Interview | FFS 5 with Rob Alexander

Rob Alexander’s songwriting speaks back to an era of quality radio sheen, quantified by charts consistently populated by smartly composed music. The likes of Elton John and Peter Gabriel had enough of a pop spirit to captivate all manner of ears, but their seemingly “simple enough” arrangements are deceptively complex. With chord shifts and progressions more akin to jazz or blues than usual pop trite, AC music saw a boost with intelligent, poignant songwriting throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Alexander takes a page out of that booklet to develop the consistently textured rock’n’roll that he’s becoming known for. Bursting with luminous optimism and a varied musicality, Alexander makes a captivating mark in the indie world as a rising singer-songwriter who’s bringing an AC revival along with him. His latest album, Being Myself, attests to this more than anything.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois but grew up in Hollywood, Florida.  I’ve always been writing songs for as long as I can remember.  However the songs got better as I got older.  I pursued a career in medicine as an anesthesiologist because I knew the road to pop stardom was unlikely and difficult too.  Later, after I established my career as a physician, I started writing songs again. 

I felt these new songs were really good and worthy of recording so I entered a recording studio in LA and began work on my debut album Long Road Coming Home in 2016,  My focus is always on melody first, and I later write the lyrics to fit in with the melody.  Words for me are more difficult than coming up with a melody.  After releasing my debut album, I immediately went back into the recording studio, this time with members of Elton John’s band, to record my latest release Being Myself.

As an artist, how do you define success?

I define success as having others appreciate the songs I’ve written.  The press has been really good to me so far.  My primary influence in songwriting is Elton John, and I pattern my vocal style after him…mainly his vocal range in the 1980s/1990s.  Also my phrasing in songs is occasionally compared to Neil Diamond.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

It is really difficult getting my music out to the masses. There is the expectation that artists should pay for playlist placement, ads, and so forth…which is how independent artists have to do it these days. Unless you have the backing of a major label, you have to spend quite a bit on promotion. I budget for that and work with a couple solid PR companies as well.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist? What do you hope to achieve?

My goal is to create the perfect song.  It’s an unattainable goal I realize, but I’m always striving for that.  If I’m writing a song, and the melody isn’t going anywhere, then I abandon it.  I don’t want any filler on my album.  Every song, I feel, has to be a “winner”.  Whether it’s a hit or not is up to the consumer.  I’m not interested in watching a song I’ve written climb up and down charts.  I wanna write songs with longevity.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Actually, I do my best writing when I’m at home just relaxing and doing nothing.  Since I don’t play an instrument, nor do I read/write music, I come up with melodies and work them out in my head.  I sing into a voice recorder so I don’t forget what I’ve come up with days or weeks later.  If its good, I’ll come back to it, re-work it and then write lyrics.  Sometimes I come up with an idea for a song and write the lyrics the same day.  I sometime invent characters, and write from the point of view of those characters, so I’m not drawing from my own experiences.  Songs that are more personal, like ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’ and ‘American Love Song’ from my current album Being Myself, are more personal and written in the first person.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm