If you like your pop music with a bit of grunge, then Alix Page should absolutely be on your radar! She may be only 20 years old, but the up-and-coming songwriter is ready to release her debut EP Old News today, and soon she will be supporting Gracie Abrams on tour. We sat down with Page to ask her all about these amazing achievements, her artistry, working with HalfAlive’s Brett Kramer, and how she really feels about Radiohead.
First of all, congrats on the release of your debut EP! For those who don’t know Alix Page the artist, or what to expect on the EP, how would you best describe your music and artistry?
Thank you! Hmmm. I’d probably say confessional songwriting with some bite to it, inspired by anthem-y choruses and big guitars. I grew up listening to U2 and The Killers and Coldplay and The Cure with my parents and always admired how expansive their songs are and how big the feelings they write about are.
When did you first fall in love with music, and when did you start to consider actually pursuing a career in music?
I was singing at a super young age and kind of always knew I’d end up pursuing music. Once I started writing songs my sophomore year of high school, a career in it started feeling more achievable. Writing definitely opened up a new world for me and made me fall way more in love with music and the possibilities of it.
The EP is called Old News — what made you choose that name for the collection of songs? It’s mentioned at the very end of “June Gloom,” but perhaps there’s another meaning attached to it?
“June Gloom” sums up the main feelings behind the EP: feeling stuck, falling back into old habits, and mustering up the courage to ask for clarity in the middle of it all. I wrote that one in the middle of 2020, after my senior year of high school got cut short and I had no idea what college was going to look like, and I was developing feelings for someone I had history with. That felt like a very unattainable crush at the time, and realizing I had feelings for them again made me feel like I was reverting to my 16-year-old self. I felt like anything new I could say about my feelings for them would be old news; I’d already said it all in my old songs, and I was pissed that I was giving them another one, essentially. That’s how the other ones came about too. Reliving old relationships and questioning things about them after they’ve already happened and you should be moved on.
The EP is meant to be a coming-of-age documentation, and the songs do feel like they’re all part of the same story, just different chapters. You’ve mentioned that you enjoy expressing yourself through your music. How do you approach balancing vulnerability, honesty, and privacy in your writing process?
I could probably afford to be a little more private in my songwriting. I try to just remind myself that my songs are about my feelings, and I don’t really owe anyone anything else. I hate the joke people make that’s like “oh be careful, she might write a song about you” because it’s like … yeah I might! It’s completely up to me and what I’m inspired by, and you can’t pick and choose that kind of thing. The vulnerability part and “sharing it with the world” part has never been super intimidating to me. I’m only precious about songs when they’re not finished yet. Once they’re complete, there’s a sense of pride I feel knowing I got a Full Thing out of something hard.
The songs on the EP are all very confessional, based on recounting personal experiences. There are also artists who enjoy taking the opposite approach – writing about fictional scenarios or fictional personas, or taking inspiration from poetry, books, or film. Is that something you’d ever see yourself doing as well, even just as a challenge for yourself?
Totally. I admire that a lot. I have one song about Daisy from The Great Gatsby; it was the second song I ever wrote, sophomore year after we read it in English class. Sometimes when I do feel really stuck I lean on film and write from the perspective of a character or something. I’ve learned in the last eight months that it’s really hard for me to write songs when I’m not struggling, and that’s been a big wakeup call and has forced me to think outside the box and reevaluate what I’ve relied on to write songs in the past.
You worked with HalfAlive’s Brett Kramer — what was that like? Was there any piece of advice during the production process that stood out to you?
So much fun. The biggest thing I learned was the importance of trusting your gut and not being afraid to sit with something for days, weeks, months to make sure it feels right. I went into the process pretty blindly. I don’t think I really knew what my sound was until Brett showed me his vision for the first song we did together and I was like, “Of course. That’s what it was supposed to be this whole time,” so I’m super grateful. He always dreams bigger for my songs than I allow myself to and that’s really important for me. Having someone believe in you and push you in that way is one of the most valuable things you can find.
I love that there’s this sort of distortion and guitar presence that emphasizes the alt/indie/rock undertones across the EP. What would you say were your main musical inspirations for these tracks?
I’ve been super inspired by women writing these super intimate stories and backing it with crazy electric guitars; Lucy Dacus was huge, I love how powerful her songs are. Every song on its own though kind of has its own list of influences because there are different details in every song that were inspired by different things. If I made a playlist of all of the songs we referenced for each tiny detail it would be all over the place, which I love. Julia Michaels’s “All Your Exes” was one of the main inspirations for “True + Honest”; the fluttery piano in “Death by a Thousand Cuts” by Taylor Swift was kind of the key ingredient to unlocking the production for “June Gloom”; I referenced “Fake Plastic Trees” for the bridge of “25” because of how big it is, and the stomach-drop effect it has on me.
