Alex Maxwell on Being Signed by Hollywood Records, Working with Zendaya and the Future of the Music Industry
One of the reasons we love Disney so much is due to the way that they realize our dreams for us, and that’s exactly what Disney have done for emerging singer Alex Maxwell.
Disney’s label, Hollywood Records, noticed Alex a few years ago thanks to a YouTube video of the singer busking in Madrid (more on that later); Hollywood immediately made the London born singer the first signing for their UK division. Since then, Alex has recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios for two phenomenal, Stevie Nicks-esque EPs; 2016’s Signs is home to Alex’s most known tracks, the dreamy “Drive” (which has been remixed by none other than Monsieur Adi) and ridiculously catchy “Letting You Know,” whereas May 2017’s Lie to Me hears Alex exploring the impact of moving between cities over ethereal pop-rock-electronica.
I had a lovely chat with Miss Maxwell about crafting that pop-rock-electronica sound with The Flight, amongst other topics. Alex is an insightful and greatly ambitious singer, and I wish her the best!
You were discovered by Hollywood Records via a YouTube video of yourself busking at Tribunal metro station in Madrid, so I’m assuming you’re a huge advocate for digital platforms now. Hollywood Records is one of the universe’s biggest record labels, and they picked you as their first signing for the UK label – congrats! What do you think that says about you as an artist?
I was very lucky with how my signing came about. I remember hours of conversations with someone at Hollywood Records UK on music, artists and its impact on me since an early age. I was very clear from the beginning that I wanted to be involved in everything, not only in the songwriting, but also the production and the whole package which surrounds any sort of music release. It’s always been really important for me to be true to who I am and keep my music and lyrics genuine and personal. It’s all about the artistry. I think my label tapped into that from the beginning.
Your labelmates include pop princesses like Demi Lovato, Zendaya and Bea Miller. Who would you choose to collaborate with out of those three, and why?
It’d be really interesting to collaborate with Zendaya. Apart from having a killer voice, she has a really cool Pop/ R&B sound, which is quite different to what I do… So I think mixing two different sounds and collaborating could result in something really interesting.
I hear you’re quite the Patti Smith fan. Which other female musicians do you admire the most in the industry?
I have such a big list of female musicians I love and who’ve inspired me massively, from Stevie Nicks to Shakira. But right now my biggest girl crush in the industry is Grimes. Apart from performing and writing her music she produces, engineers, composes AND can even play drums. She does it all! And through her work she really stands out from the crowd. Her music offers something new. She’s real and I admire that.
How does it make you feel when your ethereal sound is often compared to Stevie Nicks?
I feel very humbled! Stevie Nicks is a goddess to me. I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, they are one of my favorite bands… So to be compared to Stevie Nicks is just amazing.
What’s the saddest lyric you’ve ever heard, and why?
“The Other Woman” – Nina Simone
The other woman finds time to manicure her nails
The other woman is perfect where her rival fails
And she’s never seen with pin curls in her hair
The other woman enchants her clothes with French perfume
The other woman keeps fresh cut flowers in each room
There are never toys that’s scattered everywhere
And when her baby comes to call
He’ll find her waiting like a lonesome queen
‘Cause when she’s by his side
It’s such a change from old routine
But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep
The other woman will never have his love to keep
And as the years go by the other woman
Will spend her life alone
This song just always gets to me. It’s bitterly beautiful. I also really recommend Jeff Buckley’s version – it will break your heart.
You’ve recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Were you star struck at all?
I so was! I tried to keep my cool throughout it all, but I spent the day thinking about all the legends which had recorded there over the years. I remember I flew out from Madrid to London for this, and I couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing day – one of my favorite memories.
Tell us some more about the personal experiences which inspired your current EP, Lie to Me.
A big part of this EP was inspired by me moving from Madrid to London, which is when I got signed a couple years back, and how that move and my relationship with both cities shaped me. Having lived between London and Madrid my whole life, I’ve always felt an incessant push and pull between these cities and that affected my sense of identity.
“Alien” is all about feeling like you don’t fit in and entering unknown territory, whilst “Lie to Me” explores my love / hate relationship with Madrid and the nostalgia I feel towards that life…
Growing up it was sometimes confusing and overwhelming having two different cultures defining who you are. I remember I felt a bit out of place at times but I’ve learnt to embrace it and I’m proud of my roots because they’ve been protagonists to my music, my sound and who I’ve become. I consider this EP to be a homage to that.
“Just for Tonight” was inspired by a bad break up and how this person came back to town and was still meddling in my life. I wrote this song as almost like a release of the anger I felt towards him and the relationship we had. I was trying not to let a bad situation get to me, just breathing in and letting it go.
You worked with The Flight (Lana Del Rey, Bjork) to produce some of the EP’s sounds, a fusion of pop-rock and electronica. How was that?
It was great! Alexis and Joe (a.k.a The Flight) were amazing to work with. I’m terrible at explaining things, especially when it comes to a sound or production, and they just really got me. They are both great at what they do, so it was a real pleasure to be able to share my music with them and see how, together, we could bring it to life.
What kind of vibes and energy do you want to give to your listeners?
Just anything that inspires them really! If it makes them feel like dancing, great. If it makes them feel like crying, also great. The relationship between a song and a listener always varies and is personal… some people will get a vibe different to another’s. As long as it inspires you in some way… that’s what’s important to me.
Music and fame go hand-in-hand. Do you think there are any pitfalls to fame?
Nowadays it’s hard to live as a musician without support from others. If you are passionate about music then you have to embrace whatever comes with it. Like with everything else, fame has its pros and cons. It helps you live doing what you love but it also has its pitfalls of course. However I haven’t experienced it first-hand so I can only assume… I think the most important thing is just to stick to who you are, love what you do and do it unapologetically.
What do you think the future of the music industry is?
With the digitalization of music and social media making it easier to put your stuff out there, I think there is more opportunity for artists to hone their craft and share it independently. There are a lot of new artists, new sounds, more variety in music… which I think is awesome. However having said that, it’s definitely still tough for new artists to make a name for themselves. The competition is higher and there is less money in music than there used to be, which kind of means that the industry doesn’t bet enough on new emerging talent as it’s a greater risk.
What is your ultimate music industry dream?
Headlining in a world known venue like Wembley would be the dream. I’m also really looking forward to gigging in Spain and having my friends and family there.
As you are a member of the Disney family, I have to ask – what is your favorite Disney movie?
Always have and always will be the Lion King! I used to dress up as Simba every Halloween when I was a child and I know all the songs by heart.