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Alex Winston has had a life full of music. From growing up singing and playing the guitar, to watching her dad play the drums, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist started getting familiar with the music industry at a young age.
“It was important for him to have that available to me early,” she said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson. She got her first guitar when she was seven, so, in being surrounded by it, there was no room for it to even be a dream, “it was just all I knew.”
After getting her first guitar, she further immersed herself in the world of music, starting voice lessons from the age of ten and then writing her own music at 15. Now, at the age of 36, Winston’s focus has shifted elsewhere.
“I play a lot of instruments poorly,” she said, mainly prioritizing writing lyrics and being a vocalist.
Having grown up around music, Winston has developed a unique style and thus an appreciation for “unique female voices,” along with somewhat unoriginal lyrics written in an original way. Her admiration for femininity in music and the unique ways in which similar feminine experiences can be portrayed through music is translated into her own music.
She uses the example of Kathleen Edwards. “She says things that are just so simple, but so smart in the way that she phrases them, and just so well put. I never would have formed that sentence that way.”
The uniqueness of female voices plays a part in how she chooses to portray herself and the style she has found works best for herself.
At 17, she knew she wasn’t going to go to college, instead, she was going to do music full-time.
“I knew then that that was my path,” she said.
She started working with producers in Detroit at that time, but she was only doing what the producers wanted her to do. She was signed to labels fairly young, which created, “more pressure and more expectation,” she said.
“Your ego gets in the way, too. I wanted to prove myself as a writer,”she added. “I ended up kind of veering off and getting lost in the whole, ‘who does everyone else want me to be?’ and I lost sight of what made me happy in the first place,”she said, describing how she felt at the time.
Alongside this, the industry has not been easy on Winston.
“I’ve had some tough moments with being signed to labels or feeling like I’m compromising who I am to make other people happy,” she said. “Right now, there’s no pressure on me. I’m just doing whatever I want, and it’s just like really freeing.”
Her musical journey had many ups and downs. Winston has found it challenging to separate her worth from her success in music and she has faced challenges, like being dropped by labels and struggling to find herself and who she is in her music. Now, “I’m enjoying this,” she said, “I’m being authentically myself.”
Even though, as she said, she “Benjamin Buttoned,” signing to major labels early on then afterward falling back into independent music production, she found that her trajectory has been a learning experience that she is very grateful for. It has shown her how her love for music surpasses all obstacles.
Winston is currently completely independent. She is not signed to a label which has allowed her to have fun with her music, as seen in the creativity found in her most recent release, “Where My Cowboys At?”
Winston released the track accompanied by a unique music video that establishes her new position as an independent singer-songwriter. The song itself, she said, specifically the “cowboys” included in it, are “referencing the past.”
“In the song I’m talking about just different phases of my life, like some I’m more proud of than others.”
While spending a lot of time in her aforementioned past at a local dive bar, Alex recounted the feelings that inspired the song’s themes.
“I spent a lot of time at this local dive bar and sometimes I felt like one of those zombies like sometimes I'm like, This can't this phase cannot last forever. And so those were the zombies were kind of there to represent just kind of shadow versions of myself and different versions from the past,” Winston said.
Winston has a huge appreciation for all of her friends in the music industry, showing support for their success and being grateful when they share that spotlight with her as well. She shows a specific appreciation for women in the industry, not only uplifting her friends already in the industry, but also working to support women making their way into it.
“I like working with young female artists,” she said, “I’ve been there. I get it. It’s cool to see the industry shifting in a lot of positive ways for women. I would like to be somewhat of a support to younger female artists.”
Winston’s journey in finding herself and creating authentic and honest music has not been easy, but it has allowed her to grow into who she is today.
“It’s all worth it,” she said, “I think. I hope.”
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