Michigan born and bred songstress Alex Winston is back.
After a two-year hiatus due to a crumbling label, vocal hemorrhage, and most recently, Lyme Disease (which Winston is understandably not yet ready to discuss), the unstoppable pop singer has been reborn.
The radiant front-running track off her new EP The Day I Died is a reflection of this trying experience, and recently received a cultish video treatment, inspired by the 1980 horror classic Friday The 13th. “Shake me out if I’m alive, ’cause I feel 3,000 miles away,” Winston sings, before being greeted by a knife-wielding stranger she, of course, later falls in love with.
We sat down with the 28-year-old to chat about love, finding her voice, and of course the road to her forthcoming full-length release This Ain’t Luck.
You seem to be making quite the comeback, following your first LP King Con. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned since its 2012 release?
“I’m a total perfectionist when it comes to recording and I tend to have a hard time deciding when something is truly finished, but I’ve learned that there is a lot of power in punching out. Another major lesson I’ve learned is that nine times out of 10, less is more. I love atmosphere and cinematic sounds, but on my first record, I added so many layers that it felt like they were all battling for their moment in the spotlight. This time around, I wanted every element to be intentional and to shine on its own.”
How did you find your voice—both literally and figuratively—after your vocal hemorrhage last January?
“It was a real eye opener. Having your ability to make music and perform dictated by two pieces of tissue in your throat is a pretty wild thing to wrap your head around. I’ve learned to not take my body for granted in the way that I used to.”
Nearly every track on This Ain’t Luck alludes to the tormenting cycles of love and lust. Whoever inspired it must be a real heartbreaker. Tell us about your experiences with this.
“I don’t think I can give any man that much credit. I broke my own heart. A lot of the love and loss was self-inflicted and it was incredibly therapeutic to write such a personal record.”
The album tracks are all pretty lively and triumphant, with the exception of “Down Low” and “The One That Stayed.” Why spin such dark material into upbeat indie-pop anthems?
“I’ve always been drawn to that juxtaposition, balancing saccharine and sour.”
Are you classically trained or self-taught?
“I was classically trained in opera for 10 years, but I don’t think my live performance really reflects that. Everything feels a lot more guttural and emotional now. It is such a release for me, where as when I used to sing opera, I was much more focused on the technicalities of it all.”
You’ve said in the past that “Down Low” is the most honest song on your new record. Why is that?
“I fought with myself for so long while writing this song. At the time I was very opposed to making ‘Down Low’ about me, so instead I kept coming up with these abstract impersonal lyrics that just felt insincere and forced. I guess what deterred me from writing about some of the things that I was going through was the worry that I wouldn’t be able to find a way to express these very common feelings like heart break and depression in an original way, but I realized people aren’t looking for me to reinvent the wheel—they are looking for something honest that they can relate to. So when I finally let go of what I thought the song should be about and just wrote from an honest place, it set the groundwork for my entire record.”
Describe This Ain’t Luck with one word.
“Transparent. I’m not hiding behind anything. It might not necessarily be the most uplifting album of the year, but it sure as shit is telling it like it is. Life isn’t always about coming up roses and accepting this fact feels a lot better than convincing ourselves that everything is supposed to be incredible all the time.”
Photography: Paolo Testa
Styling: Hope Misterek
Producer/Creative Director: Jake Freeman
Set Design: Sarah Hein
Hair: Niko Weddle
Makeup: Gitte Guldhammer
Photography Assistant: Alexandra Schaede
Production Assistant: Tara Gupta
Location: Studio 11 NY