There is something magical about the music of Alex Roberts. He is a modern troubadour, singing about love and life and drawing the listener in deeper with every word.
The singer/songwriter from Blandford Forum, England, lives his music. It’s second nature to him. A conversation with him is lighthearted and flows easily.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Alex about his new album, “Slack Magic,” due out June 7, and his upcoming performance at The Isle of Wight Festival on June 10.
Pull up a seat and enjoy our conversation.
So when did you know music was what you wanted to do?
It’s in my bones, storytelling more than music. But music is the vehicle. I was born with a wild imagination that I kept fanning the flames of.
When did you start playing, what age?
My first instrument was piano, age 5. My mum taught me to play streets of London on the guitar which I started at age 11.
Yes, I’ve busked around Europe and India. It’s a great gig.
I did read in your bio you play about 200 shows a year … that’s a lot!
I’ve been touring pretty constantly for 10 years, festivals, clubs etc. A good gig is a true experience of the music. I can’t imagine not being on the road. It has its own particular magic.
What is your favorite type of venue, or is it not the location, but the people?
It’s definitely the people. I like to take folks on a journey, from wherever they are, whomever they are. We go together. Reciprocal.
Do you start recognizing faces at your shows?
Most definitely. There is a very strong and loyal grassroots crowd on the road. Music brings people together and it’s great to feel an extended family through it.
Do you have a chance to socialize with them? Is there a name for Alex Roberts fans?
Ha, no name so far! Just folk I guess, like you and me. Yes I do, always. Festivals are the best for that.
Speaking of, you have the Isle of Wight Festival to play on June 10 at Kashmir Cafe. Are you excited?
Yes, it’s a legendary festival. Graced by the greats, and for a time growing up I lived on the island so it feels like home. The Kashmir stage is perfect. I was there last year and we had a great time. Looking forward to seeing The Who as well.
They have a fantastic lineup this year, loads of talent!
They do. The best thing about festivals I find is the unknown. Bands that you never heard of.
Yes, I love discovering indie bands too. Do you go the whole time and watch it all?
If I can I do. It’s good to take in the atmosphere. Another of the time there’s another gig to get to though. Which is partly why I set up a little festival in Dorset which is in a couple of weeks time. There is a very strong community of touring musicians and festivals are a great opportunity to catch up. We’re ships in the night usually.
There are so many festivals I see advertised these days and they are huge. Not 5 to 10 bands, but 100 at a time. Its pretty amazing for indie musicians.
Oh wow, yes it is. Good to hear that’s the way in your neck of the woods! There are so many great artists out there on the road. If you have the intention and tenacity you can do well as an independent musician.
Well, most of what I’m seeing is festivals in England and such, making me wish I could go! So what is your live show like? Just you or do you have a band too?
You should. I’ve been touring mostly solo, it’s intimate like that and the connection is more through the song. I do tour with a wonderful double bass player from time to time, Graeme Ross. There is certainly a different magic in the music then. I would like to imagine my shows to be soul nourishment for an audience. They are for me.
That is something everyone needs. Where do you find inspiration when songwriting?
In the small hours. Like catching dreams when you’re on the edge of sleep. They often seem complete as they appear: music and words in one organic package.. They are like living things in some way. I write from experience and observation. Real life and real magic.
Do you try to schedule songwriting or just grab it as it comes to you?
They come to me when I’m open to them so I suppose there is a certain scheduling as you say, but it’s quite spiritual I think. Like meditation, clearing your mind to make room for the song.
So let’s talk about the new album, Slack Magic, out June 7. This is your 7th album, I believe?
Yes it must be! Lucky number seven. I’m really really pleased with it. The songs are some of my strongest, the sound is real, and the vibe is right. No messing, no tech, just songs performed from the heart. The title is about making that time I mentioned before. The space in your like for magic to do its thing. It’s something you learn to embrace on the road, quickly! Slack Magic. Good things happen when you allow yourself some slack.
When it came time to make the album, did you have all the songs chosen or did you wing it?
Well I had some help, it’s a tough call but making an album is really part of a larger process of songwriting, so they all really just fell into place.
How long did it take you to do, until you were satisfied?
I’ve toured and performed all the songs for at least a year or so I knew them well – it can take some time to really settle into a new song – the takes on the album are all pretty much first takes. Start to finish it was two days in the studio recording and two or three mixing. It’s just off to mastered so I’m excited to hear the final cut.
Wow, that is fast, but when you’ve lived with the songs for so long, they are like old friends. So no support musicians, just you alone?
Yes exactly. I’ve really lived with them, as has my audience. They belong to them now. There’s some sweet bass on it but yes, it’s pretty stripped back and as you would find it at a gig.
That’s brilliant. No need for any filler, the music speaks for itself.
As it should. The temptation to overcook things in the studio seems to me to get in the way of many a good song.
Q: What other musicians inspire you?
Ah well, there are so many! I would definitely doff my cap to Davy Graham, John Martin, JJ Cale, Leonard Cohen. I listen to another of js Bach. My only desert island disc though is the Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett. Have you heard it?
I have not. I’ll have to look it up. What is it like?
It’s soul. Beautiful. Please do, and let me know what you think of it. An inspired performance.
I absolutely will. So the album comes out Tuesday – any big release plans?
To continue the never-ending tour and make new friends and new songs. It’s all part of the journey.
A journey that hopefully will take many, many years … so, anything else you would like to talk about, or did we cover it well?
Indeed! It’s always just beginning. All I would say that it’s wonderful to meet people like you who help the journey go easy. Thank you.
Alex Roberts will be playing the Isle of Wight Festival on June 10 at Kashmir Cafe. His music can be purchased on his website at http://www.alexrobertsmusic.com. He is on Twitter at @AlexRobertsMus and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Alex-Roberts.