you, but at the end of the day if you get on that stage and you kill it and you’re about your craft and you’re 100% that shuts everybody up. If you think about it the greatest entertainers ever: Michael, Beyonce, Prince, Tina Turner, they had that true, raw talent.
VV: You said that you didn’t think you were a good dancer did this change with the affirmation of Beyonce?
AM: Yeah but I didn’t even know I was good at it [dancing]. When I see somebody else that I think is exceptional at something or great at something even if we’re not friends or I don’t like your character I never hate. I always study people that I think are good. One of homeboy’s who is still a friend of mine ‘til this day, I watched him because he was good and he was what she [Beyonce] liked. I took from this person and that person and created what I am today. I think now I can say yeah that was good and I was good at it [dancing], but at the time I wasn’t thinking like that. I was just a kid trying not to be the weakest link.
While you harbored this sort of self doubt what kept you going inside mentally?
I tell everyone to do you because it’s hard for us to do growing up because we get picked on, we get hated on, and so many other things and even as adults it’s hard because you never know what situation you’re in that you may face adversity. But you have to stay true to who you are because regardless of what anyone says people are going to talk.
VV: Was the transition from well-known dancer to singer tough?
AM: It wasn’t tough to give up because I knew my end goal and what I truly wanted. My manager preaches about end goals, and I still have a lot to learn but hey I’m an artist and I’m sensitive [laughs]. It’s been a ten year process, it wasn’t like I said okay this is how I’m going to do this, no it’s really been a ten year process with many hurdles and obstacles and many mistakes, trials, let downs– however you want to put it. I remember after about 2010 I said I wasn’t going to dance anymore. I was on tour with Mariah and I said this would be my last dancing gig and was seriously done. I moved to the east coast and traveled between New York and Philly and just recorded and auditioned for things that had to deal solely with singing. I ended up booking the male lead in Michael Jackson’s “A Place With No Name” video and told myself that was the end of dancing for me, but what I learned from that opportunity is you can’t block your blessings.
How did you feel you were blocking your blessings? Was focusing on music more than dance ultimately a struggle for you?
Everything is about timing and if God is not finished and it’s not your time to stop then you can’t say what you won’t do. You can but you’ll block something great. I think I had to chew those words and go back and humble myself, not because I wanted to but because there were apparently some things I wasn’t finished doing in the grand scheme of things. And of course, I’ve got to make money so basically I ultimately had to do what I had to do, to do what I wanted to do. Fast-forward, of course I dance again and then fast-forward again where I said Michael Jackson would be my last job and within the same week by the grace of God I got signed to Universal Music Group. I was really happy because Mike was my last video, and it was really dope to end with my idol. Then here comes Beyonce for the VMA’s. They called me and said Beyonce wants you to do the VMA’s and asked if I was, and we were thinking about saying no and I had to remember that lesson and realize that I couldn’t let down the woman that got me here. She [Beyonce] brought me in and taught me so much stuff. She doesn’t even realize how influential she’s been to me. That’s what I mean by you can’t block your blessings. I don’t think I’ll ever say I can’t or wont’ do something just because you never know.
How was it shooting the posthumous “A Place With No Name” video being that MJ was your idol? Would you rank it one of the highlights of your career?
That’s my biggest highlight of my dancing career. Other people may have their own opinions, but for me that was something I cant even put in words. And again, it’s a lesson because I wasn’t even going to go to the audition because I was trying to move away from dance. I had to tell myself to stop it and not miss out on something great. I went to the audition and they paired me with a female counterpart and they said go. They turned on the music and told me to do what I felt. They gave a little synopsis and I went in there and I didn’t expect anything. I did what I do best and walked out and whatever was supposed to happen was supposed to happen. Two days later I got the call that I had booked the gig. Being on set was incredible. I got to work with Travis Payne who has been Michael’s choreographer for decades. The dopest part about the video was we actually shot where he [Mike] shot “In The Closet” with Naomi Campbell, for all my MJ heads. Another thing about that video I love is the freedom I had because my beautiful counterpart, Danielle Acoff, and myself had just met on the set and we didn’t have a choreographer. They gave us direction every now and then, but they did playback and we just went with the flow. Everything you see in the video is us straight off the rip, vibing and discovering each other.
VV: So since then you’ve concluded your dancing career on a high note and devoted your time solely to molding music career with Universal Music Group. What can people look forward to from your music sound wise?
AM: I listen to a lot of stuff. In my grandparents home I grew up on R&B, the Marvin Gaye’s and Donny Hathaway’s and all of the greats, but as I was growing up and coming into my own I was listening to Usher and Boyz II Men and of course I’m not ashamed to say Beyonce. My manager had me listen to country, a genre I never thought I’d be into, and it’s crazy how the story telling and the melodies aren’t very different from R&B, you know the R&B that really captivates you. To put it simply, good R&B songs can be country songs, and good country songs can be R&B songs if you really, really listen to them. So with that said, if you took John Mayer and Adele and combined it with Usher and Justin Timberlake, my sound falls into that realm. Not saying that I’m trying to sound like anybody, but my music has something for everybody. It’s blended but most importantly it's cohesive.
What do you think of the current state of R&B? You’ve now got artists like Chris Brown and Trey Songz creating music that’s a departure from traditional R&B and are incorporating elements of hip-hop and EDM, what are your thoughts?
I respect all of them in the industry because it’s hard to get from a to b, and I can only hope to have the careers they’ve had because they’ve been around for more than five years– that’s a luxury in itself. I personally like melodies and like to sing, I’m not a great talk-singer. I can do it of course but I don’t think it’s something I’m great at and would differentiate me as an artist. But I’m feeling all of the guys. I have Trey’s new album and I love it. I’m about everybody winning. If it’s true and aesthetic to them and what their experiencing then I’m 100% with it. There’s music for everyone and music always changes so you can’t judge anyone too much. Music comes in waves.