Sometimes, embracing your own vulnerabilities is exactly how you find who you really are. That’s the message behind the music of Alex Harris, the Texas-hailing and Atlanta-residing singer and songwriter whose intriguing genre blend—a sound encapsulating classic and current sounds of alternative, hip-hop, and R&B—is represented on his debut EP Pink Cloud. Striking and confessional, Harris’ bold debut is the introduction of a confident new voice in pop, one that’s unafraid of acknowledging the highs and lows that life has to offer.
Harris discovered his musical passions through getting into rap in fifth grade, after a friend came over to his house and played him Dr. Dre and Eminem. “My parents weren’t letting me listen to that stuff, but he let me keep the CD — that’s when I really started diving into rap music.” Skateboarding culture also played a role in Harris’ cultural awakening: “I’d listen to a lot of the music they’d play in skate videos—Clipse, the Smiths, Patti Smith. The involvement I had with skating growing up is what brought all different types of music to me.”
To this day, Harris takes inspiration from a wide variety of art—from the context-rich world of documentaries and biopics (“I love movies about peoples’ lives and struggles—anything I can gather information from”) to visual art, a passion he picked up from his grandmother who worked as a docent in Fort Worth’s Modern Art Museum. “I’d always go on her tours,” he recalls. “I love going to museums and seeing the exhibits. I’m a big fan of the art movement in 1980s New York, and I’ve grown an investment in Renaissance art, too.”
Part of Harris’ artistic revelations was the discovery that he possessed a natural talent for taking apart popular songs to find out their inner workings: “I was obsessed with knowing everything about the songs and nailing them perfectly.” At the age of 16, he started freestyling with friends. “It was funny stuff at first, but then my friends were like, ‘You’re pretty good at rapping.’ I was embarrassed by that because it was something I had never done in public.” He privately continued to work on his music, effectively falling in love with the process of building out songs. “I’d just find other songs that were created and make my own versions. I was obsessed with writing verses and hook—the different ways you could build out a song.”
He attended college in Dallas, eventually meeting a few kindred spirits who inspired him to continue seriously working on music: “I was opening up for as many people as I could, getting any opportunity I could get.” Soon enough, his passions reached a breaking point, and in junior year of college, he realized that he wanted to pursue music full-time. “I got to the point where it was taking over my life,” Harris admits. “I couldn’t focus on anything else.” He dropped out of college, bouncing around around various locations in California and Texas before ending up in Dallas, working at a car wash at a Mercedes-Benz dealership: “I was stuck and didn’t know what I was doing.”
A weekend in Houston for studio work proved providential, as a producer he was working with offered a surprising connection. “He said, ‘I know this guy who’s looking for a new artist to build something with,'” Harris remembers. “I was like, ‘I’ve heard this before—empty promises.'” A few months later, manager Damian Clarke reached out over the phone. “We started talking every day for about three months—about what his work looks like, what he does, and what he’s trying to do. He let me explain who I am, what type of music I wanted to put out, and what my goals were. It snowballed from there.”
Harris ended up signing with Clarke and moved out to Atlanta to work full-time on music.“It was a pivotal moment—from performing in local places and washing cars in Dallas to taking a risk and heading out to Atlanta to see what was going to become of it,” he remembers. “Things were moving quick.” The two worked on what would become Pink Cloud over the last year. “There’s not a specific style across the board—it’s a draw from all the different types of artists that I like,” Harris explains when discussing the EP’s sound. “Whatever genre you like—classic hip-hop, modern R&B, soul, the blues, funk, ballads—you can find something that suits you from this project. I’m showcasing the different styles I like to give fans of all music an opportunity to enjoy this.”
Beyond reflecting his own musical eclecticism, Pink Cloud is also streaked with Harris’ own personal experiences. “When I was living in Dallas, I was drinking and partying a lot while trying to get my life together and figure out what the next step was,” he reflects while discussing the album’s real-life influences. “My family were like, ‘What are you doing? It’s time to buckle down and get some things going.'” At a crossroads, Harris decided to get sober. “I had tried everything to keep my anxiety down, but I was in denial. I needed to stop everything and re-adjust my focus.”
During this time of self-exploration, Pink Cloud’s conceptual bent began to form. “It was something that was talked about in AA—the phase of early sobriety where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, everything’s so great—why didn’t I see this before?’,” he explains. “‘I’m on this pink cloud and nothing can bother me.’ But it’s a dangerous place to be, because you’re vulnerable and you’ve let your guard down. These are stories about my life. I’m trying to document my highs and lows so far.”
The dreamy, swooning “Blue” refers to a “really low time about a relationship” that Harris experienced, while the aching piano lines of “Pink” focus on “The highs, when everything is working good. These highs and lows are going to come regardless—things aren’t always going to be the same way. I wanted to make this project as relatable as possible. I just want to make honest music about my life, and I hope it can translate to other people.” Then there’s “Five Miles,” the wooziness of which tells a specific story anyone ever in love could relate to.
