born in chicago and moved out to the golden state of los angeles, i sat down with rising star Alexander 23 outside of LACMA on a sunny day to chat about his new music video for Mars, and life, being in tune with music he writes and staying honest with the material he creates. Read our conversation below.
words: sara salamat || pictures: emma valles
sara: I'm gonna jump in and just talk about some new stuff. So I know you have your music video for Mars which is out now, and after listening to it, Mars sounded vulnerable but also sounds like a answer/response to your song "When I Die" because "When I Die" is more self reflection, whereas "Mars” is is kind of like not being enough. Do you feel vulnerable when you're doing these kinda songs? Like do you ever feel like it's just like putting a lot out there.
alexander 23: I feel for sure, definitely. Yeah. I mean it's like it's tough to talk about things that aren't like glamorous, and don't make you like seem like...you know. But like I guess the truth is the more honest you are [in a song] and the qualities that may be hard in the moment, you're just like proud of it when its done. I know that like other people have the same problems and go through the same things.
sara: I noticed that you were the sole writer and producer on all three songs right now; do you think it adds more to the song to be like the only writer? Because it’s Just you?
alexander 23: Yeah I mean I don't think there's definite nothing inherently wrong with a co-writer no matter how many there are. I Feel like that's the best possible version of that song. But for me a lot of times like my songs are all pretty much like word-for-word like honest like either exactly how I feel or exactly what happened. And so it's just sometimes easier for me to get it all out just by myself.
sara: What about producing?
alexander 23: Definitely because I looked at production is like a way to support the songwriting like at -- for me it's like 'how can I make what I'm saying, like the melodies and make it the best version of that.' Underlying factors are the songwriting and my songwriting voice and so like. No matter like if it's more of like a hip hop chat or if it's more like a singer songwriter track.
sara: I totally get you on that. So do you think you tend to write the song lyrics first, or melody/beat etc.?
alexander 23: i mean it's definitely like a little bit different every time but I've definitely known that the beat is usually after. In some way, and maybe usually not like every single lyric but at least the chorus there are the first line of the song. Something like that. And that'll help set the tone and then after that is just such things like Mad Libs in some way. That's kinda like the thesis of the song.
sara: Like proper Mad Libs!?
alexander 23: I thought about doing Mad Libs merch! Like I give you the blank but fans would want to bring two or something like that. That would have to be pretty f-cking tight. But I only have three songs out there...I think I need a few more before I decide to do something like that. Cause then I can do like a Mad Lib book for the Album One you know? d
sara: That would be really cool. I don't think anyone has ever come up with something like that... or at least no one they has jumped on it. But wait. You said album? Can you tell us when an album comes out?
alexander 23: Wish I knew. I mean like it's up to me you know? i'm really enjoying life just putting out music consistently. And something that allows you to do that is just putting out a song at a time. I love looking forward to what is released the next. It's the best feeling ever. Responding to that. Well so for at least the next little bit. But it's not going to be a bigger project at some point.
sara: Well you can count on us waiting right here for your new stuff!! Now, going back to 'Mars,' Do you feel pressure to do your best? To be like...happy enough.
Alexander 23: Definitely there's like there is a pressure. I feel like once you kind of like put out your first song everything's starts to be happening like there's definitely a pressure now to like just keep writing things I care about. And like I like sometimes try and solve that problem by just like working too much. Then I'm like wait. This is not how I operate best. But I just kind of like try and remember they like the things that are out there people are gravitating towards and like, they like it because made it when it felt right and took my time on it and did it the right way.
sara: do you think you’ve ever momentarily lost that initial touch on music?
alexander 23: You’ll like get into a mode where like nothing feels good enough right. "Did I lose that initial magic?" "Where did it go?" And then it becomes remember like the initial magic is just like you, and like. People liked the songs because you made them like, and I just try and get back to that feeling.
sara: I feel like it gets to a point with artists to where it's like once they like start, they'll just like keep going and they keep touring and keep dropping stuff and they're just like not fully invested in doing these things. So it just tires them out and ruins the craft.
alexander 23: Yeah it is exhausting. But on the contrary it's like hard, if like you’re a hot artist its hard to not try because you never know how long it’s [the relevancy] is going to stay or you to go away. So..it's all just kind of like mindf-ck. The way that I deal with the best. Just trying to remember like why are you doing this. Why means a lot to me. That's what I want.
sara: i totally agree. it's good to remember where you came from. I also saw you performed at Friends of Friends 5SOS and Sierra Deaton. I didn't get a chance to go, but how was it?
alexander 23: Super cool. It was it was really really cool.
sara: Must’ve been awesome perform with a headliner like 5SOS and All Time Low, right?
alexander 23: Yeah, and 5SOS is incredible. They're an amazing band and they put on an amazing show and I've been an All Time Low fan for so long, so it was super cool — and it was like any time people like that stature come together for such a cause and it's like clearly for that cause. They really easily could have done a huge show and made it about themselves. But they did it in a small venue and it was really intimate. The music was so good and we're like raising money for an amazing cause for Homeless Youth.
sara: That's really cool because I totally agree. They could have totally made it about themselves, but they didn't. Another thing, I wanted to ask...so you're originally from Chicago, yeah?
alexander 23: Yep!
sara: So it has to feel crazy to go back home to play that legendary festival right?
alexander 23: Growing up and like going to Lollapalooza was like my like "Oh my God these people like you made it! They're living my dream!" kind of thing and now I'm like not everyone who plays Lolla is like that like a superstar like big stars in the world like I thought when I was 17 years old, but it still feels like such like when I finally get something to process.
After our interview, I can confidently say that Alexander 23 has a good head on his shoulders and doesn’t mind being vulnerable in music which is an amazing quality to have as a songwriter. While he’s still fresh in the music industry, Alexander 23 is a force to be reckoned with. The L.A. based singer-songwriter has mastered the ability to pour his heart out in a song, as the sole rider on a truck; while producing the song himself. You can check out his new music video from Mars here.
Also, I highly reccomend you check out the lyric video for his new harmonic meets operatic song “Sad,” which was just released today here!