With his tender, delicate, feel-good folk charm, Alex Southey would be so honoured if you would join him “On the Dance Floor.” If you do, you’ll get an up-close and personal look at this talented and emerging singer-songwriter who is gearing up to release his third full-length record …And The Country Stirred in February. The album has been in the works for some time now and it will feature Southey’s most complete and well-composed work yet, thanks in part to the role of Juno winner and Polaris Prize nominee John Critchley (Dan Mangan, Elliott Brood) who served as producer.
Based in Toronto, Southey combines wandering lyricism, atmospheric strings, and emotive melodies which all merge to make for a compelling listening experience. He has become a focal point of the Toronto music scene, previously running his own open mic night at Toronto’s Imperial Pub and currently eager to return to live performing around the city.
As part of our continuing UnCovered series, we spoke with Southey for an artwork-related interview in which we discussed the development of the artwork for both his single “On The Dance Floor,” and the forthcoming album.
The artwork for your new single “On The Dance Floor” is crazy-cool. Tell us about the artist and how you found her.
Alex Southey: “Thank you! Felicia Wetterlin is the artist behind a lot of my artwork. She’s been providing me work since the release of my second album, and everything since then (albums, singles, EPs). In this case, the single artwork for ‘On the Dance Floor’ came from a leftover image of the original album cover, and some additional work I asked Felicia to do.”
Did Felicia hear the single beforehand? Or, what kind of input did you give her?
“I don’t believe Felicia heard the album beforehand, however, I did provide a good amount of input. I asked for two people slow dancing with each other. They could be anyone. I didn’t give anything more specific, and what you see is what I got. The one thing I did myself was cut and center the two people dancing. Originally you saw their legs dangling and… it was just a last-minute decision. The original looked great, I found this just suited what I wanted better. (Early versions of the single art below).”
When people look at the single cover artwork, what do you want them to see/think?
“It should evoke a sense of otherworldliness, and romance. It also falls in line with the And The Country Stirred art, where it’s a different group of people rising into the air, with the album title next to them. There is a sense of stirring, and awakening in the music, thanks to the beautiful fiddle and lap steel playing by Water Tower Band members Kenny Feinstein and Tommy Drinkard, respectively. I think when people listen to the song, see the video, and see this album art, everything will feel in place.”
Have any favourite music-related visual artists?
“Stanley Donwood. I believe he’s been the artist behind the album art for Radiohead since The Bends, and he also does Thom Yorke’s solo stuff. He’s the only one I’ve really followed, but I think there have been a lot of great visual artists in history working on music. I know it’s a photo, but Horses by Patti Smith, or Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd perfectly capture how the music sounds.”
What are your thoughts and/or the pros and cons of digital art versus non-digital?
“I think digital art is 100 percent fine! I see it the same way I see the digitization of music. As long as both exist, I think it’s a win-win. I don’t want to give up either. Merging the organic and the human-made instruments continues to sound great. For art, it’s the same. I suppose we created electric instruments so we could play to more people and as a different option, but now it’s become its own thing. Electronic music is no longer just an alternate version of true ‘music,’ it’s all just music. As is art.”
Was the artwork influenced by any of the themes explored on the single itself?
“All in all, the single art depicts a version of what I discuss in the song’s lyrics. It’s an example of two partners engaged in a relationship, over an image that best expresses the atmosphere of the album. It’s essentially a depiction of the album based on blending the album’s themes and its atmosphere.”
How do you think the single art will affect the listener’s perception of the single?
“Due to the fact that I think Felicia really nailed it with the album art, I think the single is only going to serve (and add depth to) the song positively. It’ll be the first thing people see, even prior to hearing the song, unless it’s on a playlist, so I understand it serves a first impression. I come to Felicia for work because I know she can help create that first great impression.”
Is the art for this single related to any of your previous album or single cover artwork?
“Felicia also served as creator of the album and single artwork of my last album, so there are overlapping aspects of a bunch of the artwork she’s created for me. A lot of it has this smudged, very atmospheric vibe to it, and so is complementary to the music.”
Have you ever purchased an album solely because of its album artwork? If yes, did the music live up to the artwork?
“One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Meteora by Linking Park. I had heard one or two songs of theirs from the last album, and while it legitimately scared me, it also interested me. Picking up Meteora I worried the music would be a little too harsh for me but instead, despite the harshness, the amount of great rhythm and melody on that record pulled me in enough that I think it ended up widening my field of vision in terms of what I considered music I’d give a chance listening to.”