“Alex McEwan could be the next big Scottish rock act”
- Billy Sloan (Scottish Sunday Mail)
Born in Glasgow, some of Alex’s earliest musical influences were from his mother’s love of country music artists such as Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash. He was also strongly influenced by Glasgow bands such as Travis and Del Amitri. Alex first learned to play guitar when he was 13 years old and his love of music and performance was further developed whilst as a student going to music venues in the city centre.
After working as an engineer he later qualified as a teacher and moved to London to follow his dream and develop his musical career. His passion for this drove him to sing in music clubs such as The Borderline and The Spitz in the evening and busk on the London Underground. His early days as a busker and performing to crowds of passengers on the underground on a Saturday night, was a pivotal experience and provided him with the boldness so evident in his performance style now. He adopted a novel approach to busking, trying out his newly written songs on tube trains and gauging the response from his audience. The warm reception from commuters gave him the confidence to pursue his musical career.
A chance meeting with ex Stiff Records producer Roger Bechirian, led to an introduction to former Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson collaborator and Joan Jett guitarist, Lou Natkin. Alex then travelled to the US, playing in bars in Nashville and LA and later met with Lou to make a demo. This resulted in signing to independent label Forge Records to record his debut album ‘Beautiful Lies’, largely produced by Lou. Further tracks on the album were produced by Mark Freegard (Del Amitri, The Breeders) and as an added bonus Del Amitri’s Justin Currie provided backing vocals on the single release ‘More To Me’.
One night, in a basement bar in Hanover Street in London, Alex got talking to Coldplay guitarist Johnny Buckland and arranged to send him a copy of his album. Johnny then got back after listening to it and told him he thought ‘Beautiful Lies’ was a great album. The album gained critical acclaim and the single ‘Make A Wave’ was a favourite on the BBC Radio 2 playlist, played regularly by Terry Wogan, Jeremy Vine and Steve Wright, who dubbed him “the man with the pork pie hat”. He later performed a “stunning session” on the Janice Long show. The single also received significant play-listing on all major Scottish and Irish radio stations including both Clyde and RTE 1 and 2, and throughout the UK on the regional BBC and commercial stations such as Manchester Key 103 and Wave 105. A nationwide tour supporting Katie Melua followed, playing to 60,000 people across the UK and Ireland, resulting in significant album sales. Follow up single releases included ‘More to Me’ and ‘She Must Be Crazy’, these gained further UK radio support and the album was subsequently distributed worldwide by Universal Music.
Around this time Alex met his future wife and went back to college to complete a masters degree. This took him into the field of banking during his day job, initially as an analyst, then later as a senior manager for one of the world’s largest banks. The irony is that many of the people he used to busk to on the underground were often bankers returning home from a busy day at the office.
Bizarrely enough the initial inspiration for a new album came when he was asked to perform on a cruise ship whilst on holiday, spurred on by the reaction he got from people. It was a recent health scare with his wife, that thankfully turned out ok, which inspired the song ‘Fly Away’. This event made him reflect on the reality, in his own words, “that we are only on this earth once”, further influencing his decision to follow his passion and record the new album.
The album was mainly written and recorded throughout 2020 during the ‘lockdown’, whilst living in his country cottage in Kent, largely reliant on online collaborations between musicians in England and the U.S. via Scotland. There were also some proper studio sessions, including recordings of the lush string section that features throughout. Many of the tracks were co-produced by Alex and Sussex based producer Graham Noon, long term collaborator with hit songwriter David Martin and currently a member of Tim Vine’s ‘Plastic Elvis’ band. Nashville guitarist Austin Moorhead (Jana Kramer, Carly Pierce) also co-produced a number of songs. The album was mixed by Ian Grimble (Bear’s Den, Travis, Daughter) and mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, Nashville. The track ‘This Feeling Again’ includes piano from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ musical director David Arch and a ‘helping hand’ on the arrangement from Tracy Chapman producer David Kershenbaum.
From busker to banker to rediscovering his musical soul, the new album from Alex McEwan, ‘In a World We Don’t Know’ is due for release in 2021.