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Singer-Songwriter Alex Winston Doesn't Want to Write "Me, Me, Me" Love Songs

alex winston image.jpegIf you're on the lookout for some new sounds to start off your summer, search no further than Detroit-born singer Alex Winston. The 24 year-old talent's debut disc King Con, released this past April, is indie-pop poetry: her CocoRosie-esque vocals glide over a set of well-produced tracks that spill over with catchiness while maintaining a mature and fundamental framework akin to Lykke Li and Niki & The Dove. PAPERMAG spoke to the up-and-coming artist -- who's already opened for music megastars like Ted Nugent and Chuck Berry -- about the making of Con, her songwriting style and Objectum Sexuality.

One of the most interesting things about your record is its deviation from the subject of love, even though you're working in the parameters of pop, which is arguably a very love-driven genre.

The whole [album] process was pretty interesting. I signed a record deal in the UK a little over a year ago, and they really wanted to get a record out -- pretty much as soon as I signed, I started writing and recording. I really had a short amount of time, which was not ideal for me, and I spent about a month and a half to two months recording it, which would usually take me about 8 months.  I was looking at artwork for inspiration -- I don't tend to write introspective, "me, me, me" love songs and I agree that a lot of pop music is not only love-oriented but also "I am" oriented. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd rather write stories.

So how did that quickness affect your recording route, in terms of coming up with a concept and things like that?  

I kinda just went with the first thing that popped into my mind. I'm not gonna do that for the second album because I actually have time now to work on it and can be a bit more selective. But I watched a documentary on Objectum Sexuality, which I thought was really interesting -- I happened to be in Detroit at the time, and was at an antique store, where I found a velvet Elvis painting. I thought that if I were to be in love with an inanimate object, this was what I'd be in love with. I like to take some [taboo] topics and make them relatable too.

That's something you did with "Sister Wives."

Yeah, with "Sister Wives" I'm not actually talking about polygamy, I'm just talking about sharing something you don't want to share. But because I had to work so quickly, I was drawing a lot of inspiration from things I was reading and watching and just tried to tell stories you don't hear in pop music that often.

You seem like an artist a lot of people hear of via the Internet. Do you feel like blogs and social networks have lent to your success in a big way?

Nothing against the label -- they're really great -- but sometimes it makes me think, "Wow, I could just release my stuff on [the Internet] myself!" I'm about to put out a western EP, and I'm just gonna put it on the Internet and see what happens. It's been an amazing tool for me, especially at the start when I'd put out dumb shit whenever I felt like it. And in terms of learning, whether it's films or music, I feel like there's tons of stuff on the Internet that has influenced me.

As an emerging artist, what's been one of the biggest hurdles you've taken on that you didn't necessarily expect to?

I don't even generally talk about this that much, but I'm actually on my second label. I was on Island but that didn't work out, and now I'm signed to V2 and CO-OP, and they're awesome dudes. I think I was just the idiot that signed the major label deal -- I heard all the horror stories and still went ahead. I think the most disappointing thing is when people don't rally behind you in the way you think they're going to and that happens all the time. I know how lucky I am but I know how hard this is. I think my biggest problem is that I'm not going to change for anyone, and I think that didn't help my situation with the first label. I'm trying to make pop music, but I'm trying to make pop music with heart, and I don't think that's what people expected of me at the time.

You've been touring quite a bit recently -- I thought I read that you performed on this boat in Bristol?

It was interesting. When you think of "boat," you probably think of cruise ship but this was an old-as-fuck boat -- really dark, water leaking everywhere, but it was such a fun show and interesting venue. I also played a proper show in a library. They set up a giant sound system and everyone in the town came out, and that was awesome. I love playing these different types of venues.

Which do you prefer: The studio or stage?

I always wanna be in the studio while I'm on tour, but I do love both. I think some of my earliest and biggest influences are Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Motown guys, and they were all entertainers. I strive to be that way, and I really do like being on stage--I feel like I'm a completely different person, because in real life I'm pretty quiet. I do love the performing process too and I have missed it terribly over the past year, so I'm really excited to finish up this EP.

What are your summer plans?

Hopefully to be on the road in the US -- I love the UK and Europe, but I'm ready to be here. The album release show [at Milk Studios] last month is the first one I've played in New York for a year! I've really missed it, and I wanna focus on the country I live in.

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