“These are songs I've never teased before because they're very precious” — in conversation with Sad Alex

Clovis McEvoy
November 17, 2022
“To exist independently, to fund your own music, these things are extremely complicated”— Sad Alex

After walking away from a label deal, sad alex found new creative freedom as an independent musician. She speaks to Clovis McEvoy about bringing a different side of her music to web3, the importance of community support, and choosing to take the harder path.

“I'm sort of in a sexy-era of my music.” says Alex Saad, and she has a point. From her recent single high sexpectactions to the viral TikTok videos accompanying her track, rugburn, the Los Angeles based singer-songwriter has released a series of refreshingly unserious takes on 21st dating and relationships. “I wanted to have songs that conveyed that awkward, funny, tongue in cheek sort of feeling, because that’s a bit more like what flirting and sex feels like in real life.”

Known to fans by her stage name sad alex, her blend of catchy melodies, disarming humour, and R-rated lyrics have clearly struck a chord, racking up millions of views across streaming platforms and social media. However, fans shouldn’t get too comfortable. “It’s not typically my bag,” she laughs. “I'm kind of rounding out this era and then we're going to be transitioning into a new one.”

“I can be sexy, but now I do it in a way that feels more like me.”

— Sad Alex

It wouldn’t the first time the artist has changed things up. She can just as quickly pen a song to make you cry as one to make you laugh, and over the years that musical versatility has been mirrored by a series of bold career moves. Originally performing under the stage name alxxa, she released a string of successful electropop tracks before deciding in 2018 that the ‘pop starlet’ image was not what she ultimately wanted. “I desperately wanted to be the ‘cool girl’ or the ‘sexy girl’ – but one of the most empowering things was realising that I am not those things. I can be sexy, but now I do it in a way that feels more like me.”

“I'm kind of rounding out this [sexy] era and then we're going to be transitioning into a new one,” Sad Alex. Web3 has given her the freedom to show a more authentic side of herself.

She took on the moniker of sad alex without missing a beat – an obvious play on her last name – and adopted the self-drawn art style that has become something of a trademark. At that time she was signed to Red Bull Records, but by the release of her 2021 EP, crydancing, she began to realise that she had outgrown the label. “I am always very cognizant of my graph going upward,” Alex says. “Not just for my own selfish ego, but for legitimately building a career that can sustain me.”

“I think one of the best things that a label can do is let you go if it's in both parties’ best interests,” she continues. “There's a lot of labels that won't give you that luxury; they'll just hold on to you, but they won't care about you.” Leaving on good terms, she says it wasn’t a matter of her label not caring about her, but of different visions for her music: they wanted to focus on EPs, while she had already set her sights on larger album releases.

Taking a step that few signed musicians would consider, Alex opted to go fully independent last year. She began hearing about web3 music from fellow musicians like Daniel Allen soon after and decided to learn more – which she says was surprisingly easy. “When you're trying to learn something in the web2 world, a lot of people will protect their information and contacts,” says Alex. “Web3 doesn't feel like that: there's a lot more openness to support each other. Even though I won't pretend to have web3 all figured out, I've been lucky to get connected with a lot of great people that know more than I do.” One of her first songs released to a web3 audience was don't let me down, produced in collaboration with omgKirby, one of web3's biggest music collectives and a DAO to boot.

Visually, Sad Alex is distinguished by her minimalist, hand-drawn covers, such as this drawing for her single rugburn.

Alex says that web3 has become a place where she feels comfortable releasing tracks that would previously have been kept purely for herself. “What I'm trying to do is to give them a side of my music that they can't find on Tik Tok – these are songs that I've never teased before because they're very precious, sacred.” As other musicians like Violetta Zironi have found, web3 gives musicians a chance to release their songs precisely as they want them.

Her forthcoming track portugal, which drops November 8th on Sound, is a perfect example: “It’s a song about my dad that I had deemed way too personal to ever come out,” she says. “But here felt like a sort of safe space to do it, which I think is a really cool and powerful thing.”

Moving forward, Alex says she’s looking ahead to her first album release. While she’s not ready to give any details away, she makes clear that this will be a chance to show new sides of herself and try out different musical styles. “It's a concept album that has a lot of versatile genres built into it, just by nature of what the concept is.”

“When you're trying to learn something in web2, a lot of people will protect their information. Web3 doesn't feel like that.”

— Sad Alex

The trajectory of Alex’s career simply wouldn’t have been possible a decade or two ago. Her current creative freedom is a testament to the tools artists now have to build an audience without traditional label support. “We exist in a time where you can get exposure on you in a matter of hours,” says Alex. “That's something that’s never existed before. It's given people a lot of power to break through and make something happen. However, just like anything else, when the barrier of entry is easier, things becomes more saturated.”

Breaking through that saturation is an ever-increasing challenge, and while Alex has proven extremely adept at using platforms like TikTok to connect with fans, she says that moving forwards it’s the kind of direct fan-artist investment seen in web3 that holds the most promise for independent musicians. “Any tool that helps you create a supportive audience that can contribute to your career in a more personal, direct way is a win. There's really no downside I see to that.”

“To exist independently, to fund your own music, these things are extremely complicated.”

— Sad Alex

Alex is an artist who doesn’t fit into any neat, tidy, boxes. The subjects she explores in her music are as multifaceted as she is herself and it’s clear that independence has allowed her to reach a place where she can express her talent as a songwriter to its fullest. That’s not to say that going independent – via web3 or otherwise – is smooth sailing, and Alex is clear about the challenges she’s faced being an independent musician. “It's been very difficult this year,” she says. “I'm not going to sugar-coat the experience: to exist independently, to fund your own music, these things are extremely complicated. I've had to pick up side jobs, I've had really low lows here and there.”

Those hurdles might have shaken another person’s resolve, but Alex didn’t get where she is today by giving up easily. “I have climbed so far up this mountain to make it in music, and to not bet on myself…,” she pauses, before explaining, “I would rather have the potential to reach for bigger goals and bigger payoffs, than to settle.”

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Clovis McEvoy
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Clovis is a New Zealand born writer, journalist, and educator working at the meeting point between music and technological innovation. He is also an active composer and sound artist, and his virtual reality and live-electronic works have been shown in over fifteen countries around the world.

Collaborators and honourable contributors: @imsadalex

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