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Nashville guitarist with Sault roots reflects on career so far

Alex Walls does it all ,from replicating Ace Frehley in a Kiss tribute act to being a hired gun for blues artists to being a sideman for up-and-coming alternative country artist Cory Marks
Stage shot Alex Walls
Sault-born guitarist Alex Walls (right) performs with Cory Marks.

Alex Walls was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie.

Although he didn't pick up a guitar until he was 13, Walls was raised in a household that was full of music.

“My parents always had great taste in music and there was always a guitar around the house,” says Walls.

“I didn’t start playing seriously until I saw a video of Slash [from Guns ‘n’ Roses] playing on YouTube and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Practicing guitar led him to his first band at seventeen years of age.

“I didn’t join a band until I met my good friend Derek Turner [Andy Chillman and the Chill Men/Papa Fogal’s Chair/Garden of Bedlam],” he says.

“That turned into a lot of great times and lifelong friendships.”

With Turner on drums, Walls joined a band called Stanley Hill and began playing the local bars.

“Derek is the benchmark I use for drummers to this day and I am very fortunate to have had the chance to meet those guys and get to play with them over the years.”

At 18, after graduating high school, Walls moved to Toronto in 2013. 

“I was living in Toronto for a couple years and nothing was really happening for me there music wise,” the guitarist says.

“I knew if I wanted to take a serious shot at [music], I had to make a move.”

After considering various destinations including Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas, Walls decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee in 2016.

“Nashville seemed to be the most happening place at the time,” noting he initially spent six months there testing the musical waters.

“I actually didn’t know a single person in Nashville when I moved.”

By March 2017, Nashville had become his full-time home.

“I just saved up some money, bought a one way plane ticket brought a guitar and never looked back,” says Walls.

“It was definitely a risk looking back now but I’m glad I did it. I have been there ever since.”

Walls says that about ninety percent of his musical work in Nashville consists of live performance work.

“I play regularly in town five to six nights a week with various different bands and musical styles, as well as travelling.”

Walls regularly plays for Monica Lewellen, as well as Cody Parks and the Dirty South, a “country metal”

He has even played the role of Ace Frehley in a KISS tribute band a few times with full make up and smoking guitars.

“We even had Christopher Williams on drums who played for Gene [Simmons’] and Ace [Frehley’s] solo bands.

Walls also does a lot of “hired gun” work.

“I play for artists where you usually I have a limited amount of time to learn their music and then have to perform it as close to the record as possible, as well as touring nationally and internationally.”

In 2019, he was a hired gun for a blues artist, which allowed him to perform a few shows in Europe.

“I have also done some studio work here too, playing on a few artist’s records and even some podcast radio jingle-type stuff. Whatever anyone will hire me for,” he laughs.

Interestingly, Walls was recommended by another Nashville guitarist to work with an up-and-coming northern Ontario country artist named Cory Marks.

“I got a message one day from Cory’s manager, asking if I was available to play Boots and Hearts festival, as well as a September tour through the U.S. with Halestorm and Theory of a Deadman,” he laughs, saying he immediately cleared his schedule for that opportunity. 

“I actually met Cory for the first time last year in Canada, the day before we played Boots and Hearts, which was my first gig with him,” he says.

“Unfortunately, some of the tour dates were cancelled because of COVID, but we still got to play a couple shows with Halestorm, as well as at Rocklahoma, which was a dream come true for me.”

Since August 2019, Walls has continued to play for Marks.

Cory Marks, who is originally from North Bay a mere few hours from Walls' hometown, has released several albums that mix country music with the “hard-hitting stomp of rock and roll.”

Marks’ music has been garnering tremendous attention here in Canada and internationally with over 100 million streams worldwide.

His EP Who I Am was nominated for Canadian Country Music Association’s Alternative Country Album of the Year and featured the gold-certified hit Outlaws and Outsiders (feat. Travis Tritt, Ivan Moody, and Mick Mars) which landed at number one on the Canadian iTunes Country Songs chart.

That album made Marks the first-ever Canadian country artist to have a Top 10 U.S. rock-radio hit.   

Marks is currently nominated for four Country Music Association of Ontario Awards (CMA) for the single and EP Nashville Nights.

“I think Cory deserves all the success he has achieved,” says Walls.  

“I think he has a great career ahead of him and I think he’s doing something different in comparison to all the generic stuff out there right now, especially in country music. I’m rooting for him to win and I hope he continues to be successful.”

Although Walls won’t be moving back to the Sault any time soon, he returns home a few times a year and always at Christmas.

“My schedule is always pretty busy though so I don’t have a lot of time off these days, but I do keep in touch with all my friends and family regularly,” he says.

“I plan to stay in Nashville as long as I continue to get work. It definitely has been good to me so far. As far as the future goes, I’m looking forward to getting out on the road more at the end of this year, and want to focus more on original music.”