by Amy Lovat
Ahhh, summer: the days are longer, the smell of sunscreen is in the air, and most of us come crawling out of hibernation for arvo drinks, lawn bowls and live music. If your ears are searching for something fresh this season, local artist Atlas Young is where the sound is at. Newcastle-born-and-bred muso Alex James Bowen has just launched a new creative project, with his debut Atlas Young single due for release in mid-December.
Alex spent seven years as a full-time musician, touring the country with his original music, using both Newcastle and Byron Bay as his home bases, before a life-changing personal tragedy stopped him in his tracks for a while. ‘I loved the van life, touring and travelling. The passion was always there but I was ready for a break.’
Now, after a three-year hiatus, Alex is back on the scene and ready to do things from the heart this time around. He’s also running his own record label. ‘It’s a clean slate; before, I pigeon-holed myself a little, and now I’m doing things my way. It feels free.’ Atlas Young will tour in Australia for a bit, before Alex moves to the US for a residency and tour in 2018.
Tell me about Atlas Young.
It’s an experiment, more than anything, which is what I feel like music is supposed to be. Atlas Young has a neo-soul-rock sound and I’m doing a lot of instrumentation myself. At the moment, I’m recording a live acoustic band, and an electronic band as well. Lots of experimenting in the studio and with writing. There’s no walls for the creativity. I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, and three years was a long time to think about it. I co-produced the new single with Mitta from Tommirock, and I’m co-producing with some guys in Byron at 93 Creative.
What sparked your rebirth into the music scene recently?
Honestly, probably the fear of losing it, of losing my music. I’ve been distracted for a few years, working on other projects, but the timing feels right now. I’ve never stopped writing, I just stopped touring. I’ve always been passionate about music, but I also found I’d hit a wall creatively. I needed to reconnect and recalibrate.
Take me back to your musical roots.
I have my grandad to thank; he was an old crooner, used to sing around the house with a beautiful voice, and he taught me to play didgeridoo. There are photos of me as a baby playing musical instruments, so it was also a natural thing. No one else in the family is musical.
Weird question, but when do you listen to music?
There’s not much of my day where I’m not listening to music. But then sometimes I’ll be on a long roadtrip and realise I’ve been driving in silence for hours. It’s like I zone out, or zone in, and go into my own world. I actually do a lot of writing on the road. I’ve even pulled into little side streets on the highway and sat for half an hour recording on my phone, then kept on driving.
What’s the writing process like for you?
At the moment I’m recording and writing together. So I have a whole bunch of lyrics and melodies and snippets of songs… Think of it like a messy desk. And then I go ‘OK, I’m going to clean this desk into a song,’ and I bring it all together. There’s no method to my madness. It’s collected chaos. I have a home studio, which is a luxury, because when the moment of inspiration comes, I can go straight into it.
Do you have any major musical influences that inspired the birth of Atlas Young?
I listen to everything. Honestly, it changes every day. Probably D’Angelo and Hiatus Kaiyote. I’m loving Vera Blue’s new album, Kim Churchill and Meg Mac. I listen to different people for different things, like John Mayer for his guitar work, and D’Angelo for the syncopation. I’m always going to have a blues influence, because I grew up playing it on guitar and was vocally trained in blues.
Where is Atlas Young headed in the future?
I have a performing visa for the US tour coming up, and the residency means there will be consistent shows. I’ve also made a rule that for every tour I do, I will dedicate time after to do aid work, and then eventually set up my own charity so I can split my time between foundation work and music. The thing is, we’re pretty privileged in what we do as creatives, so it’s great to give back in any way we can.
Follow @atlasyoungofficial on Instagram and look out for his debut single in December! www.atlasyoung.com