A Chat With…Alex Watts

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Alex Watts has returned with new single ‘Hopeful’. He’s celebrating the release with a residency at The Grace Darling every Wednesday night throughout May, so we found time for a quick chat.

Your new single features members of The Cactus Channel, how did they get onboard? I just asked them actually. I had a song that I imagined would suit them, so I sent it to Henry Jenkins, their bass player, and he agreed to get the band in to do a session with me. We had one rehearsal in their living room, and the arrangement they had written, based solely on my guitar and vocal demo, was really great, but quite different than I had imagined, fairly downbeat. So I asked if we could also try this song Hopeful, which was already in my live set but I wasn’t happy with the arrangement, and they just picked it up straight away and basically played it like it you hear it now.

Your last release was 2014’s EP Sing, Strum & Strut EP. What can you tell us about your forthcoming album? The purpose of my last EP was that I had been touring a lot with an acoustic guitar and all my recorded work was in a rock band format, so I wanted something to reflect the live shows. This album, however, is something I’ve been building up to for a while because I wanted to do it right and for it to really represent my interests and abilities musically. It’s the kind of pop album that I wanted to hear.

I noticed on Facebook you’ve posted a couple of demos that didn’t make the cut for the album. When it comes to choosing the final track list, how hard is it to narrow down the songs? I wrote a lot of songs that were discarded along the way, and the band and myself spent hours and hours of rehearsal time knocking arrangements into shape for songs we didn’t end up tracking. It’s hard making those kind of decisions, because obviously you’re obviously close to the material. Mostly I found that some of the older songs I thought were going to be important for the record weren’t as good as the newer ones, and on the other hand there was at least one song the band had to convince me to keep on and ended up being one of my favourites.

Can you tell us about your favourite Melbourne acts? Saskwatch, The Cactus Channel, The Pretty Littles, Saatsuma, The Lost Ragas, Ben Salter, Jess Ribeiro, La Bastard, Totally Mild are all great.

And Melbourne venues? The Old Bar, The Gasometer, The Forum.

I like the idea of a residency because you get to curate lineups for four shows instead of just one show. What can you tell us about your upcoming May residency at the Grace Darling? I’ve been lucky enough to book some of my favourite Melbourne bands to form the lineups for the month and hopefully it reflects some of the different stuff you’ll find in my set. It’s sort of like planning a little festival. All of last year was devoted to writing and recording so I’m really looking forward to playing again and pushing these new songs into the atmosphere.

Your last launch featured an eight piece band. Can we expect that at the upcoming residency? Almost, we will be a six-piece for most of the shows with maybe the odd guest here and there too to keep everybody on their toes. I’ve conned a bunch of musicians I admire into being my band, none of which have played live shows with me before, but the rehearsals are sounding great, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Alex Watts’ May residency at The Grace Darling in Collingwood begins on Wednesday May 4th. Special guests to be announced.