Young heartthrob and (according to Instagram) seafood restaurant, Alexander Stewart is a multitalented pop artist with huge songs that are brilliantly introspective. Making pop to cry to, Alexander Stewart takes some time from being a tourist in London to talk to Peter Wellman about vulnerability, playing cupcake boy, and his ongoing tour.
Alexander Stewart is now in London. So how long have you been in London?
This trip? This is my third full day now. I start my tour tomorrow, so the first three days were just 12 hours of rehearsal every day. So I didn’t get to experience too much of London yet, but today is my day to experience London.
Got anything planned, anywhere you want to go?
Nope, <Laugh> not yet. Honestly, my best friend who plays with me live, we’re gonna meet up after I get some stuff done today. Then we’re just gonna explore. We’re gonna go to some touristy places. We’re probably going to go to Big Ben and all that stuff. So I lied, I definitely have stuff to do, <laugh>, but we’re just gonna walk around. I’m gonna embrace being a tourist. Even just driving around, this place is so incredible.
I mean, how different is it, with you being a Toronto native?
Yes, Toronto native. I live in Los Angeles now. London reminds me a lot more of Toronto than Los Angeles. I’ll say that much. The people have this similar energy. I think (it’s) in the air if that even makes any sense.
We’re quite similar to Canadians. I think that’s nice as Canadians generally have a very good reputation about them. Nobody’s saying ‘the Canadians they’re so rude’. It’s a national stereotype that they’re polite.
<Laugh>. I don’t know about all Canadians. Honestly, I think something about being in London makes me feel more at home. Los Angeles is like one huge massive city where you just have to drive everywhere. Like London, you have the Tube. In Toronto, we have the TTC, which is kind of similar and Toronto is very walkable. Like London is very walkable and (I) kind of like the culture around just going out and all kinds of stuff are just so similar.
Well, to not completely just spend this entire interview talking about London. Because otherwise I’ll be blamed for bias. ‘blame’s on me‘ has just hit 32 million streams on Spotify and you are playing your first live gig on your tour tomorrow. Is this the first time you’re going to play it live?
So technically no. I’ve played it once with my a show with my friend Benson. His name’s Benson Boone. The day it came out I was playing that show. So I played it live then; it just came out so no one knew it yet. So I’m very excited because tomorrow’s the first day of the headline tour. My first ever headline tour, the first show, and it’s called The blame’s on me Tour. So I’m extremely excited to sing it and hopefully hear people sing it back. I think it’s gonna be really, really exciting.
It’s a very personal song. I just want to ask how raw were those feelings when you wrote it? Was it like you had broke up and then 10 minutes later you open a Word document and start writing?
Oh God, no. It was much more like, I went through a breakup and kind of like pushed the feelings down in a way and pushed into it a little ball and put it in my pocket. But you know, when you do that, it doesn’t make your feelings go away. They just kind of like linger until they explode. So then two, three months after that, I had some delayed heartbreak and then maybe a month after the delayed heartbreak, I started to realise that it’s my fault that this all ended. I was like, okay, this sucks. So I didn’t write about the situation for probably like five or six months after it happened because it was kind of just painful.
Typically I’ll feel something and immediately go write about it. So I took a second to kind of process this one because (there) was maybe a little more to the story than just me getting dumped and then me being like, ouch, why would you do that? So I took a second. Then finally I got to a point where I was like, I have to say something or I have to write something about this. So we got to the studio, and I was talking about It with Ricky and Whakaio, two of my favorite collaborators. I sat there and I was just like, look this happened and the blames on me and I said that has to be the song.
I went in knowing too that I couldn’t just write a song and (that) I messed up. Everyone listening shouldn’t feel bad for me. I could not play the victim in any aspect. That’s the whole point of the song, taking accountability. Which, as human beings taking accountability, sometimes we find difficult.
Nobody wants to admit they’re at fault. When writing something so personal, how therapeutic was it? Did you find yourself writing it there and then and did it feel like a weight off your chest?
Oh, for sure. When I first got back the song a few days later when the producer sent it, (I remember so specifically I was driving,) I was getting off the exit near Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, and I was driving down Highland and I put it on. When the first chorus hit, it was a release of emotions that I had felt for five months straight. (I was) feeling guilty and feeling shameful and all kinds of different things. I listened to it and I cried. Not because I was like, oh my God, this is so beautiful. But because I was like, I really put into words exactly how I was feeling.
