By Andrew D. Parker
For Everclear’s Art Alexakis, taking a different approach to music while keeping busy have become a modern-day mantra for the frontman of the ’90s alt-rock band Everclear.
Fresh off completing the recording work for his first solo album, Alexakis is bringing a different musical approach to the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg on May 25 for the “Songs & Stories” tour, a show that also features Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne, Max Collins of Eve 6 and John Wozniak of Marcy Playground.
The new format, which features each artist leading a roughly 30-minute set of songs played “in the way they were written” and closing with audience requests, has been well-received so far, Alexakis said. “Basically, the show starts and we all rock out on a cover song that John picked, followed by a half-hour set,” he said. Then after a short break, “we walk back out and play a cover that Matt’s picked,” and play another 30-minute set. “Same thing with Chris and the same thing with me, and we end with a cover.”
“It’s just fun,” he said, adding that audiences get to hear the stories behind the songs, along with some “banter and heckling back and forth” between the band and audience. The format offers something different and new, while still giving audiences the hits they came to see.
“These guys have been playing for a long time. Everybody’s got their own style, and it works,” he said of Collingwood, Collins and Wozniak. “We’re all such different songwriters, but there’s a lot of love and respect. We’re all excited to get deeper into each other’s catalogues, and I think the crowds are too.”
Alexakis is nearing the release of his first solo album, which he decided to pursue after years of recording with others because it represented a challenge and something different.
“I’m not one of those guys that can play any instrument,” he said. “I have to work at it.”
The resulting album is “rough and raw” by design.
“It’s not super Pro Tools or auto-tuned, none of that crap. It’s pretty honest,” Alexakis said. Pro Tools is a software platform that many artists use to record and modify sounds, and auto-tune is a vocal effect that corrects pitch. Alexakis decided to record a full-length album of 11 songs because that’s where he sees the bar as a musician, even in an age driven by singles, streaming services and social media. “It seems like there’s a lot of people that show up that you’ve never heard of, and then they’re huge for a minute, and then they just disappear,” he said.
“People are not making records or albums anymore—they’re just making singles. Someone is considered a career after three of four singles, instead of three or four albums,” he said. Putting together an album takes at least a year to do it right. “I always think I’m going to be able to pull it off in a few months, but it doesn’t work like that.”
Alexakis and his bandmates on the Songs and Stories tour are OK if the album approach results in being viewed as old school. “We don’t care. We’re going to make records. I think our fans want to hear records.”
“I’ve never tried to write hit singles,” he said. “That’s the devil’s path—trying to write to fit somebody’s idea of what’s good, instead of what sounds good to you.” That doesn’t mean Alexakis has stayed away from all technological temptations, such as embracing social media as a tool for promotion and branding. “We’re not total dinosaurs,” he said of his follow ’90s alt-rockers. “We’re dinosaurs with iPhones and hybrid cars. We’re slightly evolved dinosaurs.”
The solo album, titled “Sun Songs,” features a bit of everything from Alexakis’ approach to music, including the “30 percent or so” that comes directly from his personal experiences. Some of Everclear’s most recognizable early hits come directly from Art’s personal experiences, including “Father of Mine,” which about how his father left the family when he was five years old, leading to his mother relocating to housing projects in the Del Ray area of Los Angeles.
On the solo album, there’s a song about his daughter, another one about his wife and “songs about being a 57-year-old guy in America today,” he said.
There’s also a song about his diagnosis of a form of multiple sclerosis (RRMS), which he revealed in March in a letter to fans. The cancer diagnosis has changed his daily habits and perspective a bit, but it won’t stop Alexakis from moving forward.
“I’m just a lot more grateful for my life, for everything,” he said. “We all take things for granted, as you walk out to your car, get in your car and drive, or go for a run. And I can’t really run anymore. I’ll fall down. But I walk,” Alexakis said. “I just have to try harder. I have to work more, I have to eat better, I have to take my medication, I have to get more sleep.” By taking care of himself and following doctor’s orders, Alexakis could live into his 80s.
Staying busy is key to what drives Alexakis forward every day. The Songs & Stories tour continues through June, the solo album is in final production and Alexakis plans to start writing a book this summer. He’s also putting together a 20thanniversary celebration next year of the 2000 release of Everclear’s “Songs from an American Movie Vol. 1.”
Alexakis has been sober nearly 30 years, since June 15, 1989, to be exact, “but the personality is still there,” he said. “I’ve always been that guy. I’m still trying to constantly fill the hole that can’t be filled. I’m just not doing it with drugs, alcohol, sex and things that just leave you with a shitty life.” He added that he wants to be “someone that works—not a job, but works every day, and do what I want to do.”
Seat at the Table
What is Art’s advice for young artists looking at music as a career? “Get a real job,” he said. “Don’t do this. Go to college.”
If this advice won’t stop you, Alexakis said that it’s important to never give up. “Make yourself better every day,” he said. “Hone your craft. Learn to be a better songwriter and singer.” Just wanting to become a musician isn’t enough, now or in the past, he said.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “Be tenacious. Be driven. Be ambitious. Be your own biggest fan and your own biggest critic at the same time.”
Alexakis is also a believer in speaking out for causes that are important. In 2000, he lobbied Congress for the passing of HR 1488, the Compassion for Children and Child Support Enforcement Act. “Everyone has a voice, and everyone has a seat at the table,” he said, noting that “Seat at the Table” is one of the songs on his solo album. “That’s what we are guaranteed. If we want to run for office, we can. If we want to talk about it in the press, we can.” Each U.S. citizen has a duty to fight for what they believe in. “The days of being polite are over. We need to be vocal about what we believe,” he said. “And we need to be able to own what we say. Wouldn’t that be great if everybody could do that?”