by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Alex Beattie

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Alex Beattie

Along with showcasing his multi-instrumental abilities and illustrating a natural live performer, parts of the Rio Nishikawa-directed video for Alex Beattie‘s jazzy new pop single Falling Over Backwards would also fit right into an enticing Kiwi lifestyle promo. NZ On Air Music shared the song on their NewTracks compilation this May.

What is your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Alexander Beattie. I’m based on the North Shore, Tāmaki Makaurau. I play the drums, guitar, piano and bass.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I think that having years learning about a variety of different areas in music has been super beneficial to me in terms of being able to have a large skill set and work out what I want to do.

Also, learning a lot of jazz really helped open me up to a whole different world of music and what different types of music mean for different people.

Any other projects that we might we know you from?

I’ve been working a lot with my good friend Jack Bromwich on his recent/upcoming music. Also, if you’re into metal, the band The Weather Here.

What’s the background story of how this recording project came to be?

I’ve been writing music for just about as long as I can remember, but really started focusing on writing and producing my own songs in high school. After participating in and recording a couple songs for PlayItStrange I started to realise the importance of collaboration as well as being in the room with someone when that happens – it’s a really exciting thing.

What made you decide to stick with your own name as your artist name?

I experimented with and deliberated a few different artist names but I never really felt anything that truly represented me better than just my name. Also just because people think it’s funny that I’m a drummer who’s called Beattie…

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I started off very instrumentally focused as at the time I wasn’t as confident at singing as I am now and was listening to a lot of instrumental music. After releasing a couple of singles in 2022 and performing them live I realised that vocals are so important for a song to truly connect with a larger audience. It seems obvious in hindsight, but high school-me seemed to think instrumentals are the big thing!

Last year I started studying songwriting at university and have found that having deadlines and requirements from my songs forced me to complete songs way quicker and expedite my writing process in general. These days instead of spending hours on details that only I’m going to hear, I first focus on the big picture for each song. Do the lyrics work? Does it connect? Is it interesting?

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

It’s hard to pin down a single moment as I’ve worked and performed with some awesome people, but I’d probably have to say working with Neil Baldock on the song Home.

Neil actually produced/engineered a lot of the NZ music I grew up with – namely Dave Dobbyn‘s ‘Available Light’ which features Welcome Home, which is one my favourite and most cherished songs.

What makes Falling Over Backwards stand out for you as a single?

With Falling Over Backwards I really feel like I’m starting to understand what I want to make artistically, and achieving that sound while still having a catchy chorus to get people hooked to the song. Before I released the single, my friends had the demo version on SoundCloud and that was getting passed around enough that people started singing along at live shows, despite the song not being out. I think that was a good reason to get it released and in the ears of everyone.

What is the story behind Falling Over Backwards?

When I started university last year, I found myself constantly surrounded by strangers on the bus and in the city. In a way I’ve enjoyed spending a lot of time on the bus as it’s given me more opportunities to write lyrics and music. I think the lyrics reflect the emotions and anxiety I had around this drastic shift in life-style, feeling uncertain about what it is this path that I’m currently taking actually leads to.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the track?

While I’m really proud that I’ve written a chorus that people connect to and sing along to, the last minute and a half of the song I think is the most exciting of the song, I made use of a lot of textures like small synths, pitched up guitar loops, different effects to make that last 90 seconds super lush. I’m keen to hear what part others found to be the highlight, though!

Who did you record/produce the single with and where?

I originally wrote the main guitar riff quite a long time ago, when I was jamming with some friends. I had the riff in my head but my fingers just couldn’t find a practical way to play it for months.

When I finally got it I recorded 90% of the song in a couple of days on my own at home and then after about two weeks of lyric refinement, adding small details like the Rhodes, and a bit of production, the song was essentially what you hear on Spotify now.

One of the main things I wanted for the sound of the song was for the drums to be super ‘dead’ sounding. I used tea towels on the drums and surrounded the whole kit with two ping pong tables covered in curtains to make it feel like a small room, which sounded much better than it looked.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I think it’s easy to fall into worrying about our future, what our purpose is in life, what we want to spend our time on. There may be things that feel like major setbacks like missing opportunities, accidents, not achieving what you want to achieve, and these things can easily cloud your judgement about your own future. As a creative, it’s tough when you don’t see your career moving up. But in the long run these things are massively outweighed by the very nature of being on your path. It’s cliché, but it really is the journey that counts, try not to get too worried about reaching the destination.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I think in the past, it’s really been about just completing songs and feeling like I’m still going to be proud of them in 10-20 years’ time. Now, with Falling Over Backwards I think the outward support and interest for the song is what encouraged me to finally organise a plan and release it . I knew it had an audience and I feel proud to show it and perform it.

Who else is in your team?

It’s just yours truly at the moment, although I do have a fantastic live band with Finn McNeil and Ryan Tomov from Fruju Peak on drums and keys respectively, Jack Bromwich on guitar, Max Harries from Borderline on bass, and sometimes we’re joined by my friend Joshua Duting on electric violin.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

The music video for Falling Over Backwards is 95% complete and should be out by early May.

I’ve also got lots of new music that should be available to listen to in the coming months!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Jack Bromwich: For You
  • Psycho Gab: Gabben
  • Phoebe Rings: Lazy Universe

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I’ve had a few where I’ve had no success. Just keep applying to everything you can because eventually it’ll work out.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I really love the Dissect podcast on Spotify. There’s some really cool insight to a lot of acclaimed albums on there.

Any last words?

Thanks so much for letting me tell you who I am and for giving other artists like me a bigger platform to grow. Also, shoutout NZ On Air for NewTracks. It’s such a great opportunity for small, independent artists like myself to have platforms like this because it’s a tough world out there and NZ is so full of talent that deserve every opportunity to become successful.

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