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Camden Crawl & Ray-Ban: Alex Clare

Having toured with the likes of Jessie J and working with Diplo and Switch, the singer/songwriter hit North London's most full-on festival last weekend

PhotographyRobin SinhaTextSam Ballard

The combination and fusion of musical genres is something that has always taken place. Kids, influenced by what they hear from their parents’ record collections, blend and melt these sounds into their own format. Often, but not always, with fresh results. Alex Clare is one such artist. His own music, which is partly influenced by his own history of growing up in London, also takes on a definite soul vibe, enriched by some of the greatest songwriters in history.

His way of doing things has caught the eye of an important few: now signed to Island, he supported Jessie J earlier in the year, as well as having to turn down the Adele tour because of Passover. No wonder he’s being touted as the next big thing. He dropped by the Ray-Ban bus at Camden Crawl to play a special set and, never being ones to miss an opportunity, we sat him down and asked him about his hype, his sound and the upcoming album release.

Dazed Digital: How would you describe your sound?
Alex Clare:
I grew up listening to a lot of blues and soul; and grew up making a lot of drum ‘n’ bass and garage; then, going into more atmospheric stuff, produced an album with Diplo and Switch, where I fused a lot of live elements like strings and mixed it in with sine wave bass lines. Someone labelled it ‘soul step’, which is really tacky and really cheesy but compared to ‘brostep’…it could be worse!

DD: When’s the album coming out?
Alex Clare:
The album is out in July. We’ve had two singles out and we’ve got a tour booked for June and July. Andrew Davidson has done the illustrations, the artist that did them for Ted Hughes’ ‘The Iron Man’ and Major Lazer has produced it, but not as Major Lazer – just as Diplo and Switch.

DD: How did you come to sign to Island?
Alex Clare:
I made a bunch of demos that did the rounds and I signed within a couple of weeks of it arriving on their current executive’s desk. That was around the end of 2009/ beginning of 2010 so just over a year ago and the album’s already made, we mastered it two weeks ago.

DD: How is being signed to Island?
Alex Clare:
It definitely helps! When you want to work with someone there’s actually an option, it’s not just a pipedream.

DD: Have you got a name for the album?
Alex Clare:
‘Lateness of the Hour’. It’s a quote from a Bill Withers’ song, ‘Hope She’ll Be Happier’. When I was about 18 I wrote a song and I was completely unaware that I’d basically written this Bill Withers song. Obviously my mum had had it on in the car when we were kids….gutted. Worst day of my life! So I’ve named the album after that song.

DD: How was the Ray-Ban set?
Alex Clare:
It was good. It’s totally different when I play on the guitar but it’s nice to be able to do acoustic sets. It’s a mark of a reasonably good song if you can transpose it from its original medium back onto a guitar.

DD: How do you approach your writing?
Alex Clare:
Usually a story or an experience: there isn’t one key moment, usually I’ll sit at a piano and words come.

DD: Can you pick your ultimate songwriter?
Alex Clare:
No way. I can pick my top three! Leonard Cohen, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. All sitting up there…songwriter wise anyway.

DD: How do you want the year ahead to pan out?
Alex Clare:
Just got people to like my music man. Hopefully they’ll get my record and start listening!

Read our interviews with Ray-Ban stars Spectrals and Let's Buy Happiness - and check Dazed TV tomorrow for an exclusive film of the Let's Buy Happiness gig at Camden Crawl