Thursday, March 3, 2011

Show Preview - Alex Winston - Interview - 3/6/11 - Brillobox - Concert Preview

Alex Winston brings a trail of buzz and accolades to Brillobox on Sunday night, touring before a stateside audience that is just beginning to take notice of her captivating sound. A Detroit-born multi-instrumentalist, Winston attracted attention last year with her Basement Covers EP, in which she covered songs from Mumford and Sons, the Rolling Stones and others—literally recorded in her basement. Just a few weeks back, she released the six-song Sister Wife album, with an alluring collection of original songs centered around her powerful, idiosyncratic voice. Her sound, blending pop, folk, and soulfulness, has drawn comparisons to Joanna Newsome mixed with Best Coast. Numerous critics, particularly in Europe, have tagged her as an artist to watch in 2011. Her album is great, and her live vocals are mesmerizing—watch the video below. Come be one of the first to see this emerging artist on Sunday.

We had a chance to talk with Winston on Thursday morning about beginning her U.S. tour.

For everyone who doesn’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you, whether it's music or something else?

It's only music. I've had absolutely no other hobbies or anything like that. I love music. I wish I were talented at other things, but I'm just not. I grew up in Detroit, so a lot of the music from there inspires me, I grew up on a lot of Motown. The Supremes and Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and all that great stuff. But also Iggy Pop and the Stooges. I'm a big fan of the Stones, and early rock and roll like Chuck Berry and that sort of thing.

You still draw inspiration from that today?

Yeah. I mean, I don't think my music sounds anything like that, but that’s what's behind it. The simplicity of the songs, the quality of the melodies—those are the sort of things that I listen to. I also like PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, Mumford and Sons, Villagers, and Young, I'm kind of scattered all over the place.

Your new “mini-album” is called Sister Wife (released on Feb. 22nd). Why sister wife as a theme? And why are some of your band members your “sister wives”?

This is...I call the girls the sister wives because they're my best friends. Some of them grew up with me in Detroit. I feel that the closest relationship you can have without being a blood relative is having a sister wife. And those girls constantly, always have my back. They're my best friends and I love touring with them. I bring them everywhere with me when I travel and write. They're really an inspiration and that's the meaning behind sister wives.

The song is more about having to deal with having sister wives…just in a general sense, the term sister wife, for people to actually live that lifestyle, having to share something that you love, and having to compromise for other people. …and how I'm stubborn, and I don't like to do that!

I like that. Now, there is a story that you once played in Pittsburgh, opening for Ted Nugent…

At the Pepsi Roadhouse! Is it still there?

Yeah, but I don’t go there. Apparently you went to great lengths to try to get people to stop paying attention to their barbeque dinners and actually listen to the music.

I just meant that it was hard, because I've never played in a setting like that.

Well now you've been playing for years, and that's just one of many stories I’m sure. What kept you going then and what keeps you going now?

It was such a great experience. Granted, I wasn't really making music that I loved. I didn't write any of the music. And I love Ted as a person, but I didn't feel like that was "me" at all. There was nothing me about that. But it was such a great experience being on the road. I loved seeing things. It kind of was a lesson. I felt like I had to go through all that stuff to be where I am now. To understand how things work. How to manage your own crew. Now I have a manager, but I'm still involved in everything because I did it for so long, being my own manager straight out of high school. Touring on no money and trying to make things work; it really benefitted me. I look back on that and I'm really thankful for that experience. Even though I was playing weird shows like...Pepsi Roadhouse.

In the past 6 months to a year, you have really captured a good deal of interest and buzz. What do you make of it?

In one sense it's weird. I mean, I appreciate it and I'm really excited and happy to be playing more. You know, all I want to do is be on the road again. Coming to see you guys, playing shows around here, in the U.S., is always on my mind right now. It's...I don't know, it's a weird feeling. On stage I might be kind of crazy, doing my thing, but in real life I'm somewhat of a personal person, and pretty reserved. To put that part of me out there, a body of work that I've been working on for the past year, to put that out there and have it generally be accepted pretty well is a really great feeling. And it's also a terrifying feeling to, because you're exposing yourself. But I'm really excited to keep going.

Audiences in the UK seem to have really taken a shine to you. Your song “Choice Notes” was featured in a Hyundai commercial in the UK. You headlined the NME awards in London. The Guardian has argued that you are poised for success this year. Congratulations!

Thank you.

Is your head spinning? What do you plan to focus on now?

Actually, I want to be over here for a bit. To be honest with you, I really want to ignore all this press shit—no offense. I mean [this interview] is for a cause, I’m coming to play for you, and I'm thrilled about it. But the press can get to your head in ways where you start thinking...I don't know, it can just be a mental mind-fuckery. I don't want to take into consideration what other people say, because I don’t want it to change what I'm doing. You know, I don't want to read all this stuff, whether it's a good review or a bad review, and start second-guessing myself. I'm trying to ignore that and do what I feel is right for me, which is: I want to be over here, I want to play over here. And I'm working on an album right now, so those two things are where my energy is going to be in the next three months.

A new album, that’s great!

It's supposed to be done in July for a September release, so we'll see if that can work.

And you signed with a label now?

Yeah. I actually just got back last night, I was in Paris, and Germany, and London for a few weeks. And I ended up signing with Island Records in the UK. I'm really happy to be working with them, they're a great label. I'm thrilled!

Thanks, Alex!

Thank you! I'm excited to see you all.