Upon answering a call from Alex Clare, I hear a bundle of apologies. He’s just very nearly hit somebody with his bike as he pulls over for a quick chat. It’s followed by a flutter of soft laughter, something that I hear often during our conversation. The singer-songwriter is warm and inviting, he truly seems content with life and all of its tribulations ahead of the release of third record ‘Tail of Lions’ (Nov 11).
“As a human being you have to acknowledge that we’re are at least 90% animal” he says, confidently. “That animal is very impulsive and that animal wants to do everything it can to have an easy life and a life of pleasure.”
Speaking from Jerusalem, Alex is a strict Orthodox Jew and in the country to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Celebrations run throughout the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, Tishri, and it is a time for communities to come together and for self-reflection and prayer.
The London born singer-songwriter continues, “However, you have to understand that most of the time what the animal wants isn’t really what’s good for you.” He’s got fifteen minutes before he is set to teach at the local school, and during the reflective time he’s looking into “how you overcome your impulses and your desires versus what you should really be doing and how to control them.”
It’s been a few years since Alex Clare overtook the radio airways with the sensational, ‘Too Close’, and since then he’s taken some time out. “I wanted to be focusing on my family and focusing on my own personal growth as opposed to my career.” He explains, “I had the support and love to do that, I was able to do that and I’m so grateful for that that I want to give back and re-evaluate life for what it really is.”
Having followed the torturous pattern of being signed, dropped, big hit, signed, dropped again, he laughs it off. “I’ve had a rocky journey but you know what, that’s life!” telling me how gathering that attitude was difficult, he continues, “Ultimately where I’m at now is a great place, I’ve just made an album that I’m very pleased with and I’ve lived the life that I want to live, and can create the music that I want to create and I can do what I want; creatively.”
First snippet, ‘Tell Me What You Need’ is “about struggles in life… with relationships, with family, friends, people around you, whatever.” His soothing voice moves with great ease across a Dubstep-infused rhythm. Melancholy bleeds into the lyrics, but the soul is overpowering.
“The reality is I’m a happily married person but even a happily married person needs to acknowledge that there’s always struggles.” It strikes me that Alex talks about struggles with an attitude to be envied; as wise as an owl he talks about his personal struggles with guttural reactions to emotions, with his music not being fully understood and with fighting impulses. His words are always positive and optimistic, viewing these times as an experience and opportunity to grow.
“When you do something good or you do something that you’re proud of it usually `takes a little bit of effort. It’s not just plain sailing, there’s always a struggle and a challenge because then you’re doing something right.”
Using the analogy of a marathon runner he describes how that person would “go through excruciating pain every day and that is completely contrary to what your natural instincts would tell you to do.”
Continuing by explaining the strength it takes to go against the natural instinct to laze about and not strain yourself, it’s an “incredible, incredible pain”. Though worth it as, “the long term result is massive. Somebody has really, really suffered for their creativity or for something that’s a struggle, and that struggle hurts but the end result is that you got to run a mile in under five minutes. Which is a super human feat.”
Citing a new album track, ‘Get Real’, the song is about defining yourself as a person by how you act contrary towards what your impulse it telling you to do. Having found haven in a narrow boat on the River Lea with friend and bassist Chris Hargreaves (Submotion Orchestra), the pair threaded this belief into the new album, ‘Tail of Lions’.
Focussing on creating energy, as opposed to creating for a genre, the record throws Alex’s strong vocal into rock and funk soundscapes. Icy and sharp electronica meets drum and bass though soul still spills from either side. Splattering his craziest ideas together, Alex left his comfort zone.
Admitting to expressing emotion “too well” he laughs, “I’m a very, very emotional person”. Learning to analyse these feelings and writing with hindsight, the album acts as a response to the initial reactions he has felt over the past few years. “I’ve got to take a step back, and that is the story of my life.”
As a father, a husband, a teacher, Alex believes that “every chance becomes a new chapter.” He says that there’s an infinite amount of possibilities and options we face each day, “the trick is hoping that all these celestial gigs do what they have to do.” With this faith, the new record derived from seeing potential in a moment, and he urges that everybody utilises those.
“If I can help somebody feel like they’re not alone or that their frustration is shared by many other people, and their hopes are shared too then that for me is the hope.”
Words by Tanyel Gumushan