Having got the bug for writing and performing music again in 2019, singer-songwriter Alex McEwan makes his return on September 28th with his new album ‘In A World We Don’t Know’. Following the release of his new single “Take It Back To Zero”, TotalNtertainment spoke to Alex about the past, the present and the future.
1. Hi Alex, thanks for your time, how are preparations going for the album?
It’s going good, the album is now finished, we’re actively looking for more support slots after the great show in Glasgow with The Shires. We are just in the process of remixing the next single with Ash Howes, a track called “This Feeling Again”.
2. You described the recent single as “a nostalgic song”, does the album follow in a similar vein?
In parts it does but there are also themes on there around finding love, a new beginning in life after struggles and one track in the album is based around Covid, another is about our dreams and ambitions as narrated through a Nashville cab driver, a track called Rodeo Star.
3. Can you tell us about the meaning behind the title of the record and what inspired it?
So I had written a song called “In A World We Don’t Know” with reference to a summer romance back in my busking days, i.e. we might meet again who knows what can happen in this world. So when I started to write the next album, I put the finishing touches to this song and it was during lockdown, so the title just resonated with me, we don’t know what the future holds, but at the same time this world can be a beautiful place. So I thought it was a good title to fit the times.
4. You reignited your fire to write and record again on a cruise in 2019. Can you talk to us about those moments when it all came alive again?
Sure, I had been listening to a lot of classical music prior to this and had been playing classical guitar. We went on holiday to Florida including on a cruise to the Caribbean and the girl that was singing one night asked if anyone wanted a request, I said “Sweet Home Alabama”. She asked me to come and sing, my wife encouraged me, I went up and sang the song. The audience response was really strong, particularly to my voice. That made me realise that I still had a performers spark and that my voice and lyrics, i.e. having something to say to people that they connect with were my key skills. I came back home and, encouraged by my wife started to write new songs, particularly after we moved to the beautiful Kent countryside, which I found particularly inspiring!
5. Having got that fire back, how frustrating was it to go into lockdown twelve months later and how did you keep your momentum going?
The lockdown period was actually really productive because instead of having to go into London, it gave me more time to write and also record. I switched to working with people remotely to create the initial blueprint of the album and then when we came out of lockdown for a period I went into a proper studio with Ian Grimble and band.
6. Your lyrics to the recent single talk about a yearning for the past, what is the thing you miss most?
Good question. I think in my head I have this image of summer in the West Coast of Scotland of the feeling of freedom and optimism. Also, as a student at Glasgow University, I have fond memories of summer time in that campus environment, the old buildings, walking down Kelvin Way in the summer and all the things you do as a student, including an amazing trip to the US on the BUNAC programme. So, going back there a couple of weeks ago and playing at the Kelvingrove bandstand to 2500 people and share those memories through song was particularly satisfying.
7. Do you take yourself back to specific periods in time when writing or are songs triggered by specific memories?
I think as I mentioned previously, for the nostalgic songs two periods in my life. Firstly, when I was a boy and where I grew up was very much countryside. We used to play in the farmers field, steal potatoes, build dens and cook sausages on the fire we made. In the Autumn, I remember there was a valley in the countryside near my house where all the local kids would congregate, it would fill with rainwater, we made a swing from rope and would swing across. In winter we would sledge down the snow covered hill at St Cyrus, play conkers, build bonfires. I loved playing football as a kid also.
The second period was when I was a student and, although there was an academic pressure, there was a sense of freedom. I used to love going to the student union with my mate, try and meet a girl, including strong memories of the classic hits on the Glasgow University Union dance floor, walking home with either my head held high or in a mood, depending on my success, nipping into the local kebab shop.
8. What is the one story from your childhood that makes you wish you were back there?
I guess I kind of mentioned a lot of that in the previous question but to expand on it even more, I remember in 3rd year of school I started to hang with a new group of friends, we became like a little gang, we would have great parties, go to camps and generally hang out and provide that sense of belonging, in a good way, not like something from the film NEDS. Although I love that film my upbringing in Bishopbriggs was a world away from other parts of Glasgow, but if my father hadn’t got the family out of those tough parts of Glasgow such as Cranhill where I was born and my older brothers and sisters grew up in, it could have been very different. To this day I am still friends with some of those guys and they recently came to support me at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow in May.
9. Just for fun, what is the one thing from “the old days” which you are glad is no longer around and why?
My big brother. He’s still living I am glad to say, but thankfully we don’t share a house with each other. Unfortunately he had a bit too much of the Cranhill of Glasgow in him and I sure got to know about it but I certainly made sure he learned to back off when I got a bit bigger. But hey forgive and forget eh?
10. You’ve talked about nostalgia but, now you’re ready to return, what does the future hold in store for Alex McEwan?
I want to play lots more live shows including festivals. We have two more singles from this album. I want to do a duo with a female singer for the last single, so we are on the lookout for a suitable person. Really, I just want my songs and voice to connect with peoples lives across all generations!
Alex’s new album will be available to order soon. In the meantime pick up a copy of his What Is Love EP here.