The Indie Artist CONVERSING WITH OCEANS Discusses Their Latest Music, Biggest Inspirations and More!
Posted On 02 Dec 2016
The indie artist Conversing With Oceans recently unveiled his latest single, “Heart of a Poet“. This track was produced with longtime friend and musician, Brendan Rivera and his production team Field Observations (comprised of Matt Labozza and Stephen DeRafelle). The song is a part of a four track EP, “Past. Present. Future” which was just released last week on November 25th via The Orchard.
“Heart of a Poet” is about the powerful bond Conversing With Oceans shared with an older friend battling cancer. “We developed a friendship where he’d share philosophies on life- particularly on how he had beaten cancer several times, the importance of family and friends, of enjoying life, and most importantly, of what it means to live a ‘worthwhile’ life,” he explains. The single is simple and true, much like the relationship they’d shared.
Conversing With Oceans’ narrative begins in Grozny, formerly of Russia, when the unrest of war led him and his family to immigrate first to India, and then to the Bronx. Having music as his anchor from an early age, he started his first band (A Moment’s Worth) with his best friends from grammar school. Their brand of optimistic rock resonated deeply with audiences as they made front page news of New York Press, won the first College Battle of the Bands, and received the Elfenworks Social Justice Award for their song “Dedicate.”
In 2013, Alex and Elfenworks began their official partnership, working together closely to spread a message of hope. Alex has since composed music for Google and had placements in national television ads and programs. His compositions have over a million streams on SoundCloud.
Alex’s latest endeavor, which he describes as an even more authentic version of his voice embodies his devotion to melody and expression of his characteristically introspective lyrical style. Collaborating with the team that engineered the Grammy-nominated “A Color Map of the Sun” (Pretty Lights), he spent the majority of 2015 in the studio honing his new songs, while steadily growing his audience at NYC’s most trusted venues.
Conversing With Oceans’ first single “The Gold Rush” quickly landed him a one-on-one showcase with the legendary Randy Jackson at this year’s SXSW and a global distribution deal with The Orchard.
Learn more about Conversing With Oceans in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are well into the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year?
Thank you! If I had to pick words, I’d say 2016 has been momentous, focused, and exceeding my expectations. I made a decision from January 1st to truly go for it with Conversing with Oceans, and it hasn’t been without challenges, but it has certainly pleasantly surprised me.
What have been some of the highlights for you and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017?
There have thankfully been a lot just this year! I collaborated with my hero John Forte on a song I’d written, released music I’m truly proud of, played for Randy Jackson at my first SXSW, landed a deal with Sony’s The Orchard for global distribution, partnered with some pretty amazing folks in the music industry (my PR team Black Panda rocks!), continued a strong partnership with the inspiring non-profit Elfenworks, had my first news channel appearances, and have my first ever GRAMMY submission.
The best things that have happened in 2016 really weren’t planned at all! So I think I’ll continue going for it and see what 2017 has in store.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I wanted to be a lot of things as a child, but yes, music was always the one constant link. My first memory is actually putting on a concert in our living room for my entire family when I was about 2 years old.
Where did you come up with your artist name? Why do you think “Conversing With Oceans” fits you and your music so well?
We’d gone through a long list of names when we were trying to come up with a fitting name for the project. At one point my wife Rosemarie had suggested “Conversing with Oceans.” I jotted it down on that list. Somehow I just kept coming back to it. It was visual. It rang true. The music I was making seemed to fit it as well – these were songs I’d write if I were sitting alone in front of a humbling giant body of water. Having lived in different places, it was a name that conveyed where I’d been and where I was going.
How do you think your music has grown through the years? What has changed about the way you create music?
Great question! I think one thing over the years is I spend less time second guessing it. I find that the best songs really do write themselves and that the trick is really in writing and learning as much as possible. Not going for perfection, but progress. Perfection’s an illusion. With CWO I really try to keep it authentic and let the songs guide me. I’m also experimenting a lot more with new sounds and feel like there really are no boundaries. I try to be more honest than I was in the past. I try to write what scares me.
