- Words Emma Deeley
- Photography George Naylor
- Styling Millie Cullum
- Grooming Tilly Jones
- Styling Assistant Jayda Hirons
- Production Studio Notion
Indie-pop newcomer Alexander 23, takes refreshing inspiration from conversations with others in making his debut EP – an indulgent blend of tracks set to make you smile and cry.
Triple-threat singer, songwriter and producer, Alexander 23 debuts his first EP “I’m Sorry I Love You” diving deep into emotional lyrics about the infatuation of love and the disheartening lows, accompanied by eloquent guitar melodies.
This suburban Chicago born indie-pop artist with over 2.5 million monthly Spotify listeners has released a nine-track collection of songs touching on personal accounts and relatable themes from life experiences we have all almost certainly encountered. The EP hosts an amalgamation of tones and styles with some tracks taking a more subdued approach, whilst others like “Internet” fixate on a futuristic tech vibe. Ultimately, the collection leaves listeners fulfilled whatever their mood and genre of preference, as everyone can appreciate Alexander’s soft voice and carefully choreographed production.
Partly attributable to his success is his inability to sit still, explaining how once he’s achieved something momentous, “the goal post moves and then you have to think about the next step”. Speaking in reference particularly to playing in Berlin and London, cities he’d never visited before, struck him as a surreal experience and left him living the dream.
Starting his love for music at the mere age of eight, Alexander 23 is inspired by the likes of John Mayer and Kevin Parker, however, ultimately feels the “most inspirational thing is having good conversations with people”. This has evidently led to a positive outcome as the talented newcomer has been featured on the season three soundtrack of “13 Reasons Why”, Apple Music’s “Bop Of The Week”, has supported artists like Omar Apollo and Alec Benjamin and broke his festival debut at Lollapalooza 2019.
Check out this week’s Notion Internet Crush, Alexander 23 on and keep an eye out for the star who is set to come to London later this year in May.
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Just to get started, how are you doing?
I’m good, sounds cliché, but I’m living my dream. I’m a lot more tired than I thought I would be but I’m super grateful and excited.
Would you say this is all a bit surreal at the minute?
Most definitely, you always have to remind yourself constantly that these things are happening and everything here you have worked hard for, ’cause as you accomplish a goal you always feel like the goal post moves and then you have to think about the next step. I’ve never been to London or Berlin so to be able to perform at these cities places back to back, opening a girl who I met back in Brooklyn 5 years ago it’s just all a surreal experience.
So was there a moment where you started to notice things picking up momentum?
Honestly, I put out my first song in March so it’s only been 7 months, so I put out my first song a week before the Alec Benjamin tour and since then things have just been so constant. I love playing at shows and I feel so fortunate to have a very busy touring schedule in the first year of my career doing this.
That’s crazy, has it been kind of hard to adjust to such a big shift in your life? Or have you just decided to take things in your stride?
Umm the last 4/5 years have been very hectic as well in its own kind of way, so it’s been great, I really enjoy being busy as well as the travelling, but I do think the public perception of touring is glamorised a lot of the times its sleep and when not that you’re on an aeroplane, you get to your place there nowhere to put your stuff, the sound isn’t working but you just have to go through it, go on stage and smile and have fun, I feel like the best shows are never about the venue or the city it’s purely about the crowd and the energy you put in is what you’re going to receive back.
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Do you have a predetermined energy you want to give out before you get up on stage?
Yeah, I just try to have fun. I’ve worked really really hard so the show is good, I practice a lot, put in time with the songwriting so by the time I’m on stage everything is ready and I can just go and have fun with the crowd and give out good energy. The more that energy is matched by the crowd the more fun we’ll all have.
What’s one of your first memories of music?
I started to play the guitar when I was eight, my dad played it and I thought it was cool – it’s funny though the first time I played I hated it because I had a bad teacher so I quit, but then I picked it back up a few months later because I knew I wanted to do this and ever since then I’ve been playing in bands, charity shows, one bar shows… anything I could do I would go for it. Then I went to school not actually for music but there I met some dudes who I ended up playing in a band with, so I dropped out from school a year later and I’ve just ended been doing this all ever since.
