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A Dirty Dozen with ALEXANDER WREN – September 2020

| 18 September 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “A Ft. Wayne, Indiana native, Alexander Wren grew up under the influence of an Epiphone-playing wedding-singer mother and a Hank Williams-loving father, churchgoing ‘salt of the earth’ people who taught him to follow his heart. They raised him right, introducing him to the glories of Ray Charles, Blind Willie Johnson, Billie Holiday and Eric Clapton, among other blues, gospel and soul stirrers. Looking to the future, Alexander plans to put on his hypothetical ‘blinders’ and continue down this path- following nothing but the North Star of the song. He remarks, “Instagram will lose its luster, streaming numbers will eventually fade, and this industry will forget you as soon as you’re not within the monthly trend… but the older I get the less I’m seeing music as a means of popularity or even success as much as a tradition that we get to participate in- bringing songs into existence. And songs, well… that’s something that could quite possibly be eternal.” “The Earth is Flat,” will mark the first single off of Alexander’s full-length debut.” We get Alexander to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo Credit: Landon Edwards

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

This is a fun question. Well, this latest release is what I consider to be my magnum opus as of yet. I think the unexpectedness of the song’s hook along with its maybe unconventional production really turned it into a special thing. I guess maybe one thing someone might not grab onto at first listen is that the song, in my mind, is sung from a female perspective. You get that a little more clearly in the second verse lyric, “You might bring me roses…” Not that buying roses is solely a male action, but just in my experience, I’ve always been the one bringing the roses. Another little quirk is in that last pre-chorus where it’s sung, “Just ignore Columbus // Hell, it’s third grade geography.” Lauren Weintraub (co-writer) and I had no idea about when kids learn geography and the earth being round and all of that. So we just picked third grade. That seems right… right? Anyway, when the teachers are listening out there, they might be able to tell. Maybe one other thing would be the tenor sax solo. It feels slightly reminiscent of a clarinet solo on my tune, “Thought I’d Hit the Lotto.” There’s just something about Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” that haunts me in everything that I do — ha ha!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

There isn’t really one moment I can pin everything on. I did the whole Midwestern thing where you start a band in middle school; that was cool. We wore the spandex and stuff like that. Really, getting my first electric guitar was probably a big determining factor. I didn’t do much those days other than practice my electric guitar over my little silver boombox… Later on, my older brother started working for an indie label here in Nashville. That made music even more appealing to me.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

So many, and for many different reasons. Perhaps my biggest first influence was Damien Rice. His record, O, really challenged my opinion as to what recorded music could do and what it could be. I had the honor of seeing him live a few years back, as well. What a wild show. I haven’t seen any one man ever do something like that with just a voice and acoustic guitar. More recently, I’d say the biggest influences have been piano writers, Randy Newman and Irving Berlin. Randy Newman, again, really pushes the boundaries of what a song can be. He’s socially aware and says things that really matter. And Irving Berlin is kind of my Hank Williams. He says the simplest things in the most concise and beautiful of ways.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Yeah, I think the last question kind of got into this… If I were to list five I’d say: Eric Clapton’s Unplugged, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, Randy Newman, and probably Conor Oberst. Lots of angst in there — ha ha!

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Again, most likely Randy Newman. I’d love to see what sort of timeless or even theatrical material would be born. Music is peculiar in that way. I used to hate country music — now I make country music. I used to hate musical theater; now I love it and hope that my second record is a musical.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Maybe if Elliott Smith and Irving Berlin made a country record in space. I don’t know; it’s hard to say since I’m so close to my own material. Someone once said my voice resembled Tiny Tim’s — which they meant as an insult. But I’m not going to lie, I took it as a compliment.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Ha ha! Well I’m a one-man band so I do all of the above. That said, it is kind of nice being a one-man show. You get to write the songs solely. You get to make the records that you want to make. And you get to travel around solo like a cowboy.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

That’s a hard question… I honestly don’t really know. I saw Steven Tyler down the road at Whole Foods once, but I’m not really a big Aerosmith guy. Oh! I remember. I met Allen Shamblin a few years back; he was half of the song “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” He played me the song on the acoustic, and it was just really one of the most visceral things I’ve ever experienced. Yeah… that was the last time I was starstruck.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The most rewarding part of doing what I do is finishing a good song or a record. I think these two things are the life-blood as far as what really gives this vocation meaning. If I couldn’t do this for a living, I’d probably be dead by now; I can’t do anything else sufficiently. Ha ha!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I don’t really think I’m tired of answering anything just yet; I’m mostly just glad someone’s asking me. Maybe why do you do what you do? I think so often we get so caught up in 21st century “grind” culture, that we forget the why. And in a nutshell, I think the answer to that question is to enrich the little time that I have here, to enrich others’ lives, and hopefully to make something beautiful that will inspire and empower future artists.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I really don’t think there’s a single event or scenario. I will say that I’ve definitely learned the hard way as far as work/life balance. Like I said, it’s been easy to get caught up in “grind” culture. Before I knew it, I was six years into my time in Nashville — miserable and making several trips to the ER due to panic induced tachycardia. But that’s really been the beauty of this quarantining period for me. It’s forced me to take a step back to look at my life and assess what all gives it meaning. Nowadays, I try not to focus on anything that isn’t meaningful.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I mean, I feel like the obvious answer would be like Sgt. Peppers, so I won’t do that. Strange as it may sound, I think my answer might be Eric Clapton’s Unplugged. Before I could walk, my dad had that record playing in the background. Honestly, that record in my life probably precedes even any first signs of self-awareness. Strange enough, I don’t really like anything else of Clapton’s. But there’s just some sort of understated beauty in there; there’s some sort of deeper undercurrent within that record. That record means the world to me.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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