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Interview with ALEX BIRD
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
To make a very long story short, I got super lucky as a kid. I was adopted from Romania and came to Canada at six weeks old. I started being taken to jazz clubs in downtown Toronto at the age of two. I grew up getting to see so many of the greats like; Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Oscar Peterson, Mel Tormè, and Ray Charles. Without even knowing it my musical training developed sitting around at all those smokey jazz clubs into the wee small hours of the morning. I’m self taught vocally. I listened intently to as many artists as I could. Some people went to school to learn. I went to jazz clubs.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I went to theatre acting school and film acting school, and still act from time to time. I’m always involved in the arts in one way or another. I’m a big believer in staying open to what life brings, and trying to learn something from every situation. It all feeds back into the creative side of things.
There’s a lot of inspiration to be found out and about!
When I’m laying low, I love to read or go for a walk, see other people play music, or play my records. Also love watching movies! My partner Lola and I have regular movie nights with our little projector up on the wall.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve only been seriously making a go of things professionally for the last 4 years. Been singing since high school, but wasn’t doing anything about it. I got a beautiful wake up call a while back in the form of meeting my darling Lola and then meeting my band, in particular my songwriting partner, Ewen Farncombe.
With the help of people like Ewen and also Charlie Angus (who I co-wrote a lot of my first album with), I found out I had a songwriter in me. Things then things shifted very quickly to writing my own music, and trying to take this beautiful tradition of The Great American Songbook to new places.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Another lucky streak in my life has allowed me to be able make my start here in Toronto. We have a world class calibre of musical talent; especially on our jazz scene; which continues to nurture and support so many emerging artists.
This is the city where I grew up going to jazz clubs. It’s had one of the biggest influences on my music. To now be in a position where I’m sharing my music on the scene is extra special.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
If we’re talking memorable shows I’ve gone to…I’d probably say one of the times I saw Tony Bennett. There’s nobody like Tony Bennett. He’s a big influence of mine. He always took a moment at his shoes to sing a song without a microphone. I’ll never forget hearing his voice fill a theatre like that.
If we’re talking memorable shows I’ve done with my Jazz Mavericks…we got to headline The Horseshoe Tavern a short while ago. That was a sweet night for us! What a legendary music venue in Toronto. We also got to open up for The Jacksons this September for the charity event Strangers in the Night. Won’t forget that experience either.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
So many great venues come to mind…like Drom Taberna or Sellers & Newel. We have a monthly residency as well at Reid’s Distillery. They’ve been so supportive of us. Doesn’t hurt that their gin is also top-notch! Check them out.
My life goal is to play at Birdland in NYC. “Bird at Birdland” (Dreamy sigh).
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I’d love to open for Billie Eilish! She’s my favourite modern artist on the scene. Love her music and her style so much. It’s also super cool that she cites Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Julie London as three of her biggest influences.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Surround yourself with musicians you respect and can learn from. If you want to do your best work… you must work with the best.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Terribly hard to choose one song that means the most to me. I must say though that I am really proud of this new Thanksgiving single we wrote, “The Sweetest Moments”. I joined forces with Ewen Farncombe, The Jazz Mavericks and Think Turkey to make the holidays just a little sweeter with this one, which is out now on all streaming platforms.
Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays, which is why I couldn’t believe it didn’t have a song here in Canada, and why “The Sweetest Moments” happened in the first place. Some of the sweetest moments happen every fall.
The song means a lot to me because I think it captures something we’ve all been missing over the last few years. Music has the power to bring people together, so sharing a musical offering feels just right for Thanksgiving. This is a time of year where we all come together in many unique and special ways to celebrate. Familiar faces, sights, smells, stories, turkey. It’s been a long time coming.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Another song I’m proud of is one off our debut album from 2020 “Whisky Kisses”, it’s entitled “3:52 (In the Morning)”. The title alone sets you in the mood. I’m so glad that it’s one of our most played tunes, and also most requested tunes at gigs. Just like “The Sweetest Moments”, “3:52” is another one of our songs that resonates with people. It’s also a real pleasure to perform.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I come at songwriting a bit differently. I took piano lessons as a kid, but didn’t work hard enough at it to go anywhere. But, I can read music and plunk some stuff out. A lot of my songwriting comes though from me singing sort of off the cuff, making up lyrics at the same time,, and then shaping it into something. I’ll take my melody and lyrics to my songwriting partner, Ewen and we’ll build it up from there, give it changes and such.
The two of us also write on the spot together. He’ll start playing something and I’ll pick out a melody or expand on one he’s hinting at by singing whatever comes to mind. Such a breeze writing with Ewen. I often don’t sit down to write. Most of my ideas just come to me at random times. It’s that mystical “somewhere” where these things come from.
One of my biggest inspirations for writing is my darling Lola. She is behind so much of what I do. She’s a part of my music. I’m also inspired by other songwriters; in particular Paul McCartney. I think he’s one of the greatest of all time. Such catchy and classic songwriting. There’s a beautiful simplicity in a lot of his work, but the songs are still so full of deeper meaning and feeling. It’s all there in the music.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Love. Love is everything isn’t it? We should always be awake to that message.
I’d just like to say that if you take the time to listen to our music, I sincerely hope you enjoy what we’ve got to offer. We’re sticking to our goal of bringing to you original music that is both inspired by the past but also rooted right here in the present. Hopefully lasting into the future.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Been writing a lot of new music! So please stay tuned for what might come from those developments. We’re also playing some great new places coming up. I’m making my debut at The Kensington Market Jazz Festival on October 1st. And then on October 7th I’m making my Montreal debut at Upstairs Jazz, one of the best clubs in the country. Very excited for those opportunities!
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
You can easily find me on social media, as well as through my website:
Thanks for your time and I hope you have a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving 2022!