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sad alex: The Plight of the Modern Artist, Utilizing Social Resources, & New Single "dating myself"

Ezzah Rafique | March 12, 2021

Red Bull Records' sad alex has a natural talent for creating emotion by beautifully incorporating pop beats with her dynamic lyrics, placing herself in a "sad indie-pop" genre of music.

The multi-faceted creative, Alex Saad- better known as sad alex- talks about the plight of the modern artist, utilizing your social resources, and her first single of 2021 "dating myself".

Photo by: Raz Azaari

E: Hi! How are you?

A: "Hi! Good, how are you?"

E: I’m great! How are you doing? How’s this year been for you?

A "It’s been… it’s been good. It’s raining today. I’m just sitting here, actually by my piano, I was just chilling by the window playing it was nice. You know I like rainy days... But this year [has] been good. This year’s been productive and just kind of, I don’t know, going about the releases and content thing[s] kinda the way we have before."

E: You’re an avid songwriter, right? How would you describe how you tackle a project and has Covid change anything of your process?

It actually has I think, and my process has been changing a lot even over the last maybe four years or so. Everything, like back when I was starting to write and all that stuff, it was only purely based on personal experience and I couldn’t possibly imagine taking from outside that and I was always kinda going into every song blind and I wasn’t coming in with like a chorus idea or anything like that. I would just be free-flowing ideas and didn’t really know what I was doing. But that’s also a beautiful way to write and there [are] benefits to that style, but as I started writing more, I became a little bit more aware of coming up with concepts. And then when you’re writing with other artists for their project you kind of have to be- you always want to find a way to relate to something you’ve been through at the end of the day and you usually can- but you’re tryn[ing to] tell someone else’s story so that’s gonna be a little bit of a different approach than telling your own. So I’ve done every which way like I was working with another artist for the last two weeks for her project and I did come in with ideas that we would sometimes use. I would come up with an idea based on [how] she had gone on a tangent about something the day before about something then from there I would pick and choose and do my homework at the end of the night to come up with something based on something that she’d talked about. But then it could go every which way because I do want to make sure to not lose sight of [it]. As much as I love concept writing like for Covid too, once the life experience thing was kind of taken out of the equation, I got into more like reading and also watching TV and movies which I always deemed a while ago a complete waste of time- like why would I want to sit there and watch TV- but I actually get a lot of song ideas from watching a TV show and someone says something really powerful and I’ll be able to take th[at] and make a song out of it which I think has helped keep the gears turning. It doesn’t necessarily result in the best song of all time but at least get your mind to think of something because that’s almost functioning as watching a life experience in front of you and you can try to get something from there. So, I think the key to writing now, has been versatility and seeing what unique areas can you draw inspiration from that may or may not be [a] derivative from your own life experience but [also] how can you tie it in enough so it feels real to you singing it and all of that stuff.

E: Do you pull like inspiration- asides from concepts- from like different artists or different musicians like style-wise too not just like lyrically?

A: I think there is there's like ‘smart copycat’ and ‘stupid copycat’ stuff when it comes to.. like I don’t want to say the word stupid it's aggressive, but like it's great to listen, in my opinion, it's great to listen to old music you grew up on or stuff that hasn't been cycled into your ears in a long time. And maybe you can get a really cool chord progression idea from that. Or maybe you can be like, ‘wow, that that line is sort of like if maybe we flip now to be modernized’ or whatever it is. But a really easy way to spin your wheels is to go down the like trying to chase something that just came out like a week ago kind of approach. And I'm not saying that I've never done that. Everybody's been victim to that. And we've all been there when a massive song comes out and you're like, damn, I'm so mad I didn't write that. And even though, you know, you won't be able to recreate that magic that they've made, you'll find yourself trying to. And so you'll try to do it, but for the most part, that's like the Max Martin approach too is to like take things with old 70s hit and like flip it into like Backstreet Boys or whatever he was doing. So I think it's one hundred percent good to get inspiration. You just kind of have to be a little bit careful were, for me anyway, you have to be careful where you take it from because then you're at risk of doing something that doesn't feel completely authentic or genuine or you feel like you've taken someone's idea and that's not great.

E: I love the way you worded that, I read that you also draw all of your artwork, which by the way, that's incredible. How important do you think it is to put yourself into your work? And do you plan on, like, drawing the rest of your artwork, like even in the long term?

A: I think, well, it's funny because I was talking to my manager about th[at] this morning to we were kind of joking about the plight of the modern artist. With all of these platforms popping up on your worst days, you can look at it and get frustrated because like at the beginning, I signed up for this job to make music. That was my only goal, to make music, to perform it like that was it. And now it's like, oh, well, you have to be... it's better if you can do your own art. It's better [if you're- also feel like a comedian and an actress and you have to do all these things, all these like you have to be like a viral star on this thing or whatever. And I'm like, damn, I didn't sign up for all this stuff. This is a lot of responsibility. But you do have to kind of accept like we signed up for like an evolving, constantly evolving industry. So I try to look at it more pragmatically and I don't ever try to do something that's like I find the balance. So I don't feel like I'm completely losing sight of myself and why I got into this. But I will try to use the resources at hand to help my positioning or help me find additional outlets. And maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but at least I'll give it a good old Girl Scouts try and so for the drawing stuff that was even more out of necessity than anything else. I was in a position where I was really struggling. I had just rebranded and previous to the rebranding of the name change and everything, I was struggling to find a visual direction at all. And you would often end up spending a few hundred dollars or more on graphic designer stuff that you don't even at the end of the day like and I'm not a big I don't like photoshoots. I don't like that kind of stuff. And I'm not a huge fan of a song that's called like ‘Heartbreak City’ and the artwork is just like some person, like in a pose that doesn't for me have anything to do with the song, not to bash that stuff. It's beautiful. Those are beautiful photos. But for me, it] made a lot more sense to try to find something that not only pertained to the song meaning a little bit more but also was just within my control to finish from point A to point Z. I don't have to depend on anyone else. I've had situations where I've had to procure artwork by the end of the day and I can do that when you're having to rely on someone else for it becomes a lot harder to be able to do things kind of on the fly. So that was both started and then and I didn't even really I could draw somewhat ok, I wasn't I'm not by any means a phenomenal artist, but I doing it over and over. You do get better at it too. So now it's become this thing that I'm drawing five art pieces for each thing I'm working on the ones for the next single right now and they're turning out to be a bit a lot more intricate than I'm used to so it’s taking some time. But it's fun. I think there's something I've actually got a lot of joy in putting on a good playlist and maybe smoking a little weed and drawing some cool art for my song. I think that's like fun [and] not the worst way to spend a night, you know?

E: Yeah, sounds fun, definitely relaxing, especially in comparison to photoshoots. Like there's a lot of work that goes into that.

A: And I've never been a fan of those. I mean, I have to do them, but I think I struggle with a lot of body image stuff growing up, and photoshoots used to give me and still give me a lot of anxiety because you're like, man, my body has to be right. My skin has to be right. Like all of this stuff and some of that's within your control. Some of it's not. And I'm not like the most photogenic camera... I'm not that girl that can really just know my angles and slay a photo shoot. And it's not something I just really, really enjoy that much. I've found I can work around it. At the end of the day, once I get good pictures from something like we just had a shoot for this last song, I was like, oh, these pictures are cool. Like, I'm glad I got this, but the process of doing them is not my favorite thing to do in the world.

E: I totally understand that. If you were to create a playlist for your music, you know, how people give, like, oddly specific titles to playlists and curate them, like sometimes based on mood, sometimes based on