“There is nothing worse to me than music that feels uninspired and phony”: An interview with Alex Winston

Michigan native Alex Winston has come long way since leaving her hometown and heading to the Big Apple to work with production team, The Knocks. A duo who’ve worked with such artists as Ellie Goulding and Rihanna. Almost immediately after the move, she began working on her Sister Wife EP which proved that Alex Winston was not simply another female singer- songwriter in a sea of similar artists.

It’s been a busy year for Alex Winston, in February she released the Sister Wife EP followed by a tour of the USA and Europe, one which included some of the world’s biggest festivals including South by Southwest and V Festival. In September came the wonderfully catchy Velvet Elvis EP, preceding her tour with The Naked and Famous this Winter. In the midst of her busy schedule, Alex found the time to answer a few questions for us.

What inspires you musically?

I guess sincerity. There is nothing worse to me than music that feels uninspired and phony.  I’ve been pretty vocal about my love for early rock and roll acts like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but I also love country artists like Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.  PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Joanna Newsome are some other modern artists I really enjoy.

You had the opportunity to open for Chuck Berry who you describe as one of your influences, what was that like? Would you say that opening for an act that holds significance to you impacted your performance?

Meeting Chuck Berry was the one time in my life that I’ve ever been starstruck.  I’m generally not that interested in meeting my idols for fear that they might not really resemble what I’ve built them up to be in my head, but Chuck Berry has such a presence that just sort of leaves you speechless. I also read that he punched Keith Richards in the face, so it was probably best I kept my mouth shut, smiled and just said hello.  His performance was great as well.  It’s really encouraging to see someone at his age putting on a better show than a lot of my contemporaries.

Who would you like to share a stage with more than anyone else?

Dolly Parton

In recent weeks you’ve played a number of festivals with Berlin Festival still to come, before you embark on a number of tour dates with The Naked and Famous, do you find yourself approaching festival and concert performance in different ways? 

I wouldn’t say I’ve approached festival performances differently, I just think the audience responds differently.  People go to festivals to enjoy themselves and let loose and though people go to see club shows for the same reason, festival goers seem more uninhibited…maybe its the ecstasy.

What’s been your most exciting gig to date? 

Well I opened for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in August, that was pretty exciting.  I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time and I finally got to see them live, which was a treat.  I love the atmosphere they create.

Describe what your song ‘Sister Wife’ is about, is it as polygynous as the title suggests? 

It might be. All I’ll say is that its not about lesbians, everyone seems to think it is and its not.

Your vocal style has been compared to such artists as Kate Bush, what have been the flattering comparisons you’ve come across thus far? Have you come across any that really made you scratch your head? 

Most of them make me scratch my head because the comparisons rarely have to do with the actual music or vocals themselves.  There are a handful of people I often get lumped in the same category as but I think they are lazy comparisons.  Its just easy for people to place young women in the same musical clump when the fact that they are women is a moot point.  I’ve just learned to except it and say thank you.

Who have you been listening to as of late? 

A bit of Karen Dalton, The Black Keys, tUnE-yArDs, Girls, Blake Mills, The Beach Boys always….

What have you got planned for the final months of 2011 ?

Well, besides the TNAF tour, maybe a bit more writing for my album and spending some time back home in Detroit!

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