“It’s about a situation where I had a relationship with this girl that was very up-and-down,” Harris explains while discussing the song. “Everybody has that person they can lean on for affection—a guilty pleasure. This guy really wants to be with this girl, but there are issues preventing it. He wants to come over to her house but all the complications are preventing that. He’s driving to her house, but he knows every time he goes there, something bad happens. Nothing pans out from it. But in the moment, these two people feel like they’re connected with each other, even though they know they can’t be together.”
“I want to bring honesty through my music,” Harris confesses while discussing what he wants listeners to take away from his music. “It’s okay to be vulnerable and express how you feel. There’s so much pressure to look cool, be cool, and control your life through social media to give the perception that everything’s good. If I can give people my true interpretation of the good, bad, and ugly in my life, maybe it can encourage others to embrace those things in their life. You can better yourself.” And when it comes to taking that personal journey, the Pink Cloud EP is a great place to start.
Now Alex has a new single out called “88 Floors” which is his first taste of music since Pink Cloud EP. Produced by Organic Waves, “88 Floors” captures the personal sacrifices and struggles that come with one chasing their dreams. All of the elements in “88 Floors” are perfectly placed, offering a clean and detailed mix that captures the key nuances of the vocal and production performances, while incorporating old-school inspired “Boom Bap” driven drums and a smooth bass line that provides the perfect bed for Alex’s cool, laid-back vocals. On the song, Alex explains that, “It’s a record about following the music. It’s about the time I spent and people I lost chasing a dream I couldn’t afford. It’s a record about putting music before anything in life and dealing with the consequences later.”
I got the chance to talk to Alex Harris about his new single and his music so far;
Hi Alex and welcome to OLC! So tell me how did you develop your passion for music, and who was the biggest influence on your career?
It started when I was young. I obsessed over memorizing songs and that evolved into imitating the artist I was listening to. My mom played a lot of 80’s music around me. My dad would play a lot of nirvana and the police. I’d say I got my music influence from them.
How and when we’re you discovered?
I have been doing music for awhile around Texas where I grew up. I was bouncing around Dallas, Houston, and Austin working with different artists and met my manager through a producer I knew. Once I met my manager I moved to Atlanta and got really introduced to the full time music grind. I quit my job in Texas and saved up some money so I could focus on music. We put together the PINK CLOUD EP in that first year, now we’re here in the loop a bit trying to make it happen with the new single 88 floors and the album on the way in 2020.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote and can you tell me what it was about?
The first song I wrote was probably bragging about how cool I thought my raps were or something lame haha . It prob sounded very East coast 90’s. I use to just look up the OG east coast producers and rap over there stuff bc it was so consist as far as the beats go. Not too all over the place so I could explore my range and style.
What inspired your latest single “88 Floors”, and who helped you work on the track?
Just pursuing a career in music over the years really inspired it. Plenty of people understand the toll it takes on you to pursue a career in the arts. A lot of ridicule a lot of rejection. It’s about just saying fuck it and being who you are and seeing things through. I also tie into the record how I’ve lost a lot of relationships and friendships over these dreams I’m in pursuit of.
This is your first new music since the release of your EP “Pink Cloud”, how do you think your sound has evolved since the release of that EP?
I think that I’ve figured more out about myself personally since PINK CLOUD, so the sound has def evolved. It’s evolved into the person I am today and this album covers a lot of relatable topics. I learned when I’m my most vulnerable, the people feel you more.
I absolutely loved the song “Pink” on that EP, it sounded like a very personal song to yourself, what can you tell me about it?
Thank you. That record is about two people who really love each other,but due to these insecurities they both have the topic is never brought up. And what it was between them fizzles out. Its sad stuff I’ve been through but makes for great songs. And other people go through it too so I hope they can connect to the story.
You have a debut album set for release in 2020, what can your fans expect from it, and will we see any key features in the songs or behind the scenes?
I can’t say on the features but I can tell you it’s going to surprise a lot of people. I’m really pushing it on this one. I want to get as vulnerable as possible when necessary, then bring it back up with something that rides for the people to jam to. I want everyone to find a story about themselves on this album so I’m covering a lot of topics.
What has been the most memorable moment for you in 2019 and what made it special to you?
I did my second overseas festival in Albania. It was insane! I’ve never done a show in front of a crowd that big or been that far from home. It was two birds with one stone. The people there are great.
Any plans to go out on the road and if so where can people catch you? Also other then the new album what else is on the horizon for you in 2020?
I plan on doing my first series of tours this year. That will be a new milestone for me as an artist in 2020. I’ll be keeping everyone posted on upcoming dates. 2020 holds an album, more shows, more features, and just a lot more connecting with fans through music.