OSM: Hi Alex, well the album is finally here. How does it feel to have your collection of songs, your work, released to the world?
In short, it feels great. We recorded this record last year so we’ve been sitting on the songs for a while and had only played them to the people who were involved in the album. To have them out now, and into the world, is a good feeling, especially due to the warmth the songs are receiving.
OSM: You’ve had a great response to your single releases ‘Groundhog’ and ‘Long Way To Go’, including radio play on the BBC and Absolute Radio. How does it feel to have your music so well received, do you see it as a vindication of all your hard work?
Releasing music into the world is always a strange thing, because for months they are your exclusive creation. The minute you send them out into the universe you have no control over how they are going to be welcomed or what songs are going to connect to people. You may have an idea in your head but it always springs a surprise or two. People may connect to one song more than another. My favourite, isn't your favourite, and a song may have a completely different meaning to you, than it does to me, and I love that., It's one of the great beauties in any creative activity. Watching it land. We had such fun making this album and we knew in the studio the strength of the material. So to have it so well received at radio (and the reaction to 'live') does feel like people are getting it.
OSM: We absolutely love the album. What was the general songwriting process and are there any interesting stories around the recording?
During the first lockdown I started listening back, with fresh ears, to a bunch of demos I had kicking around. I decided I liked them, and so finished them at home. A producer and good friend of mine, Michael Smith, (Elvis Costello, Wolf Alice) had been talking about making a record with me for a few years; but it never seemed to be the right time - he’s super busy: and I recorded my last album with Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre) because that was just too good an opportunity to pass by. But we finally hooked up and booked the sessions in. The songs were complete, fully rehearsed and arranged before we went into the studio: that's the only way I can afford to record: I have to be ready, as do the musicians. It blows me away to think of the manner in which albums like Exile On Main Street came to be, basically workshopped onto tape, over a period of months. That said, during the recording process we did some additional sonic sculpting. Michael has great ears and suggested some little tweaks here, and there. It was a great working relationship. The majority of the songs were recorded at RYP Studios which is Rayner’s Lane in London under a Chicken Cottage fast food joint! The insane glamour of rock & roll, right?! The piano parts, however, were recorded at Woodworm Studios in Oxfordshire.
OSM: Which is your favourite track on the album? And which track do you enjoy playing live the most?
My favourite song changes all the time. I’m so connected to them that sometimes I take a break from listening, before returning with fresh ears. Currently my favourite is Gigolo Jesus. I love the production on it and the way the song builds and develops. I was looking for a drum sound similar to Beck’s ‘Sea Change’ album and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono album. Coyote is a favourite when we play live and it’s one of the songs that I noticed the audience responding to, from the very first time we performed it.
OSM: You are playing in Germany with the legendary Marc Almond and also joining him on his UK tour this autumn. How did that come about and are you looking forward to performing on tour with Marc?
Neal X who is Marc’s guitar player and musical director came to see me at a show in London a few months back, loved the gig and invited me, that evening, to be sole support on Marc’s UK tour this Autumn. The venues are all stunning so it’ll be great getting on those stages playing to sold out theatres, and to a brand new audience.
As you quite rightly say, I've just got back from Berlin where I supported Marc for two nights at the Passionskirche. A truly beautiful venue. Marc, the band and his crew were a joy to work with. The UK tour will be a lot of fun. I can't overstate how kind that is, when a major artist, such as Marc, takes an interest in your work and gives you a shot.
OSM: What challenges have you faced since launching your career?
The biggest challenge as an artist, not signed to a major label, is essentially being heard. There’s so much white noise out there. In this digital age of ours, with streams and algorithms essentially dictating all, it’s easy to be drawn into that voodoo: and forget about the music. Another challenge, of course, is financial. The way the majority of people consume music now has changed, so less money is being made by selling your records. For me, though, it’s always been about performing live and creating a body of work that people will respond to. I started playing live in pubs from fourteen years old, and have been fortunate to make a living doing that. For me it has been an apprenticeship, where I learn trade, and craft. Every day that's true. I changed the set list in Berlin for my second show with Marc, based on what I learned from the audience during my first slot. But it has been soul destroying at times. You have to keep believing in yourself, and keep working as hard as you can.
OSM: What are your plans for the year ahead besides the autumn tour?
We’re playing a bunch of festivals this summer - Glastonbury, Lakefest, Nozstock, Chalfest, Americana Fest, Somerstock. Later in the year I’m also playing at the British Country Music Festival in Blackpool, as well as returning to play Shiiine On Weekender in Minehead in November. Another single from the album will be released later this summer and I’ll be playing a tour of UK independent record shops to coincide with the launch of the vinyl.
OSM: If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
I think there needs to be more support for independent artists and venues in this country. So often, it seems, that we hear of iconic grass roots venues closing down due to rising costs. And it really does feel that music, as well as the arts in general are taken for granted. There are a huge amount of talented musicians and songwriters in the UK but unfortunately it’s not financially sustainable and they end up working shitty jobs. You can earn far more money playing covers in pubs than playing your original music at a festival and that isn’t right. More respect, more financing, more opportunities. I guess, though, that this is symptomatic of our era. It just makes a hard thing, harder. But I'm in this for the long run, and the new songs that I'm sitting on are stronger still.
OSM: If you could share the stage with another band or performer who would it be?
Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen would be right at the top of that list.
OSM: What do you enjoy most about being a solo artist?
I guess the one advantage of being a solo artist is: you have complete autonomy regarding what you create. And complete control regarding what the vision is. My band, which plays on the new record (The Crown Electric) will also be playing with me at a bunch of the summer festivals. I love playing with these musicians, but I guess I'm still the one calling the shots. A democratic, benign dictatorship!
OSM: What songs are on your playlist right now, which songs are you into at the moment?
There's an album called Long Lost by a band called Lord Huron which came out last year and I've had it on repeat for months! Everyone should check it out. Right now I'm digging the new albums by Father John Misty (Chloe & The Next 20th Century) and Arcade Fire (WE). I also thought the latest War On Drugs album was great. I'm also listening to the latest album from Ian Noe (River Fools & Mountain Saints) which is brilliant, especially the song 'Ballad Of A Retired Man'. I've also recently been introduced to the King Curtis - Live At Fillmore West album from 1971 - some unbelievable live recordings on there.
'For Everything Under The Sun' is out now and you can listen to the album below.