A native of New Mexico and recent transplant to LA, musician Alex McCue’s musical endeavours have led him around the world. Fresh off a 17-date tour through Mexico and the US, Alex McCue & The Group Activity have released their new bilingual single, “Dialogues With God,” tapping into themes of meditation, self-worth, encouragement, dreams vs reality, and a blossoming, unconventional connection with divinity.
The lyrics bounce back and forth between English and Spanish, and the melody contains a jazzy overtone, paying homage to the dynamic influence of Valencian culture and McCue’s time in Mexico. McCue’s smooth vocals bounce off the trumpet, bass, and drums, creating an exploratory experience that will leave listeners feeling joyful, motivated, and inspired.
Joining us for an interview, we spoke with McCue about his most beloved instruments, a surprising skill, and what it will take to ignite real, lasting world change.
What was your first-ever instrument?
Alex McCue: “The voice! (That counts, right? Cool.) I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. One of my pre-school teachers was also a Latin-jazz percussionist, and he told my parents that I had ‘The Curse.’ It sounds ominous, but I think he meant that it would be difficult to do other things besides music. Ever since, I’ve been singing in every way that I can: chorus, theatre, and now as a touring musician. I only picked up the guitar when I moved to Mexico in 2014, and that allowed me to begin the singer/songwriter/bard path in earnest.”
What piece of equipment cost you the most during a show, or tour?
“My guitar, I think. My first guitar was a $50 nylon string beauty that I picked up in Mexico (I remember the salesperson telling me it wasn’t nice enough to perform with, and I ignored him). Once I moved back to Boston, though, I needed one that could plug into an amp, so I got a Martin guitar, and it’s now lasted me more than 6 years.”
What gear item has the most meaning to you or is the most important to you?
“Also, the guitar. But it’s not just the guitar; it’s also the case. It sounds silly, but over the years, I’ve accumulated a ton of good luck charms in there: dirt from the Rio Grande Valley (near where I was born), a tarot card gifted to me by a practitioner in Ireland, a little tablet of the saint of music, and more. I used to think I was too fancy for stickers on my guitar case, but now my case is so beat up that I’m starting to explore sticker life. I have stickers about New Mexico, aliens, venues I’ve played, projects friends have started, and more. I once got a sticker in a tip jar and put it on there; it features Wonder Woman making an indignant face in front of a wall of flames saying, ‘Oh no you didn’t.’ I debated putting it on for a while, but why not?”
If you could erase one thing from your memory, what would it be?
“Ooof, the list goes on. But at the same time, maybe I should remember my mistakes, so I don’t repeat them? And I wouldn’t want to erase the painful memories of people I’ve lost…so I’ll ask you to put that little Men in Black memory eraser back in your pocket for now. Thanks. Wait, what were we talking about?”
What is one thing that you’re good at that people don’t expect?
“Mouth trumpet. For the uninitiated, this is where you put your lips together and sing a high note, and it kind of sounds like a trumpet. I love adding in a little mouth trumpet at my solo shows because people turn like, ‘Wait, is there a trumpet player? Oh, never mind, he’s just being weird.’”
How do you drink your coffee?
“Iced with oat milk. As I write this, I’m four days into replacing coffee with green tea, but we’ll see how long it lasts. Green tea is probably healthier, and it appeals to the Zen meditator part of me, but iced coffee is just so dang good. Even as I answer this question, I’m daydreaming of a crisp cold brew sitting on a sun-bathed picnic table surrounded by all my pals… yeesh, I think I need another cup of tea.”
No matter what your political or ethical outlook, there are issues and topics that we are all passionate about. Some examples are climate change, human rights, poverty, military conflicts, prejudice, and economic disparity. With this in mind, what’s the issue or topic that you are most passionate about?
“I appreciate the question. It strikes me that a lot of these issues you named are connected, and I think the best solutions often address more than one issue at a time by addressing the root cause.
“The overlap that really inspires me is saving the Earth and making people’s lives better, which can be referred to as Environmental Justice. I used to work full-time in the nonprofit/philanthropy world, and some of my favorite work was supporting indigenous communities and helping them better protect their land. You help improve the lives of the community, and you help keep carbon-sequestering forest alive and thriving. Another example is happening now in New Mexico, with organizers trying to protect 10,000 acres of land from being auctioned-off to the oil and gas industries. You keep more land for the people, and you keep carbon-emitting oil in the ground.
“So the short answer to your question is “Environmental Justice,” and the long answer is that we need to listen to and empower the communities experiencing the worst of these issues as we think about solutions. These folks often have the clearest picture of what is going on, but often get the fewest philanthropic or governmental resources. When we give all of our donations to wealthy (and often white-led) nonprofits, we might accidentally be supporting band-aid solutions instead of addressing the root of the problem, which is so often the racist, extractive, capitalist system we call home. When we support movements built by the people we’re trying to help, we can disrupt those power dynamics and begin to bring about real, lasting change.
“Oh, and lastly, please, please, please vote. It’s not everything, but it matters. Vote like the future of the planet depends on it, because it might just.”
When it came time to come up with artwork for your new single “Dialogues With God”, did you give the artwork guidance or was this more from the artist’s interpretation?
“A bit of both. I knew that I wanted to be meditating in the clouds during sunset with constellations and the phases of the moon above me. Folks who have been following us for a year or more will know that space and spirituality are big loves of mine, so I really wanted those included.
Ritvik Takkar (the cover artist) took those ideas and made them whole. He added the ocean, the light behind my head, and the characteristic blue/pink sky that has become his signature (you can find more of his art at on Insta at @ritviktakkar). He also put the moons in a direct line above my head, which was a great idea. Go Ritvik!”
Do you prefer having the most creative control when you get a project, or do you prefer when the band gives you a lot of input?
“When I’m working with a band, I like to think that I provide the skeleton for the songs (the chords, the lyrics, and some basic rhythm/feel), and then the band takes the skeleton and turns it into a full-fledged, very-good-looking human. Some of the best musical moments I’ve had were SO unexpected because the band took the song to a new level. I love it when a bandmate does something wild and amazing, and we all look at them like, ‘You are a genius.’ I want things to sound cohesive, of course, but I also want the band to take their own direction. It is a Group Activity, after all.”
Do you have a favourite album cover of all time?
“DANG, what a question. Maybe it’s In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson. Maybe I just really like trees.”