Alexa Wilding: Finding A Powerful Voice In “The Mystery of the Night Sky” [Interview] BC Artist Profile: Alexa Wilding
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Alexa Wilding isn’t hiding behind anything anymore. She’s putting herself totally on the line and her road to getting there was never a path one thought would be hers to travel. After one of her young twin boys was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Wilding summoned something that was always insider; the strength of her inner ” She Wolf “. In doing so, she found the strength to surrender to not knowing what would come next in her life, and in doing so, she shed her fear and her songs lyrics have become more open and transparent about her life. Her son is cancer free now and while life is returning to a certain type of normal, she is forever changed. Her new EP, perfectly entitled Wolves, is out and this new nurturing warrior sat down to talk with Blurred Culture about the time she spent traveling down this path, her music and what some of the stories on her journey are about.
1. What’s your first musical memory?
I was actually reminded of my first musical memory recently. It was early morning, I was bringing one of my twins, West to meet my husband and other son, Lou, who was going in for one of his regular MRI’s and check-ups (he’s a cancer survivor). Needless to say, despite the routine, I was nervous, and West was just excited to go on the subway without the double stroller! As we walked down the subway stairs, I felt my heart beating fast, but I had to pretend to be okay because I was holding West’s hand. I heard a subway musician singing the first few lines of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” — “Rise up this mornin’ / Smiled with the risin’ sun” — and tears welled up in my eyes. I took it as a sign, yes, that “every little thing was going to be alright” but also I remembered how when I was even younger than my boys (they’re 3) my Dad would rock me to sleep every night to that song. So my first musical memory was of security, and music bringing me comfort. Not much has changed! And Lou remains cancer-free, thank God!
2. What do you hope people take away from your music?
I actually hope people take comfort from my music. It has been called soothing before, this last record in particular, which thrills me, as I wrote the songs to soothe myself. The songs were written on a toy piano when Lou was undergoing cancer treatment. I had a lot of time on my hands while he slept and I was scared out of my mind, so I turned to the one thing I knew how to do, write songs. Unlike my other records, which, in retrospect are a bit cryptic, more like personal, cathartic diary entries just for me, the songs on Wolves were written while listening to a lot of lite rock on the radio, like sort of embarrassing, un-cool VH1 hits from my 90s childhood! What I refer to as “diner music.” But a light bulb went off while singing along to Tom Petty, Chris Isaak, old 10,000 Maniacs…singing along brought me comfort. So I made a concentrated effort to be more generous with my songwriting, testing my melodies out on Lou and the nurses. It was the first time it occurred to me that my music could be enjoyed by a wide range of people, while still being a personal experience for me. At one of the last shows, people were singing and dancing a long – a first! I felt, finally, like I had accomplished something.
3. Being that this is the first time that you’ve really taken from your own life to write your music, do you think it’s better?
I always wrote about myself, but as I mentioned above, I would hide behind the poetry, to obscure the truth, like changing the names in a memoir. On Wolves, while the poetry is still there, I found myself just writing as I would in a journal, remembering people and places that happened to me, without embellishing. That said, some songs were really scary for me to put out there. On “Road Song” for instance, I remember desiring someone who was spoken for, and “Eden” speaks openly about desiring something outside of “my little plot of land.” Lastly on “Black” I admit, really for the only time on the EP, just how bad things were during Lou’s treatment, something I never let on, I always had a smile on my face. I was really scared to have these two parts of myself co-exist on one record: a mother with desires and regrets as well as a mother in crisis. But aren’t us women, mothers or not, so many people all at once?
4. We all bring our own bag of things to songs, I have a pretty interesting story brewing in my head about my wolves, what are your “Wolves”, what was the inspiration for that story?
The song “Wolves” is about a relationship from my past that never took off, as neither of us could “do as the wolves do” and fight for what we wanted, ie. each other. It was all meant to be, obviously, but in the hospital I was thinking a lot about the times in my life, pre-motherhood, when I couldn’t rise up and fight, do as the wolves do. There I was with no choice but to conjure up the She Wolf in myself, and as I felt that strength growing I couldn’t help think back to the times when I couldn’t howl for what I needed.
5. Listening to your EP, I hit repeat after “Stars”? What is the story behind “Stars”?
“Stars” is so special to me. So my friend Rachel Platten is now a major super star, her “Fight Song” is so contagious and I seriously get teary eyed every time I hear it. I’ve known Rachel for years, we played shows together and supported each other from the beginning. She always wanted to be a pop star while I wanted something different, something I am still figuring out! When Lou was in treatment, Rachel came quite a bit and showered us with her sunshine. We always called her the Sun and I the Moon, so it made sense that my fight song would be called ‘Stars’ and inspired by the mystery of the night sky. I spent the first month of Lou’s treatment seriously staring out the window traumatized at night, until one night the line came to me “Sometimes the sky, throws a handful of stars in your way, come on, come on, that’s what they all seem to say…” There were a lot of parents in the hospital that were falling down a yoga pants and Cup of Noodles rabbit hole, and I didn’t want to go there, I needed to be there for Lou. I thought, alright, I’ve been dealt some really tough cards, some crazy stars, but they are my cards, and much like following breadcrumbs on a path, I need to follow these stars and see where they lead us.
6. How are you creating balance in your life now?
I’m not going to lie, its tough! But balance is the key word. I’m with my boys most of the time, but I learned that I needed support in order to stay in balance, and that that did not make me a bad mother. If I don’t have time to do my music, write and take care of my body (which is still recovering from carrying huge twins to term!) then I find I am not my best as a mother. So balance for me is being present at home, creating a magical space for them, days filled with wonder, and then nights and hours off filled with nourishment for myself. Its a struggle but I want to have no regrets, and I want my kids to say one day, “She was always there, but she also wrote music, and did these wild things…”
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Cortney Armitage is a photographer and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Born into the world of indie rock ‘n’ roll, she travels back and forth from Los Angeles capturing artists in and out of their natural habitat. Contact her at: www.CortneyArmitage.com