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SPOTLIGHT ON ALEX FREW

Alex Frew's debut EP Cobalt is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.

Image: Supplied.


Last month, Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Frew unveiled his debut EP, Cobalt. Across six track, the musician themes from heartache to self-growth, to discovering one’s self and the long journey to adulthood.


Bringing mesmerising and evocative lyricism to the collection of songs, theres an underlying sense of urgency to take in life around us, appreciating the moments that spark within our lives and remembering to not get caught up and stuck on things out of our control. Reflective and introspective, Cobalt brings a sense of truth conceptually, woven atop beautifully dark and dreamy soundscapes.


Born and raised in Toronto, Frew gravitated towards music as an emotional outlet from an early age. He began playing piano at six, picked up the guitar at nine, and by the time he was fifteen, he was writing songs. At a time when most of his classmates were focused on hockey tryouts and university applications, Frew was hard at work in writing sessions all over the city, crafting tracks with the likes of Lowell and Dragonette’s Joel Stouffer, who would become a steady collaborator and close confidante over the years.

Cobalt is out now! Read our interview with Alex Frew below.


Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey...

I’ve loved everything to do with music creation for as long as I can remember, but I really became infatuated with the entire process when I started playing the guitar when I was 8 or 9 years old. Writing songs quickly followed, albeit terrible ones, and the rest became history.


Your debut EP Cobalt tackles themes from heartache to self-growth, to discovering one’s self and the long journey to adulthood. How important was it for you to document and comment on these themes and what messages do you hope listeners take from the release as a whole? For the most part, I just hope people can find some solace in the songs and topics, and ultimately feel a little more understood at the end of the day. We all feel the same emotions at different points in our life, so it was essential to distill those emotions into these songs, and hopefully listeners will find strands of their own daily experience woven through the tracks.


The EP is titled Cobalt and conjures emotions that are somewhat associated with the colour blue. Was this conceptual thread of the colour something you considered whilst creating the EP, or was it a common association you came to realise once listening to the finished EP as a whole? I would say that the concept of Cobalt, and the use of the colour, in terms of emotion, came to fruition about halfway through the demo stage. I was almost subconsciously documenting similar emotions of depression and introversion on almost every song, which led us down the road of pursuing those topics at the conceptual center of the record.


When it came to crafting this particular collection of songs, did you find yourself undertaking a particular creative process whilst writing? Or did each song have its own creative process?

The majority of the songs followed the same general trajectory, with ideas being written down in my notes or recorded in my voice memos, and bringing those into writing sessions with other people. With that being said, sometimes somebody comes into a session with a wicked idea that we just have to pursue, so it does change from time to time, but for the most part, the songs were written in the same fashion.


How did the EP evolve and change as you were creating it, and were there any tracks left on the cutting room floor that you think might have a life in the future? This record was created over the course of about 4 years, so throughout that process, many of the songs had completely different production approaches, and many different songs had ever-changing lyrics. I think that in the end, the demo list of the project was around 50 songs, so there were a ton of songs that just never got to see the light of day. There’s probably a few ideas in there that I would like to pursue further, both lyrically and melodically, but as for whole songs, I’d like to keep moving forward and experiment with different sounds, and see where future projects take me.

If you had to pick one song off the EP to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would it be and why? That’s a tough question! My personal favourite song to play on the record is Something To Hold Onto, as it tackles the duality of substance abuse and mental health, which has seen a massive resurgence throughout the pandemic, particularly within the music industry. In that way, I regard that song as the best representation of the project, and hopefully would be a good entry point for a new listener.


You’ve just shared a visual for 9 Feet Tall, which tells the tale of a love story, laced in blue hues. How did you conceptualise the music video? The concept for the video was mainly created by Travis Didluck and Ben Knechtel, who are two incredibly talented directors and producers. Working off of the concept of the song, about feeling bigger than yourself with those around you, we quickly honed in on the concept of flying through space as a metaphor for the experience.


How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and how involved were you in the process?

Primarily, I believe that album art is something that has a lot more influence over people than first meets the eye. Whenever I’m looking for new music, the cover art contributes significantly to the overall vibe of the music, and frankly just the likelihood that someone clicks on the song, so I was very heavily involved in that process from my own volition, and I’m so ecstatic with how it turned out.


The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live shows? Hopefully we’ll get to see you on Australian stages in the future! Ideally, we’ll be able to just hit the road for several months and just forget about this crazy past year or so. We had put together an entire show previous to the pandemic, so I’m just really looking forward to getting the ball rolling, and just seeing what’s out there.


RAPID FIRE



Biggest influences?

Interpol and The 1975!

Dream collaboration? Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, for sure. He’s a genius, in my honest opinion.

Album that has had the most impact on you? Trouble Will Find Me by The National. I have a deep love for every single track on that record, it’s pure sonic magic.

A release you are most looking forward to in 2021? I’ve heard some rumblings from Arcade Fire’s social media that new music is coming soon, so I’m super excited for that.

If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be? I recently saw this movie called Captain Fantastic, and I absolutely loved it, so probably that one :).

Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus? Hannah Montana! Without a doubt, I grew up on that show!

Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip? The Suburbs by Arcade Fire !

Last concert you went to? Before this craziness, I believe I saw Alt-J for like the third time, but at this point my memory is fuzzy.

If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?

Sad Spice.

Guilty music pleasure? ABBA, but also they’re just awesome, so there isn’t too much guilt in all honesty.

If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be? Ed Sheeran! I’ve seen him play live a few times, and I love the vibe of his sets, so I think that would be a lovely match. Might be a little far-fetched at this point though...

An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry. I think Frank Ocean is very under appreciated for the way in which he steered the course of music. I think he’s one of the best to ever do it.

What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now? Trust yourself. The music industry is very tumultuous, so just believing that your on the correct path is invaluable.

The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician? When I was 5 years old, sitting on my porch, playing my little plastic toy guitar for anyone who walked by :)