When audiences took their seats for Top Gun: Maverick this summer, the first thing to greet their ears was another 2022 reboot: Lexii Lynn Frazier’s interpretation of the classic Top Gun Anthem. The timeless, nostalgia-inducing soundtrack was familiar yet fresh, with the prolific session player delivering her own take on the super-sized, sustain-laden lead licks throughout.
With Top Gun: Maverick set for release on Blu-Ray on October 31, we caught up with Frazier to find out how a 21-year-old with no previous film credits got the gig over, say, regular Hans Zimmer collaborator Guthrie Govan, who was credited as a score consultant on the film.
It turns out even multi-million dollar films have their chaotic production moments: Frazier got the call to do the session at the last possible minute, and was asked if she could turn it around in four to six hours.
“I was like, ‘…Yes,’” she laughs. The Top Gun team contacted Frazier via Peter Rotter, who books musicians for the Game Awards, at which Frazier is a fixture. “I had actually met Peter and Hans Zimmer at my first Game Awards in 2018,” she explains. “They were asking a couple people and no-one could do it.”
Having accepted the gig, Frazier immediately hit a bump in the road. “At the time, I couldn’t read music,” she admits. “Because I’m self-taught, I’ve done everything by ear since I was little. I literally was on Google: one page with Google and one page with the score, just going back and forth teaching myself how to read music. It took way longer than it should have, so I learned my lesson and started learning how to read music after that.”
She blames her failure to learn to read music on a Mr. Van Halen. “I started playing because of Eddie Van Halen, and he always said it’s about your ear. You don’t need to go to music school, you've just got to do what feels right.
“I took that and ran with it my whole career so when I was at a crossroads where I did need to know that stuff, I was like, ‘Huh!’” Frazier reflects. “Knowledge doesn’t hurt you. It’s never going to hurt to know more about your instrument, so I have changed my mind a little bit. Theory and reading music is pretty cool.”
At the time, Frazier was living with her parents, who recognized some of the parts from the original Top Gun. “I had never seen Top Gun when I got asked to do this. My parents were like, ‘What are you doing?’ I asked, ‘Have you heard this before?’ They said, 'Of course, that’s Top Gun.' I’m like, ‘Is it good?!’ They said, ‘Uh, you’re watching it right now.’”
Her parts completed, Frazier was then unsure which, if any, of her recorded takes would make the final cut. “I was like, ‘God, I hope it was okay!’ We did it during the pandemic and I recorded on my laptop, an old MacBook Air. I sent it in and didn’t hear anything until like a week before the movie came out!
“I was grateful for the opportunity,” she continues. “I thought whether or not my tracks end up making it, either way I got the pay stub that says Top Gun 2! I didn’t tell anybody because I was so afraid of jinxing it. I didn’t even believe it until I went to see the movie myself and saw my name in the credits. That was like, ‘Okay, now I can celebrate a little.’”
Since the film’s release, fans have compared Frazier’s performance to Billy Idol sideman Steve Stevens, who performed the original 1986 Top Gun Anthem. If you thought Stevens did it better, you’ve got an ally in Frazier.
“I had heard the Anthem before because I love Billy Idol, so I know of Steve Stevens. I’ve seen a lot of comments saying the original is the best, and they’re right! The original is always going to be the best, but I’m excited and I’m happy that I got to pay tribute, because Steve is awesome.”
Although Top Gun: Maverick is Frazier’s first movie credit, it’s far from her first major gig. Online guitar fans first saw her via her viral covers of Van Halen songs, which she recorded when she was a teenager.
“When I was first learning, I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. I couldn’t play Van Halen songs all the way through so I would learn my favorite parts and just try my best. One of the first songs I ever performed live was Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, which is very simple but it was so cool.
“My favorite Van Halen song is Little Guitars so it was a dream of mine to learn that. I watched tutorials and covers and just dissected what I thought was right and wrong. That led me to discovering that my ear’s pretty good. I just took that through the years and ran with that.”
Although Frazier was becoming known as a YouTuber, she was already a prolific performer. Recalling her first breaks, she says, “I was in Las Vegas for a soccer tournament. All the cover bands were playing '80s rock and that was my thing. I would go up to all the bands like, ‘Hey, I play guitar, let me come up with you!’ It just snowballed, and I was getting footage from performing live with these bands.
“I was touring in a Prius across the country, paying to play everywhere I could. At 15 or 16, I had done the Monsters of Rock Cruise and Randy Rhoads Remembered. I performed Crazy Train for his family, which is crazy. At Randy Rhoads’ mom’s funeral I played Dee, which was written for her by Randy.”
But then Frazier's career took an unexpected turn. “One day on Facebook I got a message that I thought was fake. It was like, ‘We’re putting together a girl band. It’s by Simon Cowell and Louis Tomlinson from One Direction.’” Despite her skepticism, Frazier attended the audition and found herself signed to Sony with a short-lived girl band. “It was chaotic but I did learn a lot about what not to do in the industry,” she says now.
The end of the band didn’t stop the work invitations coming. At the time of writing, Frazier is preparing to go on tour with R&B/neo-soul star Kehlani. It's her attitude, Frazier reflects, that has meant she's remained an in-demand session player.
“I’m the first person to say that I’m not the best guitar player in the world but I have my own style and I know what I’m good at,” she admits. “I think the mixture of being genuine and putting a good energy out into the world and working really hard has gotten me where I’ve gotten at this point. You can teach yourself how to play guitar but being a cool person and having a good energy has to come from within.”
That modest explanation overlooks her considerable chops. She concedes that her rock vibe is an asset. “I feel like everyone wants that rock edge, especially for live shows. Country artists, R&B, pop – they all have elements like, ‘We want rock guitar!’ That’s where I come in.”
“It made me more versatile,” Frazier continues. “I’m not just up there doing power chords and tapping licks. I can have moments of that, which are cool, but then I have to learn 7th and 9th chords and jazz things. It really broadened my knowledge of guitar playing and music in general, being able to take my rock influence and apply it to these new situations. I would love to play for a metal or a rock artist one day because that’s one thing I haven’t done. I’m just trying to be everywhere!”
Although Frazier has a positive attitude to working, she has overcome huge obstacles to be where she is. “I was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disorder called aplastic anemia,” she explains. ”It’s essentially leukemia, but the auto immune version of it. It creates bruising, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate.”
As Frazier reflects, the disease almost ended her career mid-tour: “When I was in South America with Kehlani doing the Lollapalooza run, I was passing out. I would go on stage and then after I’d be throwing up all night.”
Despite the challenges, Frazier has continued to tour, and now hopes she can promote awareness around chronic illness and disability. “I’m grateful for opportunities to talk about it like this because it just rules my entire life,” she says frankly. “It sucks. You want to believe everything happens for a reason but what reason could this possibly be happening for?”
Frazier is confident she can make life as working musician with aplastic anaemia work. “My doctor is awesome and works with my schedule. Being able to manage meds and do transfusions while I’m on the road is a scary ordeal but I’m doing it.
“I’m really grateful for Kehlani and her team because they accommodate me. It can be scary going in with any chronic illness wondering if you’re a burden or a liability. If you are the right person for the job, that stuff shouldn’t matter. You should be accommodated because you should be there.”
At the end, it’s Frazier's love of performing that shines through. “Kehlani’s so awesome. I’m so stoked for this tour that’s coming up!”
- To keep up to date with Lexii Lynn Frazier, head over to her Instagram page (opens in new tab).