Interview with Alexander Stewart

Words: Andrea Naess | Photos: Erik Melvin

The newest heir to the Canadian pop star throne, Alexander Stewart rose to fame on YouTube, where he started covering songs from artists like Shawn Mendes and Bruno Mars. Sharing the same birthplace as Shania Twain, he started his singing career in a local Toronto church, and it all sparked from there. Now, with over 2 million subscribers to his channel, LDN’s Andrea Naess sits down with the Los Angeles-based singer to hear about handling success from a young age, life on the road and the realities of being pop-star royalty.

LDN: For any readers who don’t know yet, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your music?

Alexander: I’m born and raised in Toronto, Canada and I’ve been involved in music for the majority of my life started singing in church performing the national anthem and moved my way up to choirs where I fell in love with classical music. I was lost and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. But I knew I wanted to be a musician. Sam Smith was the first album I ever bought and you can hear it in my music today.

I started trying to figure out how to get my way into the music industry. I started posting covers on YouTube until I had enough of a platform where I could start coming down to Los Angeles and doing writing sessions. I’ve been writing since I was 14, but then I was too scared to show anyone. Then I got the confidence somewhere to start releasing it. That was about five years ago and ever since then I have been living in Los Angeles and writing about heartbreak.

LDN: You mentioned Sam Smith. Who are some of the other artists you take inspiration from?

Alexander: Growing up, the first two albums I bought were The Fame by Lady Gaga and In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith, which are very polarising albums [showcasing] different sides of pop music. But they both shaped a lot of how I view my music. Artistry-wise, Lady Gaga was so insane to watch growing up seeing an absolute mogul just truly being herself. Then the music side for Sam Smith, you can hear that one. I love pop music at the end of the day, so a lot of my favourite artists are pop artists like Arianna Grande.

LDN: You’re currently on a world tour right now. How is it going? Are there any highlights any funny stories you’d like to share?

Alexander: It’s been incredible. I just finished the European tour, and the American tour starts shortly but the crowds were phenomenal. People singing back the words was an insane experience. I could not be more grateful for being able to do this. [In terms of] funny stories, halfway through the tour, we were flying around Europe and we had to check in thirteen bags every time and it was a miracle it didn’t happen more. Fortunately, everyone got their bags.

But in Berlin, twelve bags came out and I was just waiting for my bag with EVERYTHING in it which never came. I had to be at the venue so we had to go and buy clothes, just a random outfit, but shockingly it didn’t look that bad. I was running around like a madman at the mall so when we finally get to the venue, we had to do the quickest soundcheck of my life. It was the craziest, worst possible time to lose a bag and then somehow, I go from Berlin to Oslo and Amsterdam and then back home to Los Angeles. And the bag just showed up in Los Angeles! It was on the flight back, so it did its own little European tour [chuckles]. The bag ended up having its little vacation!

LDN: Wow, that’s some story. You had a gig in February in London at the Courtyard. How did it go and what do you make of your British fans?

Alexander: The British fans are phenomenal. I had the best time at that show, it was the first one of the whole tour and it was so amazing to me. I thought ‘oh, they’ll probably sing the words back to the songs’ but, my God, they SCREAMED them with the British accent, and it was crazy. British fans go hard. And I met every single one of them after and it was such a heartwarming experience. Just the perfect way to kick off the tour.

LDN: Your latest single ‘Blame’s on Me’ has some impressive streaming numbers and was also included in the Official Charts. Tell me a little about the experience of writing that song and how you create something that becomes so popular?

Alexander: I’ve been putting out music for the last 5-6 years now and this song is the first time I’ve written a song from the perspective of heartbreak, not being the victim. Essentially, a relationship ended and it was my fault, as the song says. It took me five months to accept that and see it for what it was. I went to the studio and I was feeling sad and I just sat down. I looked at the people I was working with that day and I said, “I have to write the song that is just me apologising, because it can’t be me being like, ‘Oh, my God, I messed up, feel bad for me’. No, it’s got to be me saying sorry”. That’s all I really knew. Then we wrote the song, and it came together very quickly.

Typically, these things take a while [to release]. I have so many songs in process and some are many years old, but with this one, I called my manager and was like “It’s coming out. It has to!” So, we put it up. We waited, and I was terrified, I was like “People are going to think I’m a dick. People are gonna think I’m not a good person”. But the reaction was overwhelming and something I had not experienced before.

It just goes back to honesty as the best policy. I wrote about how I was really feeling in that moment, even though I was terrified about it. People crave honesty and vulnerability and it was interesting to me too, because a lot of people took from the flip side of being their ex or whoever they were with and sent it to them as closure.

LDN: I also saw that you appeared in a music video with Rita Ora playing the wedding cake deliverer. How was it to work with her?

Alexander: Rita is phenomenal. I’ve known Rita now for about a year and she’s always been so lovely to me. I got the call a few months ago and they asked me if I wanted to be in her next video and I was like, “Wow, let me think about it. Just kidding – obviously I want to!” My part was probably five seconds but it took 15 minutes to film it. The outfits were funny. Everyone was in good spirits. They just sent me the video a few days later, it was phenomenal.

LDN: You have a debut album coming up soon, right? What are your plans around the release of that album?

Alexander: A lot of singles will be coming up and gigs to announce – it’s extremely exciting to me. But the thing is, I don’t have an album when I’m touring. I’m just touring with the singles I have released. For unity and for the people that come to these shows that support my music, it’s gonna be exciting to have a body of work. Plans for release, are everchanging. I don’t know how much I’m actually allowed to say…

LDN: The music scene has changed a lot in the last decade through social media. Do you have any tips for aspiring artists who want to excel in today’s industry?

Alexander: Don’t give up and try not to get discouraged. It happens very quickly and easily, especially with social media. The way it works and the pace, you have to be posting once or twice a day and sometimes it feels like you’re getting nowhere. Then all of a sudden, you have a video that does really well., then it goes down and up and it’s just so mentally draining! The constant in this situation is the artist. If you love music, write what you feel passionate about. Be honest. Put the music out. Promote the music. People will listen and people will come, the longer you do it. Consistency is key.

LDN: What’s the coolest part about being a pop musician on tour?

Alexander: It’s meeting the fans. Everyone has been so sweet to me and it’s been really crazy. It’s the first time since I’ve been doing this that I’ve realised that the numbers on my phone screen are real people. It’s easy to forget on Tik Tok or Instagram or whatever, that all these numbers are real people. Each person is a different person. Before every show, there were a few, very sweet people that would come and wait for hours so they’d be in the front row. And I would always meet everybody at that point. That was such a special moment.

Then when I get to walk on stage and see all the actual real people singing these words that I have written, in my bedroom, because I’ve been sad. Singing these songs that have helped me so much but have also somehow found their way into their lives enough that they want to see them live, it’s unbelievable.

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