Likened to both KT Tunstall and Beth Orton, Exeter based singer/songwriter Alex Gregory has been described as an ‘awesome songwriter with the voice of a slightly naughty angel’ and ‘the darling of BBC Introducing in Devon’.
Still in her teens, Alex released her acclaimed second EP, ‘Critical Perfection’ in January 2015 and now, with the help of the new Alex Gregory Band, is playing as many local and national gigs as she can, performing her own intimate and haunting material and a few carefully chosen covers.
We caught up with Alex where we had a good chat about her love of smaller festivals, her amazing 18th birthday party and getting free pizza, here's how we got on....
Hi Alex, we don’t know much about you, please can you sum yourself up in a couple of sentences?
Hi! I’m an Exeter based singer-songwriter and I perform my own original songs and a few covers at gigs and festivals locally and nationally and more recently with my new band, The Alex Gregory Band
When did you become a singer songwriter?
I became a singer probably when I was about 3 or 4? I wrote my first song when I was 12, so 6 years ago
Was there one act or artist who made you want to start playing and writing music?
Yes definitely my singing teacher’s band, Sound of the Sirens who I think you’ve interviewed?. Hannah Wood of SoS was my singing teacher and she used to put on student gigs and I would sing covers with a backing tape or with Hannah backing me on guitar. I wanted to be able to play guitar for myself so I learned a few chords and the songwriting started from there. Sound of the Sirens are such a great band and a real inspiration to younger singers and songwriters. (we did interview Sound of the Sirens recently, you can read it HERE)
If I asked your friends to describe you using just 3 words, what do you think they would say?
Musical, funny,.. umm kind?
What does music mean to you?
Um...everything. Couldn’t live without it!
What was the last book you read?
Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good & Evil’ (for my philosophy course)
Do you come from a musical background?
No, not really. My brother plays guitar (really well) and my mum used to sing in a choir
What was the very first song you learned to play?
Probably on piano when I was 7 ‘Ode to Joy’? or something like that or it was ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’. The first guitar song I learned to play was probably some Rihanna song when I was 12
I see that you have just been announced as support for These Reigning Days at their gig in Torrington in July, how did you find out and who was the first person you told?
Ha ha!! yes!! Really excited about that one. I found out through my manager (mum) and the first people I told were the rest of the band. And I’ve been telling everyone else ever since - keep spreading the word! Its going to be an amazing night.
Who would you say are your main musical influences?
I think I have so many musical influences its hard to categorise or pick one or two. If I hear music and like it I’m probably influenced by it. I respect musicians who might not be iconic or chart topping but are amazing songwriters and musicians, like Frank Turner and Daughter.
What is your idea of hell?
Not being able to sing
What are your aspirations as a musician?
I’m taking each day as it comes really and each gig as it comes. Every one’s a bonus. I’ve been spreading my wings a bit further with gigs in Bristol, Birmingham and London and with a few festivals this year ....after that, who knows? still waiting for that BIG festival slot!
I see that you’re playing at Lemonfest in Newton Abbot and Glas-Denbury in Denbury, we’ll be there covering the events so we’ll definitely pop over and say hello….What is it about smaller, more intimate festivals that you like?
I just enjoy the atmosphere. I’ve not been to Lemonfest or Glas-Denbury before but I’ve been to Chagstock a couple of times and went to Beautiful Days last year. I think smaller festivals give you the chance to just relax and enjoy being with like-minded people and just live for music for a few days, you don’t have to walk miles to see an act and everything’s just easy, like being in a music/food bubble. Glastonbury is amazing though and I’d love to go there again (or maybe play there?!)
If you could be any character from a movie, who would you be and why?
Keira Knightley’s character from Begin Again.. ‘Greta’. This is definitely one of my favourite films at the moment and I think she relates to every musician is one way or another. Either that or the main character in my other favourite film ‘Once’.
If you could duet with ANYONE (dead, alive or fictional) who would it be and why?
Joni Mitchell for sure! One of the greatest living songwriters!
Are you planning on taking your music forward as your career?
It would be great if I could but I want to keep my options open. I’m not sure what I want to do yet. I’ll always want to do music whether as a job or as a hobby but I think I have a lot more growing up to do yet. I’m not sure how much of a career performing your own music is, realistically, unless you aim for fame.
