Feature Interview

Alexandra May: Mindful Of What To Put Across The Line

Alexandra May meets me at House Of Machines for a quick chat, just one of the stops while she’s on the press run of her debut single ‘Amazing’ in Cape Town. Her wide-eyed pixie-like demeanour is infectious and fresh and after spending 2 minutes in her company I’m convinced that this is the beginning of something very special.

Incidentally, she’s also the only artist I’ve ever spoken to that refers to herself as a business – a brand.

Texx: So I guess lets start right at the beginning – what stirred your passion for music? Was there any particular element that made you want to jump into the industry?  

AM: I was born in Durban and we moved to Joburg when I was a kid. I’ve grown up in a musical family – my mom’s a pianist and my dad plays the guitar and sings. My younger sister is also a musician and a performer, so I grew up surrounded by music and when I was 7 or so I started singing and entering competitions and I also did theatre productions. Then when I was 15 I realised this was what I wanted to do, so I focused on my voice quite a bit.

Then I sent a demo in to David Gresham Records and they called me in for a meeting and a month after my first meeting, I was signed.

Texx: Seriously, a month later?

Alexandra May: Literally a month later. It was fantastic. They’re the best team, super fun and they really got to know me before making the music. I mean, I spent a year in pre-production and we’ve spent the last two months really pounding in music, making sure we got the sound right. It was so much fun sitting in studio and listening to the same drumbeat – I was one-on-one with the music.

I play guitar on the track and my family does backing vocals on it, so it was a team project and it was so cool!

TX: The track you mention, that’s your new single ‘Amazing’?

AM: That’s the one. So I’m releasing my EP in the next month or so and some of the songs I wrote, some of the songs I co-wrote, it’s a nice mixture – but it all speaks about me and my sound. But when I got ‘Amazing’ in, I knew it was the one. So I spent time moulding it and making it mine and fortunately the writers were able to work with me so we could make it me – my brand – and say what I wanted to say.

TX: I’m very happy that you mentioned your brand because I think that a lot of SA artists nowadays don’t sit and think about the image that they want to project, which is very important. 

AM: From the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2015 I did a programme called Africa Voices that was down here in Cape Town and I really learnt the business and it was a great opportunity to mould the artist I want to be. I was 17 at the time.

TX: How old are you now?

AM: I’m 19 – just turned 20 today it’s my birthday!

TX: HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I need to buy you a drink!

AM: No it’s fine I’ve had three cups of coffee and some bubbly so I’m good [Ed’s note: I’ve never experienced that kind of willpower]. So at Africa Voices we worked on our brands, our sounds – discovering what was our gift and our value and then also going into studios like Milestone Studio and getting experience there. So that programme taught me a lot and I knew exactly what I wanted to “put across the line”, as they say in the programme, out into the market. So I only put out there what is true to who I am and speaks to who I am.

TX: So what’s your live set-up like – or what would you ideally want it to be like?

AM: I like the big stage thing, so definitely a full band. I’m busy putting a band together at the moment and getting ready for live gigs. Then when the EP comes out I’ll be ready to go – I play guitar and piano which helps a lot with my songwriting, so occasionally I’d like to be behind either, but I just love performing and jamming with the crowd.

A couple of weeks ago I performed at an inspired youth event and it was all kids from 13 – 21 and about 300 kids. It was my first time performing the song, no one had even heard it yet and I got up on stage and they were on their feet jamming with me. It was the best feeling in the world.

TX: This is a super cliché question, but it always gives me great insight into a young artist’s drive or vision – where would you want to be in 5 years?

AM: Well, I was signed last year to Gresham and in a year I’ve turned 20, released an EP, and a single while I was still in my teens essentially. I can’t even image what the next 5 years would be like. But I dare to dream, so can I say a Grammy? I would love to have 2 or 3 albums out, I want to get lots of live shows under my belt. I want to go overseas and tour there, if ‘Amazing’ takes off I want to go overseas and spread my message there as well.

I want it all.

Listen to ‘Amazing’ below on Deezer.