(Photo and cover art credit: Ash Koek)

“All I can do is keep it personal and share my music as honestly as I can.”

You can throw Alexander Biggs into whatever box you think fits – alt-folk, indie rock, singer/songwriter, etc. – but one thing is for certain. There’s a timelessness to both sound and content with where he’s going with his art. There’s just something to his sound that creates a lengthy string of connectivity to what you’re hearing.

We were first drawn to his work on “Tidal Wave,” a song that has sporadic moments of warmth peppered into a chilly climate. With “Figure it Out,” we were drawn to the openness and intimacy, and of course the delightfully poignant video that came along with it.

With an EP due out on Sept. 15th (which you can pre-order here), Biggs took time out of what is surely a busy schedule to talk with us about his journey as an artist. From older church music to being introduced to the music of Bright Eyes to how the music community of Melbourne keeps him going, we were happy to hear about one of the finest musicians Australia has right now.

Starting at the beginning – who were you listening to growing up? Did anything in particular put you on this musical journey?

Growing up I feel like my ‘tastes’ in music changed quite rapidly. My nan was the organist of the local church so there was a lot of church music in my house from an early age. As soon as I was old enough to pirate music, I was down the rabbit hole of the rock scene, starting on Blink 182 and moving onto all the greats of the ’emo’ (whatever that means) era for the majority of my teens.

I didn’t see the beginnings of what I write now until the start of university, where one of my lecturers showed me Bright Eyes. Between I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Elliott Smith’s XO, my teenage brain exploded. It felt like I’d been living a lie. I realised there were more effective and subtle ways of talking about feelings.

“Talking about your struggles with friends that understand it helps a lot. Sometimes it just takes a little self-talk.”

Australia seems like it’s really caught fire in recent years with the number of acts and scenes people are noticing from there. It used to be a few big names every now and then, but I’d argue it’s one of the most exciting countries in the world right now. Do you think that these scenes have always been under the radar, or do they seem to be relatively new and popping up recently?

I think Australia has always had a great pool of talent, but thanks to increased globalisation or greater resonance overseas (I really couldn’t say), I guess we’re being looked at more seriously. I think Australia definitely gets looked over for whatever reason. Maybe the world’s perception of Australia has changed, and through that they’re able to see what we’ve always had. I do think that in recent years we’ve had a very strong export of new music. It’s a bit of both, I suppose.

We live in a world of instant connectivity, and I know that makes it easier for acts to make themselves known where they may not be traditionally, but does it ever feel like it’s too much and you’re swimming upstream? Like you wish you could press some albums or tapes and then let the process play out rather than having to compete with the instant gratification that expected from so many now?

As an artist, I guess the saturation of talented acts out there can be an overwhelming thing to traverse. I try not to think about it too much and focus on what I’m doing. As a music fan, I’d say it’s an exciting time to be alive. There’s so much great content to sink your teeth into. The only real challenge as a consumer of music is finding the gems amongst the average stuff.

I think that competing with the impatience of today is a sad reality of any creative industry. I’m definitely for making a whole piece of art to its own timeline than to create small fragments for the sake of appealing to 15 minutes of fame.

I want to take a quick look back at “Tidal Wave” before talking about “Figure it Out” – we fell hard for it, and for your sound. It’s a slow roll rather than rushing into it; what was it like writing that and working to contain the composure of it?

Writing “Tidal Wave” was a pretty quick event. I think I got 90 percent of it out in one sitting, and I kept it on the back-burner while I tried to figure out the third line of the chorus. I stressed so much over that last little piece.

It’s funny looking back at it ’cause I think it sums up my perfectionist tendencies. It was such a small solution but in my head I made it a big problem. In the end it’s all about the feeling of the song anyway. I think I’d rather a 90 percent finished song than one that never sees the light of day because it’s still cooking in my head.

One of the most striking things about that song, and your sound, is how you can balance the sounds within the genre in a way that still feels fresh and modern. Do you ever think about the heroes of that alt-folk sound, the Elliott Smith’s and the like, when recording, or do you try to block that out and focus on just your world and creations?

First and foremost, I always focus on the song as it stands on its own. I have to pay strict attention to the imagery in my head as I’m writing to get the most out of what I’m trying to say – to stay true to the vision. Production is important, too, but comes second.

Elliott Smith is a great, both in songwriting, and in production. As a fan of both, I’d say that his music has both a subconscious and conscious influence on what I make. Not as much as I think a lot of people hear. I take inspiration from a lot of things, and sometimes it comes from a place I’ve never heard before (at least I don’t think).

Turning to “Figure it Out,” you mentioned you were facing a lot of conflict in your life. Was it difficult to take those issues, look at them honestly, and put them into a song? Was there ever a fear or doubt that maybe you didn’t want to address those conflicts in this way, or did it just seem natural?

I’ve been using music to talk about how I’m feeling for a while now, so I was never scared in that sense.

The conflict in my life had a lot to do with where I was artistically. I’d just announced a signing to a major label, having made my first two singles on my own in my room, with the help of my manager to service them. The team around me grew very quickly, and I was scared of what people would think. 

The song was written about managing a relationship while struggling with persistent ‘talentless hack’ syndrome and written as a way of saying, “I’m scared but I’m pushing through it” and “I’m thinking about you.”

Did addressing the conflict help you grow as a songwriter in any particular way? Did it influence other work outside of “Figure It Out”?

I don’t think the song even addressed it all that much. I think the creation of the song, the time around the song, represents that growth to me, and to everyone else the finished product is going to be a lot more subtle. “Figure It Out” has sparked a lot more thought on my songs and perception of myself, though, which I’d say has been mostly positive.

I think the video is so subtly masterful in the way it deals with how music is viewed as such an expendable commodity by way too many in our modern age. Do you think there’s something that can be done to regain that certain connectivity people once shared with the art form? How are you navigating this minefield?

Maybe it starts with artists making art for arts sake, and demanding its value. I guess I’m hoping it’s possible that artists can slow down, and listeners can slow down with them.

All I can do is keep it personal and share my music as honestly as I can. Maybe bringing the personality back to music can help.

I’ve known quite a few artists, and we’ve talked to a few, who just grow disenchanted with the art. What motivates you and keeps you creating? I know Melbourne has a strong music community there – is there a collaborative spirit, or at least connection and understanding, where artists can rely on each other to keep moving and keep going?

There’s definitely moments for everyone where you wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing. Too many good artists are lost that way. I think I personally keep going because I’m addicted to songwriting. I can always do better and I’m always looking to do better.

There is a strong community in Melbourne, but I think you only see that level of support in friends and closer acquaintances, which I’m lucky to have. Talking about your struggles with friends that understand it helps a lot. Sometimes it just takes a little self-talk.

“As a music fan, I’d say it’s an exciting time to be alive.”

Speaking of that, who are some of the local acts from your region you’re digging who we may not have come across yet but people definitely need to know about?

You definitely need to know Yes, Yes, Whatever, who just dropped their new single “Lacklustre.” I’m very proud of that bunch. Other than that, RAT!hammock, Mickey Cooper, Angie McMahon, and Al Parkinson are all local artists that I love. Definitely a good bunch!

Finally, what do you have left for 2017, or what’s on tap for 2018? Tour? Album releases? Singles? Etc.

I’ve got my first EP Still You Sharpen Your Teeth coming out September 15, with a tour to follow, and then hopefully I can follow it up pretty early into 2018 with more music. I’ve got so much to share.