Alex Dezen is the founder and leading songwriter for the Brooklyn-based band, The Damnwells, but he somehow managers to pursue a solo career outside of the band that is just as notable. Alex’s self-titled solo album was released in 2016 along with his idea to host a live stream event across Nashville where he performed his entire catalog in eight to nine hours. The event held the lengthy title,
“Live from Nashville: The Alex Dezen Solo Album Release Extravaganza! Tune in as Alex Performs His Entire Catalog in the 8- (or Possibly 9) Hour Internet Concert Spectacular!” And was a day-long process that jumped to and from various Nashville-based venues. The catalog he played for this event two weeks ago [February 11, 2016] encompassed not only his solo music, but everything he composed for the Damnwells as well, rolling out an extensive set list that spanned 15-years in the making.
I had the opportunity to chat with Alex post-event and get his feedback on not only the idea behind it, but the overall experience (even though he did a pretty good job of keeping things up to date on his Twitter) – and if he would ever do it again.
“I was living in Brooklyn around 2000,” Alex started from the beginning and how the Damnwells formed. “Ted and I had just left college. We found Steve – drums -through a mutual friend. He had a rehearsal space. It was freezing in the winter and brutally hot in the summer, but it was free,” he recounted. “We saw Dave playing in another band. He was great. I offered him $20 to join the band. He never really officially accepted. It’s all chronicled in a documentary made about us in 2006 called, Golden Days.”
The Damnwells have an eclectic sound that brings them a collection of fans from all walks of life. There music is reminiscent of Ryan Adams, U2 & The Dave Matthew’s Band with amazing lyrical content and simplistically complicated instrumentals.
“Rock and roll and folk and soul?” Alex surmised when trying to pinpoint the genre of their music. “It’s really hard to categorize your own band’s music. It’s like asking me to describe what I look like. I’m either going to disparage myself or avoid the question all together,” he surmised.
In my experience, most artists actually find it easy to fit their music in to a category they admire or model their sound after, but I think it’s different for Alex because he wears so many hats and also because, The Damnwells are quite unique and don’t really align with one genre or another. Every album is different. Every song has a mind of it’s own. Alex unknowingly agreed with that statement when he talked about his musical and personal influences:
“All kinds of people and things. I love Dylan. I love Tinariwen. I love Black Flag. I love birds. The animals that fly. I also love The Byrds, too. I like all kinds of stuff,” he summed up at rapid speed.
But as I mentioned before, Alex is just as much a solo artist and writer as he is a founder and frontman of a four-piece band. I wanted to know how his solo project took shape –
“It just came out in a rush. I wrote the first lyric on Jan 1st and finished the entire record on Feb 18th.”
Alex is a many of few words who writes songs of many. I think his ability to cut to the chase in conversations is the reason his songwriting is so distinct. His live stream showcased that in a way many writers not have the chance to and he said the idea came about just as quickly as his solo career.
“I read this interview with Bob Schneider where he talked about doing this 12-hour concert, and I thought that would be an amazing challenge. I don’t have 12 hours of original material I’ve released, but I do have 8!” He laughed.
As for the reaction of his audience throughout the process of the streaming –
“I think I got the reaction I was hoping for! But I’m not sure I was looking for any reaction. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off.”
I asked Alex if he had a favorite moment from the entirety of the day…
“Yes. When it was over,” he confessed. “I did almost start crying in the middle of ‘She’s the NYC Skyline,’ a song The Damnwells released on UK EP. It brought me back to a place, I suppose. That and I had been singing for about 4 hours at that point so I was very hungry.”
As for the collection of music that Alex feels is the pinnacle of his career thus far and meant the most to him to perform in the live stream, he says his new one takes the crown. His latest solo project has a different feel than the California-windows-down vibe that his music with the Damnwells possesses. He tells stories that have much more personal connotations and there is a certain grit that evokes a lot of emotion for the listener. Find out for yourself: