INTERVIEW: Alexander 23

Alexander 23 has quickly made himself an artist who speaks his honest truth with a raw vulnerability and beautiful articulation that is so empowering. The Chicago raised and Los Angeles based singer-songwriter has delivered a discography full of heartbreaking and heartwarming tracks that provide comfort to listeners as they deal with their own anxieties. His Ep’s ‘Oh No, Not Again!’ and ‘I’m Sorry I Love You’ welcomed listeners into this very introspective soundscape that has seen him progressively grow as a songwriter and producer. With his singles like ‘IDK You Yet’, ‘Cry Over Boys’, ‘Nothing’s The Same’ and ‘Dirty AF1s’ particularly resonating with listeners.

But now he’s released his boldest track yet which hears him entering an arena ready pop sound with a slight rock twist. ‘Hate Me If It Helps’ is already one of the year’s best songs. From the opening line questioning “I wonder if your therapist likes me. I guess it depends on how much of the truth you tell to her”, right through to the pulsating production bursts of the chorus which provides this ethereal energy to a song, it is one of the most exciting and unexpected first listens you will have in a long time. Co-written with Olivia Rodrgio and Dan Nigro, this heartbreaking track will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions and have you feeling everything at once. 

I recently chatted to Alexander 23 about the honest storytelling of the grieving process of the breakup behind his new single ‘Hate Me If It Helps’, discussed the random samples you can hear on the track, and laughed about the relatability of his previous single ‘Cry Over Boys’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new single ‘Hate Me If It Helps’ is an incredibly honest, emotional, and relatable track about the grieving process of a breakup. What did the studio session feel like when you wrote this with Olivia Rodrigo and Dan Nigro. Was it heavy? Or was it cathartic and freeing? 

ALEXANDER 23: It was definitely cathartic! I’m not one of those people who can write in the moment of intense feeling or sadness. It takes me a while to get to a place where I can write about it. It’s usually the last step in the grieving process, rather than the first or the middle for me, so it’s usually pretty cathartic.

But yeah, Olivia came over and I showed her a few different starts of songs I had written, and she picked the “therapist” one, and we just went from there. It’s nice when your friends are the best in the world at what they do, and they are willing and able to help you be the best version of yourself. 

TB: “I wonder if your therapist likes me. I guess it depends on how much of the truth you tell to her” is a lyric that I think is going to soothe a lot of people’s hearts with it being strikingly honest and relatable. What was the conversation and story behind this particular line? 

A: The line can be taken quite literally, but it’s also in more of a macrosense like; it’s hard to argue with someone who’s lying to you, but it’s harder to argue with someone who’s lying to themselves. I think lying to your therapist, or not giving them all of the information, is symbolic of not being fully honest to yourself. 

TB: The whole concept of “you can hate me if it helps” is beautifully tragic. That phrase is easier said than done, because you can say you are okay with them hating you but it’s also so hard watching someone move on while you are still grieving in your own way. So as someone who does admiringly take a longer amount of time to process breakups, what is something you personally do to help look after yourself and your mental health during that time?

A: I think for me it’s kind of a game of what can I control? Like, these feelings are out of my control so I think about what I can control. For example, I can control what time I wake up. I can control what time I get out of bed. I can control if I exercise. And I can control whether I hang out with my friends or call my family. So that has definitely become a bit of a game to me to acknowledge if something feels super out of my control to then problem solve how I can balance it in other ways. 

TB: Sonically the song has so many different layers and to me sits somewhere between Coldplay and Jeremy Zucker. What were your main inspirations for this track sonically? 

A: Honestly the biggest inspiration outside of other incredible artists, like the two you mentioned, was being on the road this past Fall and just feeling how songs felt live and wanting to bring that energy into the studio. That’s definitely a big theme with the rest of the album. I just wanted it to feel as real as possible. I feel like I’ve gotten really good at explaining myself lyrically and I wanted to match that on the production side more. 

TB: What is a random you can tell us about the creative process behind the song? 

