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Alex O’Connor is a quick learner. Now 19, it’s been just seven years since he tentatively started learning the drums before mastering piano, guitar and bass. Now he’s fine-tuned his hip-hop-tinged croon and released two seductive albums, cementing his reputation as a One To Watch.
This thirst to learn drove him to tear down the bedroom lo-fi of debut ‘bcos u will never b free’ and build the almost jazz-fused ‘Apricot Princess’ on its ruins.
“I wouldn’t say I have a background in jazz,” he admits, “but I take an interest in all styles of music and always want to learn different chords and new instruments.” Listening to the assured, Frank Ocean-tinged breeze of ‘Untitled’ and ‘Sycamore Girl’, it’s incredible to think that he was 16 when he started penning songs. “I started writing halfway through 2015, so the 10 songs on ‘bcos…’ were the only songs I’d written at that point.”
Since then the Surrey-based singer has gone from uploading demos for a handful of Bandcamp followers to hanging out in California with Tyler, The Creator (“What you see with Tyler is what you get”). This rapid ascent might intimidate a writer whose open-hearted love songs are now being streamed by millions of people. “I haven’t found that difficult yet,” he says. “I’m lucky to be able to say exactly how I feel pretty much the entire time.” What really concerns him is how fans will take the levelled-up production of his new stuff, not writing love songs “because, you know, that’s what I do.”
Change defines Rex Orange County; not only in ‘Apricot Princess’s lyrics about “learning which things are good and bad, how they change and why they’re important,” but also in his willingness to completely reinvent his sound from the off. “I would love to change as much as I can, to branch out and not make the same songs.” Could this mean that he’ll abandon his current sound for the next record? “I don’t quite know how I will do it next,” he admits, “I’ll just keep on learning and letting other people in.”
WHERE: Haslemere, Surrey
WHAT: Alex Turner trying to disguise himself as a member of Odd Future
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Four Seasons’, ‘Untitled’, ‘Happiness’
FACT: The powerhouse voice on ‘Sycamore Girl’ belongs to Thea Morgan-Murrell, Alex’s girlfriend and soon-to-be solo artist in her own right.
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Words: Josh Gray
Photo Credit: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
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