From the artist’s bio: Alex Wong’s curiosity has a varied appetite, and he’s always fed it well. A steady diet of projects as artist, producer, composer, and fittingly, as chef, has taught him that the connections between seemingly separate disciplines can be a source of inspiration rather than distraction. Perhaps this understanding stems from his synesthesia, a rare neurological condition where the brain perceives relationships between unrelated senses. Alex sees sounds and hears colors. What a doctor might deem peculiar, his creative mind appreciates as a gift: this multi-sensory approach allows him to find magic in unexpected connections.
Following those connections has rarely led Alex in a straight line, but it has led him to a Latin GRAMMY-nomination (Miguel Bose), song placements in film, television (One Tree Hill, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Last Song) and major ad campaigns (Google, Aquafina), as well as production credits with Delta Rae (Big Machine), Vienna Teng (Universal), Elizabeth and the Catapult (Compass) and Ari Hest (Columbia), among others. It has led him around the globe, to perform at festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands, arenas in Mexico City and theaters in Europe and Japan. Read full bio on Alex’s website.
We asked Alex some questions about his songwriting process and what it means to be a NewSong finalist. To purchase tickets for the Dec. 15 event at Isis Music Hall, visit our ticketing page.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a NewSong finalist, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?
Being selected as a NewSong finalist is especially meaningful to me because it’s the first time I’ve put music out under my own name. I’ve been really lucky to have had a career making music as a collaborator, band member and as a writer/producer in support of other artists, but fear always held me back from releasing music under my own name. Even when I put a solo album out over 6 years ago, I used a moniker (A City On A Lake) because I wasn’t comfortable using my name.
I realized I’d grown up learning to hide … as a minority kid growing up in suburban U.S., we were taught to fit in to white culture and downplay our cultural identities. As a drummer, I learned my place was in the back of the band and that writing songs and being out front was a job for someone else. It’s been a long path to try and re-write that narrative, to stand in my own space as an artist and to let myself truly be seen in the world without the protective layer of a band or collaborator. The Quiet Voice was the first song I’ve ever released under my own name so it means the world to me that it was recognized by NewSong.
What is your songwriting process like, and where do you find inspiration?
For me, songwriting has always been a way to ask questions. I’m not really moved to write until I feel there is a question I’ve been wrestling with and can’t figure out. Sometimes I feel I’m most interested in trying to write (what I pretentiously call) “secular spirituals” because even though I’m not religious, the questions that are most interesting and that pop up in my writing the most are metaphysical in nature and often have to do with the relationship between life on Earth and the before/after life, if there is such a thing.
I am fascinated with why we are here, what lessons we are here to learn and whether we’ve been here before, and I think that seeps into my writing all the time. As far as inspirations, I used to have a big sign in my studio that said “WWTPD” (what would Tom Petty do?) and anytime I was stuck in the writing process I would just try to channel him. I always admired his ability to cut out all extraneous crap and his brilliant economy with lyric and melody. I also tend to worship Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Paul Simon, Radiohead, Quincy, Pharrell, Stravinsky and Chopin, to name a few.
What important news about your music do you have coming up?
I just finished my second solo album, called The Elephant and the Seahorse, which I plan to release in April 2019. I will also be releasing a duo concept album with Jesse Terry in 2019, about a town in Alaska struggling with climate change. I’m currently writing a musical called The Paper Raincoat with former NewSong winner Amber Rubarth and NewSong finalist Devon Copley (The Animators, 2006). I will be continuing to release exclusive content and videos on my Patreon site, which I adore. As a producer, I just started work with NC natives Delta Rae on their upcoming double album.