“A lot of my deeper thoughts come after sunset,” twenty-six year-old Alex Clare explains as we’re chatting about the title of his soulful debut record, The Lateness of the Hour. “There is a song by Bill Withers called ‘I Hope She’ll Be Happy With Him’ and there’s a line in there: The lateness of the hour makes me seem bluer than I am. …So I thought it was a very suitable title.”
It’s no surprise that this songwriter from Southwark’s album title was inspired by song lyrics because it’s obvious that music flows through every part of his being. Citing John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and the rest of his dad’s music collection as childhood influences, Alex has somehow managed to mush electronica, pop and soul together into a batter and then carefully he scooped hunks of the concoction into a pan and baked them into the eleven delectable songs that make up The Lateness of the Hour.
Songs like “Up All Night” and “Treading Water” stand out immediately with their booming choruses and danceable grooves. “Too Close” – the track that you’ve probably heard on a commercial for a certain Seattle-based computer firm – is exploding with percussive, synth-driven melodies and emotive lyrics. “Humming Bird” is another stand out track, made even more special by the fact that it was heavily influenced by Alex’s time recording in Jamaica.
“[The record] has got serious, serious air miles on it. We recorded between London, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Port Antonio, Jamaica,” he explains, “I think every place you’re in obviously affects your muse and you’re influenced by your environment and your surroundings and that’s definitely the case especially with tracks like ‘Humming Bird.’”
After spinning this record, I can only say one thing: this guy is gonna be huge. He’s brimming with talent and has a knack for catchy choruses. You can read more highlights of my interview with Alex Clare below!
Let’s start at the beginning. Where’d you grow up and how’d you get started in music?
I grew up in Southwark…Southeast London and now I live in Northwest London. How did I get into music? I guess my parents were kind of enveloped in music. All sorts really – from John Coltrane to Dave Brubeck – and I borrowed a lot of my dad’s music. Then I started to play the trumpet when I was about seven. A pretty healthy obsession I think!
Was it weird to make the transition from guy who loves to make music to guy who makes music for a living?
Yeah, I kind of made the decision as a teenager, really, that I wanted to really do it. So I had to commit my time and effort to try and facilitate that. I don’t think it felt strange…it just felt a long time coming, you know?
I’d love to hear about the recording process for this album…
It’s got serious, serious air miles. We recorded between London, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Jamaica?! Awesome. Did being there affect the music in any way?
Certainly, certainly. I think every place you’re in obviously affects your muse and you’re influenced by your environment and your surroundings and that’s definitely the case especially with tracks like “Humming Bird.” It definitely picked up quite a lot of Jamaica.
What does the album mean to you?
It’s pretty diverse. Some of the songs are kind of like a retrospective of my life and some of the songs are more optimistic and looking to the future of what could be and what can be.
Was there anything that you learned from making The Lateness of the Hour that you will carry with you into making your next record?
Loads! A lot about production. All the production I had done prior to this album had been really small scale. This album really got me into the studio full time as opposed to just my bedroom with a laptop. So, definitely the studio production…I learned so much. Especially in terms of scoring and the arrangements with other musicians. So hopefully the next record can put those skills into practice.
I read that you love that song, “Have A Talk With God” by Stevie Wonder so I checked it out…so good! Do you think it influences the music you’re making?
Yes, it’s an awesome song! There’s so much going on with that track, but it still sounds so clear. There’s so much detail in it, but never once does it sound processed. It’s an amazing piece of music. Stevie is a big influence, I really love his music. Soul music in general has kind of rang true. I think it’s funny as a kid you learn to kind of copy what you hear – to mimic. I listened to a lot of Stevie and a lot of Otis and a lot of Smokey as a kid and it definitely rubbed off.
How’s the touring been going?
I’ve been touring a little bit. Last year I toured loads. This year, I haven’t toured so much but I’ll be touring a pretty substantial amount in October and November. Towards the end of the year, I’ll be all over the place and I’m hoping to see some US dates in there!
What have you learned from touring?
Travel light, you really don’t need much to survive [laughs]. All you really need is a couple changes of clothes, a toothbrush, some deodorant and a good book and you’ll be okay. And your mic and your guitar. The key to touring is travel light. The less things you have, the less things you’ve got to rush to find.
What are your favorite songs to play live?
My favorite song to play live is a song called “I Won’t Let You Down.” Also, “Hummingbird.” Those two songs definitely. When I sing them I get a bit choked up. “Too Close” is definitely a great one because it obviously gets the most response from the crowd, and that’s really, really cool.
I’ve seen a lot of your acoustic performances circulating on the internet. do you prefer playing acoustic or plugged in with a full set up?
I like the whole set up. You can’t really beat the energy of the whole live set up with the synthesizers. It’s absolutely awesome and it sounds really good through the massive speakers – it vibrates off the stage. But there’s something really nice about just you playing. If you can do it with just a guitar, it feels right. It’s a bit more organic for me, I think that’s how the song is meant to be born.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best would be…always be honest. You can’t always get to know someone if you just say what they like. The best piece of advice I’ve ever read is in an old Jewish book. It goes something like, “be respectful of your seniors, be gentle to your juniors and treat everyone with a cheery disposition.” It’s cute isn’t it?
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What Alex is into: