Special Interview: Alex Watts

theaussieword.com meets up with Alex Watts for a special blog interview…

Give us an introduction. How did it all begin? What had you first interested in music?
Music has dominated everything I do for about as long as I can remember; I’ve been playing quasi-seriously at a semi-professional level for the last three years.  Two moments that stand in my mind as being ones that first sent me down the dubious path of rockn’roll were seeing Paul McCartney singing Yesterday on The Ed Sullivan Show in The Beatles Anthology about 1995, and then hearing The Sex Pistols about four years later.  Life changing stuff. 

What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
I’ve never experienced anything like the thrill I get from making and performing music, I’d say my main motivation is to just keep getting better and top everything I’ve done previously.  That’s from an artistic viewpoint, from a business/industry viewpoint I’m quite competitive and ambitious in my own way, which I think is healthy and keeps me from being too lazy.  So everytime we release something and it does better than previously that encourages me to keep going and to make music that excites me.

What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?
Despite what I just said I don’t have any concrete goals per se, I don’t expect to get rich doing this or to earn an enormous fan base, if those were my goals I would go about things completely different.  I just want to make the best music I can while I can and hopefully other people can enjoy it too.

What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I have just released a new EP called ‘Sing, Strum & Strut’, which is out now on my label Astound Records.  The launch tour begins this week with a special eight-piece version of Alex Watts & the Foreign Tongue, together for one night only, playing at Cherry Bar in Melbourne.  Then myself and Steven Clifford (The Hello Morning) will head off to see the rest of the country, beginning in Adelaide on Saturday.  Full details of all the shows are up on my website and Facebook page.

Tell us a bit about your latest album and how would you best describe your music?
The new record is an acoustic EP, featuring just myself on guitar, piano and vocals with the exception of the song Reunited, which features Jason Jennings (The Foreign Tongue) on saxophone and Seri Vida on vocals.  I spent a lot of last year touring as a solo act with just a guitar, both around Australia and in the UK, and I thought that the stripped back version should be represented on disc, as it’s very different from the band sound.

How would I describe the music?  The way I present the music, the different instrumentation and format, can be quite diverse, but to me it all comes from the same place.  Although I have a band, which is sometimes a rockn’roll three piece, sometimes a rock/pop/soul eight-piece, to me it’s all pop music.  

Success, what is the secret to it?
Understanding what your own definition of that is.

What has been your biggest career highlight?
I could list a bunch of shows that were fun or famous people I got to play with, but it’s all been a highlight, with very few lows to be honest.

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
I think there are some really interesting innovators in modern Rn’B at the moment, people like Frank Ocean and Beyonce who are using unconventional song structures and cadences in a pop setting, just like David Bowie has done in the past.  I respect smart pop music, and if it makes you want to shake, all the better.

Any new projects in the pipeline?
The next project will be a band record, we’ve started demoing some songs with the eight-piece version of the Foreign Tongue and I’m pretty excited about how it sounds.  We’ll be debuting a few new songs at the Melbourne launch in fact.

The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?
The music industry isn’t that big, at least not in Australia, it can just seem big at first.  My plan is a long-term one and I hope to keep people interested in what I’m doing and what I’m about to do for as many years as I can.  I certainly feel I’ve come quite a way from three years ago, when I had a demo and no idea what to do with it!

Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.
Fred McCubbin, Sydney Nolan, John Longstaff.

The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
I’d say any time of change can be a point where the innovators can make their mark, so it’s an interesting time to be making my way into the music industry with so many new ideas being expressed. Ideas like online only record labels, cassette only labels, or vinyl only record labels.  With Astound Records I do as much as possible in-house – from recording, mixing, shooting and editing video, graphic design, PR, bookings, web design, social media – it’s all DIY, which means it’s a hell of a lot of work but you get out what you put in and there’s no one to blame or pay.  So I think it’s an exciting time to be in the music industry, as I said earlier my goal has never been to own a yacht, I’m a musician. 

Thanks for the interview! What final message do you have for us today? 
Music is good for you – go buy it, see it, taste it.

Twitter: @BiggAlexWatts

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