At only 23 years old, Alex Day has proven himself to be both talented and intelligent well beyond his years. His albums, EPs, and singles have been heard around the world by millions, an achievement made even greater by Day remaining an unsigned artist. HEAVE recently spoke with Day about his music career, vlogging, love of travel, and how the musician continues to remain true to himself.
HEAVE: First off, you have quite a lot to be proud of this summer. From the successes of “Forever Yours,” “Lady Godiva,” and your other three recently released singles, to an article in Forbes hailing you as the future of music, you’re becoming a force to be reckoned with. How are you handling all of the attention/success?
Alex Day: Well essentially I’m still just me, so I’m not gonna start eating caviar or anything like that (although I do like caviar, you should try it). I make music for people to enjoy, so I’m glad so many people are able to listen and enjoy it through things like the Forbes piece.
HEAVE: “Forever Yours” is part of my regular iPod rotation so I have to ask about the inspiration for the song’s story about being out of synch with someone no matter how hard you try to be together.
Alex Day: Thanks! I’m glad you like it. Basically I had a really nice day with a girl I used to have a thing for, and at no point during the really nice day did I think about having sex with her, even though we spoke about sex in general quite openly and just had a good day out chatting and sharing stories. So I wanted to celebrate that; the little things are just good as the what-might-have-beens and sometimes all you need with someone is one really good day.
HEAVE: Speaking of inspiration, what does it take for one of your ideas to make it into a full song? Are there song ideas you thought would never work that surprised you when you fleshed them out or vice-versa?
Alex Day: I pretty much just think about what’s relatable. I tend to write with a title in mind first, although with “Forever Yours” that didn’t happen. “Good Morning Sunshine” was the result of me just sitting on a train, it was the first warm day of the year and I wanted to write a song, and so my thought process was just “Well, it’s warm … so, good morning sunshine … I hope that you’re well.” And I didn’t really know what the song would be about at that point. I was certainly surprised by how well it turned out (I think GMS is the best song I’ve ever written).
HEAVE: Rather than signing with a label, you’ve done the seemingly impossible and became a true, self-made success. At what point did you step back and think “This is really happening?!”
Alex Day: The day “Forever Yours” came out. After months of approaching press, radio stations, TV, anyone who might be interested, and having exactly zero interest, suddenly the song hit iTunes and went straight to the iTunes Top 5, and then everyone wanted to talk to me that day and pretty much all week afterward. So that was the real payoff point for me.
HEAVE: Along with being a musician, you’re also quite well known as a vlogger. Do you think the experience you’ve had making videos and being part of the YouTube community has given you an advantage when it comes to spreading the word about your music?
Alex Day: Yeah, absolutely. I tell people never to buy my songs unless they genuinely like them, because I think good music should live or die on its own merit and not because I’m well-known on YouTube or whatever, but it remains that I couldn’t have had an audience ready to hear that music if it wasn’t for my vlogging, so I’m glad that all worked out
HEAVE: Do you see yourself transitioning away from vlogging and focusing primarily on music or will there always be room for both in your career?
Alex Day: I always see myself as a musician first and a YouTuber second. YouTube or video-making has never been an ambition or a career interest of mine, it’s always just a fun thing I’ve done on the side for a laugh to entertain myself and it happens to have done well. So I’ve always seen myself as focusing primarily on music. But I continue to enjoy making videos because I like sharing cool fun stories with people, and it’s a convenient way to keep people updated on what I’m up to, so I’m not going anywhere.
HEAVE: While many of your videos are hilarious, off the wall, or downright random, not everything you post on YouTube is all about the funnies. Your “Confessions” video back in 2008 was particularly affecting as it dealt with some really heavy issues. How do you balance the content in your videos so as not to stray too far into either direction?
Alex Day: I don’t think about it in any way, is the answer. I do try to keep things varied, but beyond that, I really don’t mind. I literally do make videos to entertain myself, so if I’m feeling serious for a few videos in a row, people can either put up with that or just watch someone else. I’ve never tried to fit my content into what I think people will wanna watch.
HEAVE: Building off your more serious videos, you were able to visit Zambia in 2010 and, along with other vloggers, give many of us a view of country and culture many of us have never seen before. Do you think as a vlogger, especially one with the fan base you have, it’s important to use your platform to educate?
Alex Day: Not particularly. Every now and then I’ll make a video explaining something important – I did a video called “Lost In 3 Minutes” that explained the Lost finale ‘cos nobody seemed to understand it but me – but that’s not out of any sense of duty, I just thought “Here’s something I can do that will entertain people,” the same as anything else I do. The trip to Zambia was an awesome opportunity and again, I figured it’d be entertaining and interesting to watch (as well as live, more importantly), so I went.
HEAVE: Zambia isn’t the only foreign country you’ve visited in the past couple of years; you’ve become quite the world traveler. Why do you think it’s important for young people to venture outside of their towns/cities/countries and experience different cultures and how have these experiences helped you both as an artist and a person?
Alex Day: I have a bug for travel, and my favourite videos are the ones I make when I’m travelling. There’s always so many new experiences to draw from. I don’t mind if people don’t wanna travel, I’m happy to let people live their own lives doing whatever they want, but I do feel like a lot of people might be missing out because they just don’t know what a broadening experience it can be. Zambia was the trip that influenced me most as a person; I came back to England and threw out nearly all of my clothes, because I could see people happy living with less.
