"You've got to give a lot these days," exclaims Alex Band.
He certainly gives a lot and more on his solo debut, We've All Been There. In The Calling, Alex was the architect of massive anthems like "Wherever You Will Go" and "Adrienne." His solo material certainly preserves that epic feel, but there's a vital vulnerability that bleeds through each and every track on We've All Been There. In fact, each song comes to life vividly—from the vibrant lyrical poetry of "Love" to the nearly progressive bombast of album closer "Start Over Again." Alex bares his soul over 14 tracks, giving listeners more than most artists ever well. It's an emotional journey and a half, but it's still catchy as all hell at the right times…
Alex Band sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the journey that led to We've All Been There, his bracelet line and so much more.
The album feels like a cohesive vision from start-to-finish. There's one story weaving through it. Did you go into the studio with that idea or did it evolve once you began recording?
When I hear people say that, I'm like, "Thank the Lord!" [Laughs] This album was made over the course of four years. I co-produced it with six different producers. It has two different mixers, and it was mastered by two different people. I think the fact that it even sounds cohesive is a bit of a miracle. I wrote it all and produced it all, and that obviously makes it gel. The label I was with wanted me to work with Timbaland and Akon. They wanted urban rock. I kept fighting them though, and they'd let me do two of my own tracks here and there. It was this piece-by-piece making-of process that took forever. When it was finally done, Geffen went under, and my manager passed away. That was the beginning of 2008. Between those two things, I was like, "I need to make some serious changes here." That's when I decided to ask to be let go from Geffen. Luckily, they were willing to do that, but they weren't willing to give me my album. They wanted me to buy it. We had to negotiate, and I spent my own money to buy the album back. I then had to make my own record label here. I'm one-hundred percent fully invested in this album in every way possible. I believe in it.
The album covers a whole spectrum of emotions.
It's a pretty dynamic record. Over those five years , a lot happened. I'd just come from The Calling with all of this success, so I wrote songs like "Euphoria." Then we got into darker times. My wife at the time was dying. I'm associated with "Donate Life" because she needed a liver transplant. She wasn't going to get a liver in time, and there was a whole nightmare that went over two of those five years. I wrote "Love" while she was in the hospital. Then there was the struggle of getting out of the deal, and I added songs like "Leave," "Will Not Back Down" and "Holding On." I wrote "Only One" last year. It was on Melrose Place and Vampire Diaries so I was like, "Man, I've got to put this on the album." There were four new songs added. I got the other ten from the label.
Was making the song relatable a goal from the get-go?
Even though for me it was very particular, anyone can listen to the record, and the songs are generalized and relatable. That's why the first song I wrote for the album, "We've All Been There," is the title track. Everyone can relate to the album. We've all been there. We've all dealt with loss. We've all dealt with the frustration of business and work in our art and what we do. We've all dealt with people struggling with their health. That's the big concept of the record. I always knew "We've all Been There" would be the first track and "Start Over Again" would be the last track. I had the bookends; it was all about filling in the middle.
"Start Over Again" really shows everything you're capable of.
That's the long epic song! That was one of the whole orchestras we had at Capitol Records. I produced that song myself, so I'm really excited about it. The end turns into that Coldplay-ish jam. The lyrics at that point speak about how frustrated I was. I wrote that song when I was in the most frustrating spot of the last five years. Maybe there was a little bit of hope, but it was kind of dark. I think it's a beautiful song though. You get that anthemic, cinematic feeling to it. Part of it is the production, but part of it is the songwriting. Even if it's a dark subject, I end up writing a big melody, and it's uplifting. I think the record has that feel across the board.
If you were to compare this album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a tough one! It could be any movie that's about struggling to follow your dream and not giving up. There are so many moments where it seemed like I was going to have to start from scratch and not be let go from the label. I didn't even know if this would ever see the light of day. I just had to keep being persistent. I ended up following my dream to the point where I took a huge leap of faith, said "Fuck you to everybody," bought the album, made my own record label and so can you think of movie that matches that.
Sure, Rocky, why not? [Laughs] I did write a song called "Adrienne" on one of The Calling records…
What's up with your bracelet line, Black Star Bracelets?
I wanted to create a new form of distribution. I was going through all of the traditional channels, but I wanted to do something different as well. I hooked up with this bracelet company that's famous for the karma bead bracelets. My idea was to take that concept, create a line of bracelets called Black Star Bracelets, and instead of selling music, I'm selling a bracelet that comes with music. I'm the first artist, but we're going to do it with multiple artists. Right now, you can go into Whole Foods, Hallmark Stores, Gas Stations and you're going to see my bracelets. There's a different bracelet for each song on the record, and each bracelet has a tag on it that explains what it stands for and the meaning. There's a scratch code that gives you a free download of the song, ringtone, lyric sheet and a video. You get all of this content with the bracelet. I'm able to get my music, in some form, into stores that would never carry CDs, used to carry CDs and are now scared to or stores that really want to carry music but won't do it because of the times. It's doing amazingly. If you get six of the twelve, you get a bonus song. If you get all twelve bracelets and collect the whole album, you get two free bonus songs and become a V.I.P. member. As a V.I.P. member, you're allowed into any soundcheck of my show to meet me, and you're first in line at my show. You also get a personal five-minute long phone call from me. People freak out that I'm calling them [Laughs].