A Story Behind The Mic: Dammien Alexander
There’s nothing like a Skype interview, right? But, with someone as incredible, kind-hearted, genuine and hilarious as Dammien Alexander, I could have interviewed him anywhere, at any time and still managed to get gold.
As it was quite late for the singer-songwriter, being that he was gracious enough to carve out an hour for me following his show at New York’s Terra Firma, my goal was to get to heart of the man without taking up too much of his clearly precious time.
Having sampled chunks of the pending album Eros XOXO myself, I was excited to pick Dammien’s brilliant brain about his past work and experiences as well as his excitement for the album release.
So the audience gets a great feel for who you are as not only an artist, but as a person, what can you tell me about your background and heritage that have influenced the type of music you create?
“That’s a good question. Well, I guess it had a lot to do with the music that was always playing in the background at different peoples’ houses, mainly my grandmother’s house. It was always Motown, old ‘70s rock and gospel that my mom taught. At summer camp I met a girl that turned me on to music that I wouldn’t normally listen to as well, like singer-songwriter Dave Matthews, Cody Chestnutt, D’Angelo.”
And what about the connection to Gospel through your grandmother? Was that a big part of your musical influence as well?
“Yeah, my grandmother on Sundays listened to gospel music all day. Her favorite artist was Mahalia Jackson, so I grew up listening to her a lot.”
Wow, okay. So branching off of your musical influences, how do you see yourself as an artist in the music industry today compared to the greats you grew up listening to?
“I am an artist that believes in the tradition of soul music and I think it’s important, but I also like the contemporary sounds and find myself engaged in the current music going around. I like all kinds of artists and I love learning about music, so I would identify myself as an alternative, urban artist I would say.”
I agree. I like that because you have so many different genres mixed into your one sound and it’s just so all inclusive of every influence there is. Normally people just become too focused on one particular genre or sell out, so I really like that you haven’t.
“Yeah, it’s hard for me. It’s so hard for me to listen to myself because I think to myself ‘God, this sounds so different than everyone else.’”
Yeah, I know that must be a challenge for you, but in a good way and it’s obviously working out! So, let’s jump into your traveling career for a second. You just played a show tonight in New York. Where was it, and what was the crowd like? How was the energy?
“Oh, people loved it and have been responding really, really well. I played at this place called Terra Firma in Bushwick.”
And are you playing new stuff from ‘Eros XOXO,’ old stuff or both?
“I’ve actually been playing a lot of songs from the record. I was actually playing these songs before we recorded them and they weren’t actually manufactured in the studio. They’re stuff that I was already playing so these are really my songs, especially “Tidal Wave” since I’ve been working on it for so long.”
So it was exciting when “Tidal Wave” finally came to fruition?
“Yeah, because I didn’t really know how until I met David and signed with Underground Sun. Before that happened, I was writing all of these songs that were really different than before because I was writing with more of a funk blues style. But, then I was like okay I’m going to need a lot of musicians because before I was playing guitar and bass.”
You were playing all of the instruments?
“Except drums, I can’t play drums for the life of me because your brain is just doing so many things at once. But, I actually found that it’s harder to play bass and sing than it is to play guitar and sing.”
More To Come…
As Dammien and I continued to speak for hours on end about his experiences, we got deeper and deeper into the man he truly is, but you will have to wait for that.