HEAVE: I noticed a handful of your videos have been removed from your YouTube page in the past. It seems that freedom of speech is one of the best and worst aspects of the Internet. Have there been times since then when you find yourself self-censoring? Is there a need for stringent censorship on video sites when it comes to spoken content?
Alex Day: That’s not actually true that my videos have been pulled, every video I’ve uploaded is still there unless I’ve chosen to take it down, but a few videos have been flagged, which means your account has to say you’re 18 in order to watch it. That’s a pain. Especially because the videos that tend to end up flagged or the ones where I talk perfectly openly and intellectually about sex, and that’s something I think younger people NEED to listen to, but what can you do? I’d never censor myself, to answer the second part. People moan at me all the time for swearing, but then they can just watch someone who doesn’t swear if that’s the entertainment they like. I hope that people enjoy what I do, that’s my motivation for music and for videos, but more than anything I want to enjoy it myself and have it be personal and honest.
HEAVE: You’re certainly not alone in the young, European vlogger space. Along with Charlie McDonnell, Liam Dryden, Dan Howell (to name a few) you seem to have a close knit community of like-minded individuals. Do you find surrounding yourself with vloggers helps keep you inspired to create content? Is there any friendly competition amongst you guys?
Alex Day: As I write this, there are currently two YouTube guys, Jack and Dean (from the noted omfgitsjackanddean YouTube channel) filming a video upstairs in my office. So yes, I love having like-minded people round. I actually don’t spend that much time online, the majority of the time I spend not working on music is spent socialising indoors or out with friends. I’m a very social person and love hearing people’s stories and sharing my own. I think there’s some competition amongst the newer YouTubers, but that might be because they’re trying to get something out of it. I’m not trying to compete with or impress anyone else and, as such, I don’t have any animosity towards anyone else on the site.
HEAVE: Charlie directed the music video for “Forever Yours” which turned out really spectacularly. While you two are good friends, was it hard giving creative control of the video to someone else? Will we see future collaborations between you two outside of cameos in each other’s videos?
Alex Day: Well Charlie is the video man; his aspirations lie in filmmaking, and mine lie in music, so for me it was the perfect collaboration; I provide the sound, he provides the vision. I trusted him to do a good job because I know he’s great (far better than me) at videomaking, so it was incredibly easy to give up that aspect. Unfortunately – well, fortunately for him, but less so for me – Charlie’s currently working on a short film so the last two music videos I made (for “Good Morning Sunshine” and “Lady Godiva”) were made by me, and it’s a pain in the arse. I’m not a visual person, it’s like learning a new language. But it is nice not relying on anybody else but me to get things done.
HEAVE: You give your fans free reign to use your music in their own projects. Have there been any standout creations in recent memory?
Alex Day: I bang on about that so much because people always miss the message – I get emails every week from someone who wants to use my song for something, so I’m trying to be quite loud about my stance on it so everyone understands they can help themselves. In my mind, it makes perfect sense; more people get to hear my song, which is why I make the song, so that’s fine to me. I read an article recently about a band suing Pizza Hut for using their music in a commercial and thought “But isn’t that what you want for your music, to be heard by lots of people?” – it seemed a bit greedy, but to each their own. I’m actually currently compiling a montage of “This Kiss” covers to make a mash-up for my channel, and that’s been a lot of fun seeing all the different duets people have come up with.
HEAVE: You have one of the most unique senses of fashion I’ve seen and I know you have a very small selection of clothing. What does it take for a shirt or pair of pants to make it into the Alex Day wardrobe, and where did you find that notebook shirt (it’s ummm… for a friend)?
Alex Day: I’m very strict. Essentially, everyone has those three or four shirts that they love and it always feels great to wear them. So I just kept those four and donated the rest. Getting a new shirt isn’t just “Is this nice,” it’s “Do I like this more than my four favourite shirts?” and most often the answer is no. The notebook shirt is from American Apparel 😉
HEAVE: Favorite Doctor?
Alex Day: Watson. Or maybe Ock, but I think Watson.
HEAVE: What video games are you currently playing (assuming you have any time)?
Alex Day: I actually just bought an old PC for £150 on eBay so I could replay Grim Fandango and Populous: The Beginning, but Charlie’s been playing a lot of Spelunky on Xbox so I gave that a go too. I’m not so into video games though, my main bag is the trading card game Magic, which I’m way too into.
HEAVE: Any response from Karen Gillan yet?
Alex Day: Nope.
HEAVE: And the most important question of them all: what is your Pokemon dream team?
Alex Day: Ooh! Well, I completed Pokémon Diamond – by which I mean I got EVERY Pokémon and played the game for two hundred hours according to the in-game clock. Mental. I could have learned a language in that time. I’m disgusted with myself. I had a legendary team of six – Mewtwo, Ho-Oh, Dialga, Palkia, Rayquaza and Groudon. But I also built a team of three for competitions which had a Starmie, a Tyranitar and a Garchomp. I called it the Team Of Doom.