Your EP launch party was sold out, cast your mind back to the evening and tell me what was the most memorable moment for you?
Wow, where do I start? The whole thing was pretty memorable and I still keep pinching myself that Tobias ben Jacob, Lukas Drinkwater and Sound of the Sirens agreed to be my guest artists on the night. Seeing them perform is always special. I think just seeing so many of my friends, musical friends and family supporting us and playing live with the Band for the first time was something I wont forget (and it was kind of like an 18th birthday party too!)
Where do you play on a regular basis, do you have a favourite venue?
I play at The Globe, in Newtown quite a lot. Its a lovely pub. I don’t really have one favourite venue that I’ve played, but I would love to play with the band at The Old Firehouse, its always a great atmosphere (and my team won the pub quiz there last week! yay!! free pizza!)
There are tons of social media channels out there at your disposal, which would you say are the best ones for you to get your music out there to people?
Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Its so easy for musicians to get their music out there themselves rather than relying on a label. But I think the only way to actually get people to ‘buy in’ to your music though is to be out there and perform it live in front of a live audience. Thats when you know whether people are really listening or not, and I prefer singing to an audience rather than just a camera.
If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
Reading peoples minds when I wanted to- who wouldn’t!?
What are your views about the use of smartphone and tablet use at concerts, do you think they should be banned?
No I don’t think they should be banned. If someone likes your music enough to want to film it thats fine by me. Its just another way of promoting it.
What was the first gig that you ever went to and what was the most recent (as a paying customer?)
Most recent was The Iscatels at The Old Firehouse, before that it was The Little Unsaid at The Globe with Tobias ben Jacob and Wildwood Kin. The first big gig was probably the Kaiser Chiefs at Westpoint when I was 10
How do you approach songwriting?, is there a ‘magic formula’?
I wish there was a ‘magic formula’. I find it very hard to write, especially at the moment with exams coming up. I think the last new song I wrote was about a year ago. I have a book where I try and write down ideas for lyrics and if I get a melody on the guitar I try and see whether I can fit the lyrics to the song. I’ve got a few melodies without lyrics at the moment....and some lyrics without a melody and I’m working on those
As I mentioned above, there are many young musicians in the Devon area, please nominate 3 that I can approach for an ‘Introducing’ feature….
I think you’ve asked most of the ones I’d suggest anyway but you should ask Jess McAllister (although I think she’s in Ireland at the moment), David Waller, Josh Sargent, Jimmy Ireland (can I have 4?)
If you were on a desert island and could only have 3 items, what would they be and why?
Guitar (obviously!), Tent as me building a shelter would just be hopeless! My Phone.. because that way I can call for rescue! (Can I have some electricity as well?!)
She may be studying philosophy, this doesn't make any difference when it comes to the 'Quickfire' round, we gave Alex a few seconds to get herself prepared and then we went in....
Hot Chocolate or Cappucino?
HOT CHOCOLATE WITH CREAM AND MARSHMALLOWS (yum)
Bagel or Crumpet?
Loop Pedal or Chorus Pedal?
Playing solo or playing with the band?
playing with the Band
Great British Bake Off or Masterchef?
Night out or night in?
BBQ or Picnic?
Strictly or X-Factor?
Festival or normal gig?
Camping or Campervan?
camping (I cant afford a campervan)
Beach or Pool?
Sunbathing or Snowboarding?
Paperback or Kindle?
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Alex for sparing her time to run through our questions and we wish her every success with her music in the future, if you can spare a few minutes, please go and check out her social media pages, they're all listed below for you.... A list of upcoming shows is also listed below.
How The Light Gets In Festival, Hay on Wye 25th May 2015
Lemonfest, Newton Abbot (band) 30th May 2015
Exeter Respect Festival (band) 7th June 2015
The B-Bar, Plymouth (band) 25th June 2015
The Old Queen’s Head, London (band) 28th June 2015
Tiverton Balloon & Music Festival (band) 10th July 2015
Glas-Denbury Festival ’15 (band) 11th July 2015
The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington (band) 17th July 2015
Miilendreath Festival, Cornwall (band) 19th July 2015
The Loft Live Sessions, Exeter (band) 21st July 2015
Ring O’Bells, Chagford (band) 14th August 2015
CICCIC, Taunton 29th August 2015
Interview by Steve Muscutt