The following is an exclusive Independent Spotlight interview with a compelling new rising performer, Al-x. She's released a brand new music video today - see the link at the bottom of the interview to check it out!
Al-x - Your music is intriguing because you wear many hats throughout its inception and production. You’re playing guitar, singing, dancing, songwriting, producing, and so on. How do you manage to combine all of that into one coherent piece of art? You’re operating on more levels than the typical independent musician.
Well, first let me thank you for this interview and the opportunity to be on your blog! Secondly, thanks for the compliment – at least I took it as a compliment to be operating on many different levels. I have worked with other musicians and producers, but a lot of my work has been on my own. I like conceptualizing something from the beginning, trying different things with it, building upon it and coming out with a gem that started from just a spark.
I know some artists can’t or don’t like to do that whole process on their own, but for me, I find it gratifying to use many different parts of myself to come out with the end product. It feels like a full-body experience.
It would be an understatement to say you’re a prolific songwriter. You have over three hundred tunes under your belt. What gets your creative gears spinning in the songwriting process? Are there any particular themes or ideas that your songs gravitate toward?
My favorite type of songwriting is when it comes out like I’m throwing up (laughs). When the idea seems to come from above, use my body as a medium and spit out a fully-formed song. Now unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time. There are times in my life when a bunch of ideas will be scurrying around in my head and I have to keep harnessing them and molding them into songs or I go crazy. Then there are slower times. And the phases aren’t necessarily predictable.
I draw from my own life, from my dreams, from TV shows, movies or books. Certain characters’ storylines can just move me so fervently that I want to write a song about them.
You classify yourself as a ‘teaspoon of electro-pop’ with ‘a dash of Madonna and Taylor Swift.’ Now, the acoustic singer songwriter space in our modern independent musical climate is heavily occupied. In fact, I’d argue it’s oversaturated with acts that all sound similar. How do you break through that noise? How do you create music and a persona that’s different than the myriad of counterparts you have in the genre?
By playing guitar & dancing at the same time, for one! I’m trying to emphasize that more now because I just haven’t seen people do it, and those are two things that I love!
I guess there are a lot of singer-songwriters in the indie music space, but what I don’t see a lot of in the mainstream are girls with guitars. That seems to go in phases – and it’s time for it to come back around. So people who are mainly tuned into the mainstream aren’t seeing that many singer-songwriter girls with guitars, and in that way I can seem refreshing or “different.”
When listening to your music, I noticed a compelling balance between electronica influence and acoustic musings. I really dug ‘On The Dark Side,’ but equally enjoyed your new single, ‘Always.’ They’re entirely different genres, really. Is there a direction you’re leaning, or do you intend to keep adding new elements to the genre-hopping nature of your music?
I intend to keep genre-hopping! Like most people, there’s a part of me that’s more introspective and a part that’s more outwardly exploratory, so why not express both sides? Sometimes in my shows I’ll tell the audience that they’re in for a kind of bipolar set because I bounce around, but I think it keeps it interesting. Also I’d like to think my music could be the soundtrack throughout your day then, as we all go through different moods and energy levels throughout the day. Often you have to switch artists to keep up with your changing moods. With mine, you’d just skip to another track.
As aforementioned, you cite influence from the likes of Madonna and Taylor Swift. I like this, because it’s a hint at combining the old and the new. What elements of a vintage pop sound like Madonna’s do you utilize? On the other side of the spectrum, what elements of contemporary pop do you enjoy?
In that statement I mention them both for their music and also as artists. Honestly there’s a lot of contemporary pop that I don’t enjoy, but I do love Taylor. She’s an amazing writer – inventive, clever, extremely hook-y – and she has this sweet positive persona that I think sets a good example. A lot of what I’m inspired by with her is her writing style. With Madonna, well that’s a loooong story. She has been an inspiration for a long time and I’ve been influenced by things she’s done for years. I really love her ‘90s stuff, which actually encompasses a wide variety of styles. In that time she wasn’t afraid to try things and bring things up from the underground. She has this element of surprise that I think is wise for any artist to take note of.
In their own ways, they both have a strong sense of self, a message of empowerment and non-self-destructive tendencies. Those are all things that are important to me to encourage. And as artists, sometimes we are lucky enough to get the opportunity to have some influence – whether it’s to 100 people or 10 million.
What do you think your demographic is? As musicians, we always want our music to apply to a variety of audiences. With that said, we always find our niches. I imagine a younger audience is who you’re reaching out to?
I’d say my target market is people in their 20s-40s with pop-leanings. Within that, I think there’s a group that really enjoys diversity within their pop music. That group would be my main niche, but to break it down further, people who enjoy pop-leaning acoustic singer-songwriter and another who like pop-based electronic music. A lot of artists include different tempos and styles into their albums. My case may be more extreme, but that’s ok with me. I may be “indie” in the sense that I’m not a huge star, but what I write is pop music.
Let’s briefly touch on the future of your music career. What’s the end game? You’re starting to pick up some modest steam - positive press and reviews, a slew of performances at notable venues, and some well shot music videos. How do you keep that going and continue to evolve your sound?
The end game, in brief, is to connect with more & more people through my music. What I’m concentrating on more now is performing more outside LA and in many different kinds of venues. Also will release some more new music. I think I’m in a state where I’m changing and evolving a lot, so it’s not that much of a task to evolve my sound right now. I think persistence and accepting that things are not going to be how you imagined them in your head most of the time are two important factors to keep pushing forward and driving toward your dreams.
This Friday, September 18, you’re putting out another one of those videos. This time, for that new single, ‘Always.’ What can you tell us about the video? More so, what you can tell us about the remixed version of the single that’s also a part of the release of ‘Always’?
This video has more of a freestyle feel to it and it’s a lot lighter and more playful than “On the Dark Side”, plus it involves some of the dancing with the guitar that I mentioned earlier. It’s very different than my 1st video, as is my look. I don’t want to keep just doing the same thing. We shot it at some really beautiful locations in LA, some public, some private. Once again I had a great crew of people working on it.
Regarding the remix, I’m so excited to finally have one! I used to buy remixes all the time and sometimes liked them better than the originals. It was like you got to discover the song all over again. With someone remixing my own song, I was fascinated as to how they would interpret it. And sure enough, it came out in a way I never would have thought of. I’m giving it away for FREE with my “Always” single on Bandcamp!
You’ve built up a significant following worldwide, but seem centralized locally to Los Angeles as well. Do you have plans to take your show on the road or give fans an opportunity to catch you live elsewhere?
Yesss!! I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, and have started to more in the last year, but I really would love to go to places where I know I have larger groups of fans and finally get to play for them and meet them! I don’t know if they know this, but it can truly make my day when they post certain things or make little videos using my songs or pictures. To be able to have the back and forth with them that you get when performing would be amazing.
I always ask the same closing question with Independent Spotlight artist interviews. It’s always interesting to get insight into an artist not just as a creator of music, but a consumer as well. If we were to set your Spotify or iPod to shuffle, what five songs might appear?
Thanks for your really insightful and complex questions! It’s been fun! I hope people will check out my website alexmusicsite.com and join me on social media.
“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, “Clearest Blue” by CHVRCHES, “Like a Prayer” by Madonna, “Foolish Games” by Jewel & “Style” by Taylor Swift.