Did you pull over and cry or was it just driving and crying?
No, I was driving and crying.
You were recently in a music video with Rita Ora where you were a cupcake man who had a tiny wedding cake. How did that come about?
Honestly, it was a very fun situation. Rita just asked me to be in the video and I obviously said yes. So I get the briefing like a few days before and they’re like, “okay, you’re cake boy”. They’re like, you’re gonna have a little scene right at the start, you’re gonna be holding a big ol’ cake and then the bridesmaids are gonna open the door and it’s gonna be a tiny cake. I was like, sounds easy enough. I got this. And that’s exactly what happened. I showed up, I got put in this ridiculous, fun, weird outfit. I was put in front of the door, (told to) hold these tiny little cupcakes and it was only four or five takes. Then the video came out amazing. Rita is the sweetest person ever.
Having lived in LA, do you get starstruck? Was that just a very LA moment?
Oh my God, I for sure get starstruck by certain people. I think it’s easy to forget though when I first moved to LA of course I would see people, and I’d be like, oh.
Then that happens for a minute and you kind of just realise you work with certain people that are maybe someone that you look up to. It sounds ridiculous because everyone says that, but everyone really is just human. They’re humans with extraordinary talent, vision, drive, and all kinds of incredible things. It’s the reason that they are who they are, but they’re all just human.
Who do you think you would get the most starstruck at?
Oh my God, that’s a really good question. I think I would probably say, Taylor Swift.
If I met Taylor I dunno what I would do. There’s no protocol here.
I probably wouldn’t say anything.
I’m going to go away now. I’m going to melt gently into a small puddle. Great. And now I’ve heard that there’s an album on the way.
We’re working on it.
What’s been the drive toward this one? How do you think you’ve changed since your 2020 album?
I’m a very different human. I was three years younger, so obviously, I had lots of room to grow. That has changed a lot of my perspective on a lot of different things. But the new album, I think elevated (my) music from a more honest perspective. I’ve really grown into myself in the last few years. I feel just so much better in my own skin. I’m more confident and ready to say what I want to say instead of saying what I thought other people wanted me to say.
(I’m) just kind of bringing it back to honesty, especially with ‘blame’s on me.’ It felt so good to put that out. I wanted to say my true experience. Since then I’ve kind of written basically every song (like) that. I had a lot of music that was kind of ready to go. I’ve just sort of changed how I want to look at my art specifically. I want to be more genuine.
The next body of music, I think it’s the best one yet, and I’m really, really excited. We’ll start hearing it (soon).
Perfect. So with that, you’ve got the tour going on at the moment, you said it’s your first headline tour. How are you feeling about it?
I feel nervous and excited. I’ve heard somewhere that they’re the same emotion. That might be because I’ve heard from multiple people that it’s how your body perceives it. It’s the exact same feeling, which is interesting. I’m nervous because I just want it to be as good as it possibly can be for obvious reasons. I’m excited because I’ve wanted to do this since I was 12. The first show starts tomorrow and I’m bubbling. I can’t believe it’s actually happening.
So to wrap up, it’s a Sunday afternoon, you are relaxing, and you want to put on some music. What’s the album that you reach to at the moment?
It would be ‘Girl of My Dreams‘ by FLETCHER. I adore that album. It’s good pop music that makes me feel something. I mean I love pop music at the end of the day, so that’s really it. I’ve also been playing a lot since coming to London. Especially Mimi Webb.
I just put on her song ‘Red Flags.’ It’s so good. So I’ve just been bumping along to that too. The thing is, I don’t find myself often sitting down listening to albums. I often sit down and listen to specific playlists that I’ve made or even playlists that are on Spotify or whatever. It is interesting because I do find myself listening to collections of music from lots of different artists rather than just one artist.
What’s the plan for the next couple of months? I mean, you’re touring albums’ in the works. Is there a grand plan after this?
I think I’m gonna probably just do this tour to the best of my abilities. I hope to give everybody the best show I possibly can and then fly back to Los Angeles and finish the album. That’s kind of the game plan as of now.
Make sure to check out other interviews, including our chat with Mary Middlefield here.