Radiohead is obviously an iconic band, and now it’s becoming a breakout iconic song for you as well. It’s a very fragile song, but could you tell me a little bit about how the track came into being?
I was dating somebody for a little bit who tried to get me to listen to Radiohead for a loooong time and, me being as stubborn as I am, I refused to for the duration of our relationship. When we broke up I was like, OK, I’ll see what this is about. As soon as I really dove into their discography, I was like, oh shit. Fell in love right away. I weirdly wrote the song a few months after we broke up. I was genuinely moved on and happy, but I had a dream about them where we were decorating an apartment together a few years down the line and it launched me right back to the breakup headspace; I wrote the song right when I woke up.
Most importantly — is Radiohead actually ruined for you?
It’s really not thaaaat ruined, I was being dramatic. I definitely still think about certain people and a certain time in my life when I listen to Radiohead but not in a bitter way anymore, just in a reminiscent way. After a certain point you can look back on something and acknowledge the good with the bad and accept it for what it was without wishing you could change anything about how it happened.
The EP also features two new songs — “True + Honest,” and “June Gloom.” To me, “June Gloom” has all the same smart songwriting qualities that are reminiscent of Taylor Swift, if only she created euphoric grunge pop. I love the line “you’re a forest fire / burning and returning to the front of mind.” What’s your favorite line on the EP, and why?
What a huge compliment, thank you. I’m really proud of that line! Glad you picked up on it. Brett actually found this amazing, crackling fire sound and put that under those lyrics super quietly — if you turn that part up and listen in good headphones you can hear it. The entirety of the bridge of “25” means a lot to me. Even though that’s the climax of the song and has the most production under it, it’s definitely some of my most vulnerable writing. “So I got a tattoo, burned up on the freeway / My mom told me I seem happier these days” is just narrating the summer after a breakup and the people I turned to and things I did to cope with it; blasting Taylor Swift and screaming along with my best friend on a long drive down PCH, confiding in another friend and getting tattoos, and having heart-to-hearts with my mom.
As a multi-instrumentalist, how do you go about creating new material? Do you usually come up with melodies first or the lyrics? Is there a particular instrument that you prefer in those beginning stages as well?
It’s usually lyrics first. Sometimes I’ll listen to songs by other artists and think “damn, that’s probably such a fun one to play live,” and then try to write a song with that same feeling in mind, but even that starts with a line or lyrical concept I have in my notes. I write more on guitar; I just love how versatile it is. Using new tunings opened up a whole new world for me and forces you out of your comfort zone.
The track “25” is the end of the EP, but it’s also the track that looks to the future. There’s a lot of power in the last verse, stating “and when I turn 25, don’t wonder why I haven’t called yet / said I’d come back and find you / don’t know if I’d recognize you now.” It’s also made me wonder, where do you see yourself in five years from now? Is getting older something you dread, or something you embrace?
Hmm. A little bit of both I think. I’ve always been a realist, maybe to a fault, so I’ve always romanticized and been excited about small things and small milestones. Having my own apartment that I get to decorate, my own pet that I’m responsible for, curating my wardrobe and style, being more independent; all such small things but all things I’m really excited for. Ideally a couple albums I’m really proud of, some collaborations that would make 16-year-old Alix’s head explode, definitely interested in some modeling, who knows. Getting older as a young woman in the industry is a thing that does kind of loom over you. The fear of having to reinvent yourself to stay relevant and being compared to every woman who came before you and will come after you gets really overwhelming to think about. At some point you keep trying to achieve so much and no one talks about what happens or where there is to go once you do achieve it.
You’re going on tour with Gracie Abrams, which is of course super exciting! How did that end up happening?
Kind of a mystery! Even my team didn’t know that I was really being considered for it until we got the email with the full offer. I was floored. Gracie and I have been Instagram buddies for a year or so; she followed me after I posted a cover of one of her songs in 2020, serendipitously right after I’d done my first ever interview with a lovely zine run by her cousin Abby. Very small world I’m very grateful to be a part of. I really feel like I’ve landed with some of the kindest people possible.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022? What’s going to bring or is currently bringing you joy?
I’ve been trying to journal a lot more, I have a big movie list I’m making my way through, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom and making a point of going on walks and going to flea markets and getting out of our routines. I’m excited to jump into some sessions after tour and keep developing my sound and expanding the creative world. The collaborative process is really inspiring to me, beyond co-writing; working with people on visuals and videos is one of my favorite parts about the whole thing and I’m so excited for more opportunities for that.