alex jayne
Photo: Laurie Barraclough / Press

Alex Jayne

Up-and-coming artist Alex Jayne has just released her latest single “Pictures” alongside a vintage-style music video. The track is the fourth and final single from a formative year that has seen the sad pop surrealist being played on BBC6 Music and been acclaimed by The Guardian and Clash. She also features in BBC Introducing’s “Reading and Leeds Hotlist.” The British singer/songwriter has been likened to successful artists such as Daughter, Lorde, and London Grammar.

We caught up with the Shropshire artist who is based in London, to discuss how she got started in music, what her goals are for next year, and what music has gotten her through lockdown. 

Congratulations on your latest single “Pictures,” which was released last month. What is the song about?

Pictures” is about basically my relationship with photographs. It’s a bit of a strange one isn’t it, because it’s almost the memory of photographs that you become attached to. Speaking really candidly, I was in a relationship and I felt like I was using pictures as almost a sort of coping mechanism, I’d be like, “Oh, let’s take a picture,” kinda thing and actually, the reality was much different to what was in the frame. I channelled how I felt about that and wrote this song where the hook was: “So why don’t we smile for a picture? Because all we are is pictures lately.” 

Did you find that the vintage-style music video for the track came about naturally from the lyrics?

Yeah! So I have a creative director who’s called Laurie Barraclough. We’ve worked on a few videos before and he has his own vision and ideas. So he said for “Pictures,” why don’t we use Super 8 film, where everything is on film so you can’t actually see what you’re doing. Each picture you take on it is permanent and that’s gonna be the take. That side of it felt right because the whole concept was feeling as if you’re stuck in a photo frame, so we wanted this video to be sort of a series of scenes where the girl is, sort of, not trapped necessarily, but is part of the frame that each scene is in.

We knew it would have to have this film-like feel and aesthetic and also feel quite ’70s. That era was our closest reference, we planned different outfits for each scene. There’s a dressing table scene where the girl is getting ready and putting her makeup on and then there was a bedroom scene where I wore this ’70s-style top with winged sleeves. We wanted a retro feel for sure.

How long have you been making music for?

That’s a good question! A long time. I’ve been recording music since I was 15. I was in a girlband and we recorded a few tracks. Then I just did a solo project for a while and it kind of became Alex Jayne, I’ve been writing, recording, and gigging and making music since. I moved to London, where I met a producer called Duncan, who used to work at the Church Studios in North London and we just kind of clicked. I took my demos to him and he could see the potential and style and how it would grow. We’ve continued to work together since then, so yeah, it’s been a while!

Your track “90s Dream” came out earlier this year alongside another retro-styled music video. What did you want the video to emulate?

So “90s Dream” was like my first proper, proper music video. You know when you’re younger and you’re sorta like, “I’m doing a music video!” and it’s just you and your mate in the back of somebody’s house with no clue. [Laughs] For this video I actually went through Creative Commission, which is a platform where you can find loads of amazing creatives, you put your budget and your creative idea, and then they can pitch it.

I knew with “90s Dream” that it was a dreamy track and there were lots of elements of it that were kind of floating. There were synth sounds and building this world and I knew that the video would need to reflect that with imagery. Laurie replied to my pitch and said that he loved the track and said, “I have an idea, let’s make it happen.” The idea was that it would be projections of, again, like scenes in a movie. I love film and it’s a big inspiration for me. The idea was that I’d be stuck watching my own movie playing back at me with various scenes and quotes. Laurie kind of overlaid the images so it feels kind of disorientating or layered and dreamy. So yeah, that was sort of the idea and hopefully that is what it conveys.

alex jayne
Photo: Laurie Barraclough / Press

You were recently added to the BBC Music Introducing Hot List. What does it feel like to achieve things like this at such an early point in your career?

I think, like anything, there are sort-of milestones. For emerging artists, BBC Introducing is a huge platform and I’m really lucky because I’m from Shropshire originally and they’ve always supported me and played my music. There’s loads of things that BBC Introducing can do, but one of them is putting artists on festival slots. Reading and Leeds was my dream in terms of the festival I would wanna play and I found out through Twitter that I had been mentioned by BBC Introducing and Reading and Leeds. I was like what!? So I clicked on it and it said I had been added to the Hot List, but because of COVID obviously none of the festivals have gone ahead so it was bittersweet I think, but amazing to have that ticked off and to have the support from BBC Introducing is amazing.

