Lockdown has been a catalyst for live-stream type music concerts to evolve and it’s safe to say we’re still buzzing from the one aired on Friday night. Umusic competition winners, the label and selected guests got the opportunity to tune in to the influential rising artist Alexander 23’s virtual showcase at 5.30pm.
I’ll freely admit I didn’t know what to expect. To be honest, I didn’t follow the guy as a fan to date. I recognised a couple of his soft-pop electric hits from my Sunday morning Tik Tok scrolling sessions, but I hadn’t previously watched his videos or interviews. In watching him perform for the first time it quickly became clear he didn’t need the flashing lights, exaggerated costume, screaming fans, or any uplifting features of a physical stadium show to really nail a performance. Alexander was able to play with maximum passion and technicality that sent goosebumps all the way from Chicago, through the interweb and into our bedrooms.
If it wasn’t his god-sent voice that completely blew me away it was his absolutely fantastic manner. What an emotionally mature 24-year-old man. His articulation, expression and insightful explanations were phenomenal. He felt like he’d make a bloody good friend; filled with decent advice and a homely kind of comfort. Alexander’s done virtual tours in the Philippines and China, but this was the first appearance for Australia and New Zealand. Australian TV Presenter Danny Clayton guided us through the performance, his lively character acting a perfect chaperone to the evening.
A quick introduction from Danny explained Alexander had begun writing and recording music at the ripe age of 12. (I was watching What Now and eating Maggi chicken noodles at that age but that’s fine). Danny expressed that there’s so many artists out there these days, but every now and then a musician comes along that perfectly captures a feeling and a moment, and that what Alexander 23 is so brilliant at. “He captures a fragility that’s so real and honest, it feels like he’s singing our own thoughts and feelings.”
Just on cue, Alexander came on to the call.
He began with a shy but warm hello and a thank-you to us for logging on and got straight into a cover of the famous Aussie band he adores, JET, with their timeless masterpiece ‘Look What You’ve Done’.
What an opening. How did I forget this song existed!? It’s a classic. I watched from the comfort of my bed and dumplings (Master Dumplings in Remuera does a great deal) as the atmosphere of ‘wows’ and written applauses began to build in the online chat, a feature that should be considered the key area of virtual performances as they escalate during these times.
‘High School’ came next – a song stripped of any featured technical production. As an intro, he declared growing up can be hard, fun, crappy, cool and a lot of things all at once “and I tried to capture it all here with this song”.
I was supposed to be typing whilst listening to the live show in order to write some kind of drastically fantastic post-show review but at this point my notes just go blank. I was so engrossed in ‘High Schools’ beautiful vocals. Those high notes – was he kidding? It was angelic. Goosebumps through the computer screen. Wow. We took ourselves off mute and clapped.
The finish of the 3-course musical delight was breakout single ‘IDK You Yet’ in which he wrote in isolation, a special song to Alexander for a lot of reasons. “I was in a headspace of being so isolated and missing so many things I couldn’t even name. Things were going sour both romantically, professionally and well, everythingly [sic]. I was losing control of my life and found this profound void in my chest”.
When we recovered from the wow, we got to shoot him some questions.
Who inspired you to create music?
“The reason I picked up the guitar in the first place was because my Dad played the guitar. Music was around me all the time; it inspired my music in so many ways. I grew up with it.”
What event/person in your life turned you into the person you are today
“I dropped out of school after one year to pursue this. That was an enormous turning point in my life.”
How do you stay true to yourself in an industry that’s really subjective?
“Don’t get me wrong I find myself banging my head against the wall sometimes. I have an amazing support network and I live with friends that don’t play or work in the music industry which keeps a nice separation between career and regular life. I make time for other hobbies that aren’t related to music as well, it helps me keep my perspective and you know, keeps my mind right.”
If you could feel the same way you did in the past and write a song about it, what would that moment be?
“Wow. Amazing question. With quarantine I’m having to confront these feelings from a long time ago because I’m not having new experiences. Maybe meeting my ex-girlfriend for the first time. I want to remember how it felt. I’d like to see that one more time.”
What’s your coffee order?
“Yeah I’m a coffee fiend so I appreciate the question! I make my own cold brew as dark, bitter and terrible as you can get. That’s how I like my coffee. My music career is fueled on caffeine, certainly not sleep.”
If you were a soup what kind of soup would you be?
“Hahaha. Um okay. A chowder. It’s a baseline of cream and potatoes with plenty of room for other ingredients. I’d be a chowder, because of the freedom to mix it up.”
Do you suffer from writer’s block?
“Oh, I had that today. I tried to write the best song ever and I could only ever write two lines. To help, I like to diversify my creative outlets, drawing, designing merchandise, cooking, DJ’ing and I’m learning how to sew at the moment. Having things that fulfill me that I can do other than music is important.”
If you could listen to one album for the rest of your life what would it be
“Tough one. ‘Get born’ by JET.”
Have you ever cried while performing a song?
“At my first show in LA – singing song Dirty F1’s. The crowd was singing so loud I couldn’t even hear myself singing and I started choking up. Having hundreds of people sing your words back to you so loud you can’t even sing them yourself is yeah, crazy.”
On behalf of the fans and the team, we’d like to say a huge thank-you to Alexander for taking the time to perform for us. I can’t imagine how bizarre it would be staring at strange faces on a screen on mute as you pour your heart and soul into the little camera above your desktop, but whatever the case, he did amazing, and certainly has me converted. I look forward to closely following the upward journey of his career. Fingers crossed he can make it to our shores soon.