For songwriter Alex Spencer the word journey has a lot of meaning. The gifted Manchester bred riser is on a zesty musical journey fuelled by ambition. Speaking with Clash on a week day afternoon, the confident teenager reveals fascinating details of the defining events in his life.
A globetrotter from a very young age, the quintessential fact that a chunk of his childhood was spent travelling and exploring the world no doubt had a profoundly positive impact on his character, outlook and creativity. “Me and my family went travelling. We travelled all over Asia, India, Thailand and Indonesia.”
Residing in Droylsden, born in Barcelona, to a Spanish mother, Spencer is a fluent Spanish speaker. The bi-cultural background has advantages, and he is currently writing and recording songs in Spanish. “It would be cool to appeal to the South American audience, there’s a lot of music there, and it could be a big fan base.”
The singer and lyricist’s debut EP ‘One Step Forward’ just came out, and the dynamic, uplifting release offers plenty of renewed hope. “It’s an anthem of the youth. I talk about life, I talk about fairness in society and about injustice.” The lyrics matter, but the guitar player also knows that the song needs to work in general terms.
He achieves that. While the melodic five EP tracks feel unwaveringly upbeat, there is lyrical depth to those who want it. The way he writes changes all the time, he explains, and activities such as seeing a film or reading a book often spark ideas, but it varies.
It’s tempting to view the musical side of his life as easy, but he works incredibly hard. Self-taught, the experience of hearing his father play guitar, from the age of ten, soon prompted him to pick up the same instrument, and he kept at it.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019, when he decided to have a go at busking, the moment would be a real turning point. “My busking was a crucial part of things, it was amazing. I still do busking, we have the Christmas markets in Manchester right now, and I do busking to build up a few more followers or make a bit of money.”
A magnificent way to meet people, he attributes the busking to many of the opportunities he is offered, events that eventually led to the record deal he signed with independent label Modern Sky. The label head had been messaging saying “He said he’d heard a lot of good things about me. We stayed in contact for about six months, we had a few meetings, he asked me about my plans, and they ended up signing me.”
Initially inspired by The Beatles and Oasis, the musician quickly started to look further for inspiration, he sees no style or genre as irrelevant, citing indie rock and rap artists such as Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Dave, Kanye and Ice Cube as some of his influences.
“I don’t really do jazz music, but there was a jazz musician at this open mic event, I had never heard something like that before. It really inspired me. When I was in India, I met a session musician, a saxophonist for Pink Floyd, and he taught me loads of stuff. It really inspired my music.”
Yet the scale of his ambition does not stop at performance and songwriting, and he wants to be able to produce his own music. The interest in audio and sound motivated him to study music production and technology at college, and so far it has been interesting and informative. “College is great, and I love the industry side of it, it’s useful to know about the industry, and my teacher knows his stuff.”
Other objectives include playing some of the biggest festival stages. The end goal is Glastonbury, where he hopes to play the 8 pm slot, just as the sun is going down. “But I just want to keep going, and I’m enjoying every single bit so far. I’m loving it.”
Reaching for the stars, Alex Spencer is taking more than one step forward.
Alex Spencer is headlining the Deaf Institute in Manchester on November 27th.
Words: Susan Hansen