interview by lilli marvin
Honey Punch is pleased to present “Sad,” the latest single by rising pop sensation Alexander23. The young songwriter’s sound—often likened to a mix of Lauv and Brockhampton—is relatable, welcoming, yet fresh: and this new release is no exception.
Congrats on the release of ‘Sad’—can you tell us a bit about what inspired the new single and what you want listeners to take away?
Definitely. In a really positive way, lately people are writing about mental health issues that they face personally and how it affects their day-to-day. I wanted to write a song from the vantage point—and it’s a real situation I’m in—of seeing someone you love and care about a lot going through that, and how helpless it can feel knowing you’re not going to be able to solve their depression or anxiety by yourself, but you’re just trying to be there for them as best as you can in the meantime.
I read in an interview you once said ‘It’s easy to write good songs but nearly impossible to write great ones’—what constitutes a great song for you?
What constitutes a great song for me is someone saying something or an idea that is simple in a way I haven’t heard it before. And I hope people think that I accomplish that just because the phrase ‘you’re just too good at being sad’ [off of the new single] sums up how I feel when I’m trying to help someone and just am constantly being outdone by their chemical imbalance or their situation.
Definitely. Do you have some great songs that you either grew up listening to or are your favorites now?
Hmm…I’ve actually never listened to music, hah, that’s a good question.
Take your time, it always takes me forever to answer this one, too.
It’s so funny right, all we do all day is make music and listen to music and talk about music and write about music and then when someone’s like ‘Hey! What are you listening to?’ I’m immediately like oh boy…here we go. I mean, some recent songs that have been put out that I think are great is a song called ‘Ugly’ by Deb Never. Omar Apollo has a song called ‘Ashamed’ that I think definitely accomplishes that. And just to clarify, I think that’s one way a song can be great, there are plenty of great songs that I couldn’t even tell you what they are about or even what any lyrics are but they’re so telling instrumentally or melodically, greatness can be accomplished in a variety of ways—I’m just drawn to an extremely compelling lyric.
So when you’re writing, do you generally start off with lyrics, or beats, what is your process like?
It definitely varies, but most often it starts with a lyric whether it’s one line or sometimes I write almost all the lyrics before I even start playing any instruments. For me, it’s often easier to come up with melodies I like if I’m singing words that I like, I’ll just try singing it a million ways until I find something that resonates with me personally. So, it usually starts with a line and that ends up being the first line of the song or the chorus, and then the song builds up around that.
I saw that you make your own cover art—is that something you are still doing?
Yeah, I love making the multimedia things that surround a song. At least for me as a fan of music, I’m always so curious to see what direction artists go with their cover art, lyric videos, music videos, stuff like that. It paints a broader picture of the world around a song. Especially because when we listen to music, we create our own world around it, so it’s cool to get to see what the artist had envisioned for that world. I do all the single art, cover art, all that stuff—I design the merch. Actually, today I’m making a lyric video for my song ‘Mars’ I’m literally chopping up cardboard and making a diorama in my house right now. People talk a lot these days about cohesion within an artist’s world, so as long as I’m doing these things myself or am extremely involved in the process then all of my things will work together by default.
Along those lines, besides making music, do you have any other creative hobbies?
I love drawing and a lot of that seeps into my music. I’m not an especially good artist, but I think it’s fun. I like just whipping out crayons, learning how to do simple animations—I think in another life I was a 3D animator, but definitely not in this life.
I would say genre-bending is becoming a pretty common industry practice, do you see yourself experimenting with any new sounds or styles outside of pop in the foreseeable future?
Definitely. I learned to know myself enough as a songwriter where songwriting is a common thread amongst my music, and creatively that allows me to try out different soundscapes instrumentally, so as long as I write the songs, I know it’ll sound like an Alexander23 song.
What do you think is that defining element that makes your sound ‘yours’?
I think that [my music] is extraordinarily personal. I’ve found that the more personal and specific I make my music; those are the songs that end up connecting with the most people—It’s kinda backwards. So, I would say I’m extremely honest and personal, which is what makes it sound like me.
The ‘Scout Report’ in your Spotify Artist Bio says that you call your grandparents often, is that an important relationship in your life?
Definitely. I’m lucky enough to have all of my grandparents right now and talk to them a good amount. It’s funny because when I call them, they’re so happy I called, they say ‘Oh, you made my day’ and think it’s so selfless of me to call them. But, for me, I feel so selfish when I call them because it’s like a cheat code to feeling better. When I feel bad, I just call them and the happiness they get just from a simple phone call makes me feel great.
Would you say that your personal relationships in general heavily inform your creative process?
Definitely. I’ve only been putting out music like this for a couple of months and a lot of people say, ‘so cool, it’s happening so fast.’ Which is true, but it’s also like I’ve been on this Earth for 24 years and have experienced a lot of things—my music is a culmination of all those experiences and all those relationships. My relationships, more than anything, have informed who I am as a person which translates into my voice as an artist.
How has your family reacted to the music you’ve been putting out?
I’m super lucky, my family is very supportive. I’ve been making music professionally for a while in different stages and eras of my own creativity, they’ve been supportive through that even when, hah, there was probably not good reasons to be supportive. They’ve been super excited about what’s been happening the last few months.
Looks like we’re about out of time, so a quick few final questions—what is the main goal you’re working towards right now for your career?
There’s not really a grandiose big goal right now. I’m just looking to pick up one fan at a time, really getting to know these people personally—what they like, don’t like. So, I guess the goal is just to continue putting out stuff that is meaningful to me consistently for as long as it takes.
And to conclude, I just want to leave the platform open for you to say anything you might want to add:
If you are reading this, give your grandparents a call!