A: The weird little drum and bass thing that comes in during the second chorus originally was just on a little Instagram story I made. It was a video of me going “POV: you’re my snare drum”, and it was just me playing that beat on top of it. You wouldn’t necessarily put that beat and the production together, but me and Dan just decided that it could be really cool, and it worked really well.  

TB: The accompanying music video is a beautiful art-piece in its own right which captures the emotional heaviness behind the track. I particularly love the black and white shots of your face in the sky, it felt very 80’s. What were the references and ideas in your video treatment for it? 

A: We just wanted it to feel like a classic movie. It was important to me that it didn’t have an underlying narrative because I wanted people to watch it and see themselves in it more. I think it leaves it open to their interpretation. I think I said enough with the song that I don’t need to have this movie go along with it. I just wanted something that really looked beautiful, and colour wise showed the depth of the song. 

TB: You recently co-produced Lexi Jayde’s insane track ‘Drunk Text Me’, which is already up there as one of my fave song’s of this year. You were working quite hard against a timeline for that one, so what did working with Nick Ruth on that one teach you about yourself as a producer? 

A: Luckily Nick and Lexi just made an amazing song, so they made my job super easy. I saw Lexi post a snippet of the track on TikTok and originally I was just like “you need to send me this song. I need to listen to it”. So she sent it to me, and I said “if there’s no one producing it yet then I would be honored to do so”. And she explained how this guy called Nick Ruth was producing it and would be probably keen to work with me to do the production. I have known Nick for 6 years as I used to work with him when I was in a band. So it felt like a full circle moment. 

He sent me the track while I was on tour in my hotel room in some random state, and I just threw some ideas down, and he synthesized it all into the final track, and then it was out very shortly after. 

TB: Last year you released the ‘Oh No, Not Again!’ EP. Looking back at that EP, what song feels like the closest to a portal track for you into this new chapter of Alexander 23? 

A: ‘Track 9’ was kinda intentionally meant to be that portal. The relationship that most of this album is about ended 15 months ago, and I remember putting out that EP and feeling so weird about it as there were no songs about this extremely momentous thing in my life. So I wrote ‘Track 9’ as a way of saying; “The fact I haven’t written a song about us yet doesn’t mean you don’t mean anything to me, I just didn’t feel like I wasn’t ready to give it the proper respect, love, care, and time it deserves”. And I think I’ve finally done that now. I’m no longer with that person, but she was incredibly special.

TB: ‘Cry Over Boys’ was a song that I felt was very directed at me Alexander… Particularly with the lyric “You cry over boys you haven’t even met in real life”. The song went viral on TikTok and social media because of its relatable lyrics. So what was one of the funniest stories you heard from a listener because of the song? 

A: Most of the stories were like yours where you were just speaking to me. People were like; this not cool dude, I didn’t sign onto Instagram or TikTok today to feel this, this is not what I was looking for *laughs*. It was just funny the magnitude of people who hit me up like “hey, chill”. 

TB: I think I replied to your instagram story saying “fuck you”. 

A: *Laughs*, and that is the appropriate response. 

TB: You are about to hit the road with John Mayer in the US for his ‘Sob Rock’ arena tour. You posted that you had already bought tickets to go to this show, so is there a whole different pressure added when you are not only doing an arena tour but also opening for an iconic artist that you personally look up to and already had tickets to? 

A: It’s nuts! Every time someone says it, just like you right now, I still can’t believe it. He’s always been the guy to me. I learnt to play the guitar by playing his songs. I learnt to write songs but studying his lyrics and everything. I don’t think I will believe it until I’m on stage. It’s also great because every time I’m done with my set I get to watch my favourite artist play. It’s a great deal. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions. Are you ready?

A: Let’s do it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new single ‘Hate Me if It Helps’ is…

A: The smiley face with the tear coming down.

TB: When I think of Australia I think of…

A: Thomas Bleach!

TB: The colour of my toothbrush at the moment is…

A: Blue!

TB: A song I wish I wrote would be…

A: ‘When You’re Dreaming With A Broken Heart’ by John Mayer.

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

A: Unnecessary! It just feels like someone just made it up. Like why don’t we put any other fruit on pizza?

‘Hate Me If It Helps’ is out now!