Who are your main musical influences and why?

My heroine is Kate Bush, I love her and I wake up every morning to her face … on my wall in my bedroom. It’s a painting it’s not really her!

I wasn’t sure what you were going to say there …

[Laughs] Just waking up to my Kate Bush doll! I think she was so original and brave and so inspiring. What I love about her music is that she’s very escapist and is constantly taking the listeners to different places and different worlds. I think that’s something that I’m really interested in. That’s why I love films too, because it’s that idea of being transported somewhere else, like when you listen to songs.

I also love more recent artists like Lana Del Rey, I think her style is incredible and her sound is distinctive. I’m also interested in the ’90s grunge era, so I love artists like PJ Harvey. I also like Jesus and the Mary Chain, who are a little bit earlier but still have that grungy vibe. There’s a lot of artists who are doing it really well at the moment like the band Cigarettes After Sex, who I really love because they kind of borrow from those original sounds but have made it their own thing.

I have a few lyricists who I think are timeless and amazing, people like Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. I love their poetry and how it’s such a part of their magic and what made them so great and I think those kinds of artists are really timeless and I always go back to them.

You released the hauntingly elegant track “Clouds” in September. What was the inspiration behind that song?

I think I was playing with the idea of fate and destiny and how sometimes things happen in life that you don’t understand and that you question. Then after some time passes things become clearer. I was interested in the idea of clouds almost being a metaphor for that and how clouds might come in and cover your blue sky, how there’s something quite ominous about them, which became a whole concept that we tried to do in the music video and luckily we had a cloudy day! We were very nervous about that. The lyric, “We’ll never see the clouds above,” kind of means that you might be having an idyllic experience and think that things are good but then clouds can come along and change things. But then ultimately, the clouds will disappear and your blue sky returns and you realize why that happened.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but luckily we can still listen to music. What song has been getting you through lockdown?

That is a great question, I’m gonna go with a track called “Radio” by Lana Del Rey. It’s a track off her Born to Die album. What I like most about “Radio” is the vibe and it’s got this line that goes like “Now my life is sweet like cinnamon.” There’s just something about that line and then she goes “Pick me up and take me like a vitamin,” her words are so not what you’d expect to put in a sentence kinda thing. There’s something really positive about it, it’s a hopeful track about being on the other side of stuff, you know? I wouldn’t be surprised if that came up in my Spotify Unwrapped at the end of the year. It’s one that I’ve binge streamed.

How would you describe your sound in three words?

I’d say “dreamy mini movies.”

What are your musical goals for 2021?

To get out of my bedroom writing songs and get out and play them live. My plan for the start of next year is to release an EP and it’ll be a couple of my tracks from this year and some new stuff. When that happens it’d be amazing to have vinyl versions of it and to just have a body of work out. I definitely wanna tick that off in 2021. I’d love to be able to start playing live and do things like BBC Introducing stages, so fingers crossed that sort of thing can happen. So yeah, keep on making music, working with people, working on more music videos and just keep growing really. I think that’s the idea really, you just don’t really stop. With musicians nowadays, it’s a constant thing that you keep on doing whereas back in the day you’d disappear, write an album and come back a year later and be like “ta daa!” It’s slightly different now, but it’s really fun.

Finally before you go, where is your happy place?

I’d say my happy place is in many many places, it’s not fixed, but I’d say it’s in my voice notes on my phone. When I’m happy and writing and have ideas and my brain is sparking things, the first thing I do is press record on my voice notes. I was actually listening to an interview with Phoebe Bridgers and she was saying how her voice notes are like her go-to when she’s writing because it’s not just like a process where you start a song and then you finish a song, it’s kind of scattered all over the place in these little ideas and that voice note is your big mood board. It really resonated with me, I’d be so screwed if I lost my phone because that’s where my little sparks are.