On first listen, Alex Winston‘s “Sister Wife” sounds like an instantly lovable, feel-good, catchy pop song. Simple enough, but after a more careful listen, you start to notice the lyrics and you realize that you’re dealing with something a little more left-field. That’s the case with much of the Michigan-born pop singer’s music. The songs are sweet and melodic, but instead of lacing her tracks with cliches about love and heartbreak, Alex tells her stories by focusing on the stranger things in life—little slices of the American experience that aren’t often explored, at least not by pop music.
In anticipation of her debut album King Con coming on March 5th, we sent some questions over to Alex and got some answers about everything from scratch off lottery tickets to thrift shop purchases.
You’ve got that song “Sister Wife,” about polygamy gone wrong, right? You down with polygamy?
Its more about feeling like you have a sister wife. Someone or something that is forcing you to share when you don’t feel like it. I’ve always been a monogamist, but who knows, maybe they are on to something.
I also saw on Twitter (sorry, I stalk you) that you are readying a country EP to follow the excellent King Con? Is that true? I can’t imagine you doing country.
Well, it started off as a country project, then slowly morphed into being mostly western inspired. Don’t worry, I don’t sing with some forced southern drawl, that would be pretty lame. The EP is based on this character Deviled Egg, who is sort of a wild west sociopath that is constantly getting himself into trouble.
Do you like new country music? I’ve always found modern country really terrible. I like some old stuff. Is there any new country music you’d recommend?
I think there is some great new country music, but there is a difference between someone like Bonnie Prince Billy and Big and Rich… you just have to dig a little. One of my favorite modern country artists right now is this guy Ryan Bingham. He wrote a lot of the music for the film Crazy Heart. Kathleen Edwards is another incredible alt country singer/songwriter.
So King Con. It’s awesome, but there’s some weird stuff going on in there. Where do come up with the topics for your songs?
I don’t really know, I’ve always been intrigued by what power does to people. The moment where things go from uplifting to ugly and someones true nature is exposed. I also think we live in a wonderfully weird country and I’m fascinated by its underbelly. There are a million different American dreams, I just tend to focus on the ones you don’t hear about as much.
What’s the best documentary you’ve seen in the past year?
There are so many great ones!! I just recently saw the last film in the “Paradise Lost” trilogy. Its pretty mind blowing that witch trials are STILL happening in this country and innocent people are on death row due to lack of evidence and stereotyping……… ON A LIGHTER NOTE, I watched The King of Kong last night which is pretty brilliant.
I saw this one Off The Grid about this community in the desert in California that started off with decent people that wanted to make a self-sufficient, simple kind of life for themselves but they started taking in runaways and drug addicts and things got really fucked up. It was really interesting though. You ever seen that one?
Here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.
I’ve never seen this, but I like that one of the two rules is “don’t shoot your neighbor”….well that’s a start I guess.
Do you listen to your own music?
I try not to, because nothing ever feels finished to me. I always end up wanting to rework things after I listen, when I really should just leave it alone.
What’s your favorite song off King Con?
I guess “Guts.” Its one of the few really personal songs on the album, plus its the newest. I wrote most of this album a year ago and it mainly focuses on other people, so it was nice to do something different.
What’s a live Alex Winston show like?
Well there are usually about 8 of us on stage, which I know is a bit excessive, but I’ve always wanted to be in a big band, plus I rather try and make the sounds that are on the record live, then have backing tracks replicate it.
Who do you think was the best performer of all time?
What do you like better: hip-hop or electronic dance music?
If you could collaborate with any artist in music, who would it be?
I read you’re classically trained in opera? Do you ever just bust that out at live shows?
Hah, I have yet to do that. I took opera for about 10 years when I was younger. Honestly, it was never something I could imagine incorporating into my music until I started doing this western stuff.
What role did The Knocks play in the making of your debut?
If it wasn’t for Ben, I probably would still be in Detroit playing music in my basement. They gave me the confidence to do my own thing and never really tried to change the sound. They produced some of the earlier tracks like “Choice Notes” and “Sister Wife,” but Charlie Hugall actually produced the bulk of the album that I recorded last April in New York.
So what’s your next move?
Well, it would be really great to get the Deviled Egg EP finished and ready to go over the next month, then hopefully a year full of touring. I’m slowly trying to make my way back to America.
What’s the best thing you ever bought at a thrift shop?
A velvet Elvis painting and a purple machete.
Do you buy scratch off lottery tickets ever? 1 for yes, 2 for no.
1 and I’m a little spooked that you could just tell that I have a rapidly growing gambling problem.
Would you rather watch a nature-based show (like something on Animal Planet or Nat Geo) or a reality/drama TV show (like Teen Mom or Real World)?
I would love to merge the two. “Mob Wives in the Amazon” Drita squaring up with the jaguars.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
I don’t know, I’ve been told I look like a pug.
One more thing: pigeons or planes? why?
PIGEONS. – Have you seen that Mike Tyson show?
Thanks so much, Alex. Love you.
LOVE YOU TOO.