City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

On That Note

Grammy-Nominated Alvin Garrett Gives Back to Future Artists

Article by Denise K. James

Photography by Courtesy of Alvin Garrett

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

Alvin Garrett will tell you his first love was music — a bass guitar he received for his 11th birthday effectively changed his life. Yet, long before he picked up that instrument, he was already making up poems and lyrics – the early stages of what would one day become his award-winning songwriting. Originally from Tuscaloosa, Alvin attended Samford University in Birmingham and earned his degree in business. Following graduation, he spent two years in the corporate world before returning to his true passion. “I gave myself totally to music,” he shared. 

As he grew as a performance musician — touring with his band, Just a Few Cats, and performing at weddings and events — Alvin continued to work on his songwriting. Combining strategies from his business background with his natural creativity, he developed a method to compose songs for both himself and other artists. Soon enough, hard work proved fruitful, and Alvin started receiving opportunities to collaborate with major artists such as Kelly Rowland, Fantasia, and other performers of gospel and R&B. In 2012, he was proud to earn a Grammy nomination for a song called “Bring Your Praise.” Today, his musical career continues to be multi-faceted; he spends time performing music, writing music and teaching local students how to develop musical craft through his course, The Write Life, as part of The Dannon Project, a Birmingham nonprofit. “I started getting invitations from schools to talk about songwriting … so I developed a curriculum,” he explained. “That became my pathway to giving back.”

In Alvin’s words, The Write Life is not just about songwriting but about mentoring young people to “get their lives on the right track.” He discovered many youths who want to create art are in and out of the justice system, hungering for a way to express themselves. Thanks to The Write Life, music becomes their avenue of self-expression, helping them to process complex feelings and thoughts with purpose. Alvin encourages his proteges to veer away from offensive language and anything violent or misogynistic and to communicate their ideas so they appeal to a wider audience. Ultimately, all finished songs are recorded, and the students are able to take pride in their creative work.

“I love giving back as a mentor — not just teaching songwriting but also representing who a person can be through working hard, making good decisions and dreaming,” Alvin said. “I show these kids you can do whatever you want to do, as long as you make the right choices and you have a plan.”

Alvin’s latest deluxe album, “The Lightness of Love,” was released this year and features rousing tracks reminiscent of Al Green, Sam Cooke and other beloved musical artists. He calls his own style “inspirational soul” — and considering his work on stage and off, we can believe it.