Let’s talk about your latest single, “Heart of a Poet.” I understand that it’s about the bond you shared with an older friend battling cancer. How did the song come together exactly?
This was a friend I was spending time with just about every week over the course of a year. We’d had some of my favorite conversations together and his outlook on life fascinated me. He was a man in his 80s who had the enthusiasm of a curious child–always learning, always asking questions, and sharing his kind advice very generously with others. When I heard he passed away suddenly, I came home that day and cried for a long time. I then did the only thing that made sense–I picked up my guitar and let this song flow.
How do you think relationships like this one have affected your music and ultimately, how you approach your music?
Relationships are everything. They’ve shaped my outlook in tremendous ways. So many songs were inspired by great conversations I’d had – or even just one line someone had said that deeply moved me. They made me more perceptive to the people I have in my life. More attentive, too, I hope. There’s beautiful poetry hidden in our lives and I’d like to think I’m getting better at hearing it and translating it into song.
What if anything has surprised you about the music industry? What do you think has been your biggest challenge? And what do you think has come really naturally to you both?
I’ve learned that the doors in the “music industry” aren’t as closed as I’d once thought. You can approach your heroes. You can approach labels you want to work with. They may not always respond, or give you the response you want, but it’s important to not let that discourage you. The biggest challenge is that you’re likely to hear a lot more “No”s before you get to the “Yes”s. It’s just that maybe that wasn’t the particular door you needed to go through. And you’ve yet to find the right one. But focus on your work always, on getting really good at what it is that you’re doing. The work is what’ll get you through when the time comes.
What was it like working with John Forte of the Fugees on your previous single, “Deeper”? How did the working relationship come to be?
John’s been absolutely terrific to work with. He’s a genuinely wise, very deep soul. A sort of guiding figure in my life these days. Working with him has been one of the easiest, most natural collaborations I’ve ever had.
I first met John at a very cool NYC show we’d played together a while back called “Composers in The Kitchen” (along with this phenomenal Rockjazz musician ELEW). We’d kept in touch since. I had a song I’d never finished that I thought would go perfect with John’s style. I almost felt like that’s what it was missing. When I sent him the demo he’d replied to me with a verse for it the next day or something insanely quick like that. I was blown away and it was truly a perfect fit for that song. Still blows my mind: John, who produced Fugees’ The Score, the very first tape I’d ever owned, finished “Deeper.”
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
There are so many! I’m constantly inspired by the local musicians and friends in The Bronx born of our Bronx Underground music scene (and there are a lot!). I’ve had Francis & The Lights’ new album on repeat lately. Just amazed with his songwriting, the production, and musicianship. Would love to work with him. John Feldmann is another tremendous producer. Working with him has always been a dream of mine.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
I love spending time with my family–with my beautiful wife and our papillon & cat, our families. Adventure, travel, reading, finding good food, going to shows–I love it all! Just being in new environments is a lot of fun too. Family is huge for me. I have a 12-year-old brother who’s getting into songwriting right now (he goes by the name A Train) and he’s absolutely incredible. It’s great to see his taste develop and learn about what he’s into that inspires him.
I also like to spend time at the Children’s Hospital with Musicians on Call - an inspiring volunteer program where there’s no pressure of performing perfectly – you just get to give the gift of music of kids & families staying in hospital rooms for treatment. That’s done more good for my soul than I can tell you. Musicians, check them out!
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
Embrace the life you have right now. Embrace its gifts and its challenges. Your life, and the relationships in it, are your greatest teachers and if you allow them, will guide you to exactly where you need to be. Trust that ever quiet inner voice that guides you too. I hope my songs can express that truth.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I appreciate the love and support I’ve seen more than you can imagine. I don’t take a single bit of it for granted. I have a tremendous team behind me and incredible support. Thank you is the least I can say. I hope I’m able to give back with this music.