Do you have any musical heroes? Anyone you idolised growing up?
Yeah as someone who was a guy playing the guitar, living in the suburbs of Chicago growing up, John Mayer was someone big I looked towards growing up and still is in other ways. I just think that something I try to do is use some more technical and musical skills in ways that are more accessible to people just so it’s simple.
Kevin Parker, another musical hero of mine, I got the chance to meet him in Austin Texas, the first time I’ve ever been star-struck, I had no idea what to say! I’m definitely influenced by him so much; I mean he’s the best. It feels like meeting someone who’s the very best of what you’re trying to do, so it’s a bit of a mind fuck [laughs].
How does it feel to have your debut EP out in the world?
I feel amazing, it’s unreal to have all these songs that mean so much to me go out to the world.
They feel quite personal, did you feel like it was daunting putting them out there?
Yeah! Friends and family have asked me that and to be honest not at all and I think the reason is because once I’ve written them it’s coming from a super personal and emotional experience and by the time the songs actually come out it’s a couple of months later and my mind is on something else. I’ve processed the whole situation and in a lot of ways, the songwriting part is how I process those events and feelings.
So, by the time it comes out I’m just excited and what’s really cool is I can re-live the emotional rollercoaster through other people’s responses and seeing how much it means to them. Someone will hear one of my songs and interpret it completely differently and I’ll think “wow I have something else going on in my life, but this still applies”, these situations give a total second wind for me.
I guess it’s a kind of cathartic release when you get to write it out and leave it all there on the paper and it must come off as a therapeutic feeling for you. So, is that the type of message you wanted to bring across in the EP?
For sure, this is all really personal to me – this is my first body of work where I’ve felt 100% truthful to what I’m doing and completely authentic to me and I’m proud of how I accomplished that and I feel that the songs are incredibly honest and that there is an attention to detail. I found that in my own experience writing songs more specifically the more general it ends up being, you think these situations are so unique and so specific to you but they’re not, of course they’re not, you feel like at the time it’s so personal once you’re writing it and then when it’s out it’s so cool to see how other people latch on to it because they’ve felt something similar it’s such a small micro detail but it’s cool.
When you’re writing does it feel like you have to go through a certain ritual to get things going, or is it a case of it happens when it happens, and you have to get it out?
Honestly, it’s a bit of both, eventually, I’ll end up stockpiling music ideas, writing production all in different ways then suddenly it will all click in a sense of this goes here and that goes there. It’s like in a movie where you’re a spy and you can take a look inside of my brain of me connecting the dots and putting stuff together.
I’ve noticed some of your writing is akin to taking notes in a diary, can it be difficult when you want to write but you don’t have the time?
It’s almost like I don’t feel like I have as much time as I used to for writing as I normally would. I’m going out, going through all these new and stimulating experiences, conversations, feelings and because of all these things I don’t always have the time to record these all down and get it all out so I’m looking forward to the next block of writing time.
Totally understand, is that coming up soon?
Yeah, it’s coming up soon, I’m actually doing a little bit in a London studio.
Do you read any books that have shaped your artistry?
Regrettably, I’m not a huge reader, I wish I was but honestly for me the most inspirational stuff is having good conversations with people. Most of the music I listen to now is my friend’s music – I love people who are being creative and get the scenarios first before releasing anything without thinking thoroughly too much. Even people and friends outside of music who are inspiring, doing things like a start-up or working for a cool company and them telling me about it in my own way is something that grabs me.
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That’s cool because people are the subject of your inspiration then?
It’s funny I’ve thought about that too. With a lot of people, you see them finding it difficult after the first album because that work is about aiming for that success and trying to get to that point. However, with me, I’ve never really found that to feel good so, it’s comforting in a way that there’s a continuum of inspiration for me because of new places and people.
Do you think it can take an emotional toll when you’re thinking about these things and writing about them?
I do, it definitely has its effects, there was a period this summer where the last thing I wanted to do was write a song. I had ideas but I just didn’t want to get it all down, but now it’s the complete opposite and I want to note down all the experiences. I’m really excited about what’s to come next.