An Interview With The NYC-Based Queer Singer-Songwriter STEFAN ALEXANDER On His Upcoming EP, Overcoming Health Obstacles and More!
Singer-songwriter Stefan Alexander was going to release his sophomore EP, “Cry Again” on April 3rd but had to be pushed back due to COVID-19. The EP features a collection of transparent, autobiographical pop that Stefan wrote over a large chunk of his 20s while in crippling pain and also in recovery (from being diagnosed with Central Sensitization Syndrome). The title of the EP is based on the aftermath of his diagnosis and getting back in touch with all the emotions he had bottled up for so long and didn’t allow himself to feel. His newest single (the title track to his upcoming EP Cry Again) premiered on Forbes in February and Billboard Pride calls it a “dance-pop escape.”
“‘Cry Again‘ came in the wake of a long battle with chronic pain, a time when I was unable to sing or play music without intense discomfort,” says the queer NYC artist. “During that time and for many months after I had recovered, I felt so emotionally limited, which likely was a coping mechanism for what I was going through. When my family’s dog died, the flood gates finally opened. I felt like a real person again. I’d forgotten the catharsis that comes with shedding tears. There’s nothing else like it!”
“I wanted to make this song the title track of my upcoming EP because the emotional release that inspired it opened me up to tell a lot of the other stories on the EP,” he explains. “I’ve consistently found that the times I can make myself vulnerable are the moments I feel most connected to other people, and that’s really what the EP is all about.”
Connect With Stefan Alexander Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about Stefan Alexander in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today, Stefan. So how are you keeping busy and musical these days during this crazy Covid-19 pandemic? How are you staying connected to your fans?
This time has actually been quite productive for me so far. In between the minor panic attacks, I’ve been trying to write these experiences into new songs, plus recording vocals in my room to keep collaborating with my producers. To stay connected with fans, I’ve done a few Instagram live shows, plus I’m releasing acoustic videos and covers on my YouTube channel, so there’s always something new for people to hear.
What kind of music do you think is going to come out of these crazy times? Are you working on anything new right now?
I think this time has really highlighted our shared humanity. We’re all going through this collectively. Of course, different people have different circumstances that can make the pandemic even more challenging, but my hope is that the music that comes out of this time will focus on our togetherness, our human kinship, and our commonalities. At the moment, I’m trying to use the time alone to write new songs and finish projects that kept getting pushed back before the outbreak. I can’t wait to perform again, but for now, I’m excited about the new music I’m making.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What do you think motivates you day in and day out? How has that changed over the years?
Music has actually been my dream since I was a little kid. At first I thought I’d grow up to be a professional cellist. Then in middle school when I started writing my own songs, singing and songwriting became my dream. There isn’t a specific moment, it’s just always been my vision all along. I’ve always written primarily from my own experiences, trying to use the process of songwriting to dig deeper into my thoughts and behaviors. Of course, those thoughts become more complex as I get older, so each new song is an exciting challenge, trying to distill those new experiences down.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s a big arts town and a tour stop for a lot of musicians. Growing up, pretty much every indie artist I was listening to would eventually come through town to perform. I got to see so much incredible music and music was always a celebrated craft in my school and my community. It definitely gave me the confidence to pursue it as my career.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Was your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, could you see yourself doing anything else?
Music has always been central to my life. My parents and family have supported me since the beginning. I have thought about what I’d be doing if I weren’t a musician, especially during the years when I wasn’t able to make music due to medical challenges. I think I’d be a family therapist, like my mom. I’m fascinated by human experiences and understanding what makes people tick!
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part?
It’s been a wonderful surprise to learn that my music can help people. I’ve always written songs out of necessity for myself, but to know that other people can get some catharsis out of listening to my music has been so gratifying.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming sophomore EP, “Cry Again.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process in and out of the recording studio?
The music on this EP was actually made over a 5 year span, starting in the middle of my medical crisis and ending during my recovery. The music deals with the wide breadth of emotions I dealt with during that time. The songs each reflect the different headspaces I was in over those years. “Photograph” and “Signs” were earlier songs, whereas “Cry Again” and “Up and Away” came later. Even so, I love putting them all on one EP to celebrate the journey I’ve been on.
From what I have read about the inspiration behind these songs and your experiences with crippling pain and recovery from being diagnosed with Central Sensitization Syndrome, it sounds like this was quite a therapeutic collection of songs to create. Can you elaborate on that and perhaps the healing that went along with making this EP?
It’s interesting for me to listen back to my own evolution when I hear these songs. “Photograph” and “Signs” are both about being in uncomfortable circumstances, trying to find security wherever possible. “Cry Again” and “Up and Away,” made years later, are all about finding yourself again, understanding your power. I can chart my growth through these songs.
While it’s difficult, what are some of your favorite songs on this EP? Or rather, which ones are you most excited for listeners to hear?
While it’s hard to choose, my favorite is probably the title track, “Cry Again.” For years during my illness, I wasn’t able to cry or express more complex emotions. During rehabilitation, I was finally able to let loose. That song encapsulates my triumphant return to normalcy and my newfound strength.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music and in particular since your “Thunderclap” EP?
Over the years, I think as I’ve matured as a person, my music and my artistic vision has gotten more refined. I know the type of music I want to make. I certainly don’t always achieve it with every song I write, but it’s so gratifying when I do. Actually, many of the songs on Thunderclap and Cry Again were written and recorded during the same period of my life, so they’re more like sister EPs. Looking to the future, I’m always trying to tackle new topics and new perspectives in my writing.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career so far? What is it like keeping up with all your different accounts? What is your favorite way to connect with fans?
Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I cherish all the people I get to meet from around the world, all the lovely little interactions and stories I’m told, everything I learn from other people’s posts, plus all the thirst traps! At the same, it takes me out of the IRL moment and I might miss something beautiful happening right in front of me. On the whole, I love the opportunity it gives me to say how I’m feeling and hopefully help and encourage others outside of the music I release. My main platform is Instagram and I love DMing with new folks. Especially now, during the pandemic, it’s amazing to see how we’re all going through the same thing, no matter where we are.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future? Who has been inspiring you and the music that you make?
There are so many! For modern musicians, I would totally love to work with Lizzo, Troye Sivan, and Wrabel, but it would also be amazing to collaborate with the people I grew up listening to, people like Sufjan Stevens, Missy Elliot, or Fiona Apple.
Where would you still love to hear a song of yours played?
I’m just happy with people listening to me in their bedrooms, maybe wearing headphones and having a moment to themselves, but of course, I wouldn’t say no to hearing my songs played on TV or in an awesome movie.
What would a dream music video look like for you?
I love this question! It would definitely involve glittery makeup, super colorful clothing and set design, and lots of other folks moving / dancing with me. Beyond that, I’m open to anything!
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
My only hope is that people can see some aspect of themselves in my music, that they’re able to hear back a similar experience and be encouraged by someone else who went through it and came out the other side. That’s all I can ask for!