In 2017 Portland-based singer-songwriter Alexandra Savior did what most musicians can only dream of: released a debut album co-written with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, placing her as one of the coolest and most in-demand new voices in indie.
The road since then, though, has been less straightforward. Dropped by her label and management and having to tackle a gutting heartbreak, Savior’s new album ‘The Archer’ is the result of a complete life rebuild. Keeping the deeply cinematic quality of her debut, it sees her going it alone in more ways than one.
Released on Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records and produced by Kevin Morby collaborator Sam Cohen, ‘The Archer’ is an album about starting again from scratch, and the enlightenment that comes with it. The NME review said it possesses “vivid coolness and cinematic melancholia,” adding: “The ascendent American indie star’s auteurist vision comes to life across this B-movie-inspired artistic triumph.” Quite.
We spoke to Alexandra Savior about the creation of ‘The Archer’.
How long has ‘The Archer’ been in the works?
“I finished it in December 2018 but I’ve been writing it since 2016. It took me about nine months to feel like I had to let it go, but by the time it was finished I was pretty ready to move on from it.”
So you’ve been writing it since before your first album ‘Belladonna Of Sadness’?
“Yeah, because that record actually came out two years after I recorded it. It take takes a lot longer than you’d like it to, I think, to release music. I’m just waiting for things to move forward.”
Do you feel like very different person to the one that made the new record or do you still connect pretty strongly to it?
“Now that I’m writing more music, it feels like I’m transitioning into something else. But I still feel personally attached to the songs especially because I haven’t really performed that much. So, I still feel like that person.”
It’s quite a unique position you were in with your first album, being an album of co-writes with Alex Turner – did writing this one alone change your outlook?
“I was dropped from my label and my manager quit, which changed my outlook on its own. I think that made me feel insecure about my writing, because I had been writing all of it on my own. But it comes naturally and I was doing it before [‘Belladonna Of Sadness’], and I’m going to do it for probably my whole life. I’ll always write songs.”
Your new album is largely about heartbreak – did you write the album in order to try and process the feelings or was it more of a reflection?
“I think it was in tandem. It was a way for me to process subconsciously. I think after the fact, I realised what I was feeling or thinking at the time. In hindsight, I realised that I was a lot more aware of my situation than I thought I was. Doing this makes me feel more moulded as a person.”
When you’re a relatively new singer and you write a first album with someone like Alex Turner, that’s going to define a lot of the conversation around you as an artist. Are you itching to show people the next step – which is just you?
“Yeah, completely. I feel like it’ll be a relief, because although it was a great experience [writing with Turner], it’s been a little bit of a weight on my back to carry that name, you know? It’ll be nice to feel free from that.”
You’ve said that each song on the album represents a different emotional state. Was it easy to dissect something so personal?
“I think I was pretty aware that I was going through these stages of grief and trying to understand it all. I was going through a lot of rejection, and I think I understood the process of where my emotional state was, while I was writing those songs, so it was easy for me after each stage to know what that meant, and what those songs meant.”
Were those feelings of rejection looking at the professional side well as like the personal side?
“Yeah. I was living with my mum and going to community college and thought that I was never going to make another record again. I was dropped about a year after the first [album] came out. I wrote the song ‘The Archer’ on Christmas 2016.”
You said you want to be writing songs for the rest of your life – did you ever think there’d been too much rejection, and that you’d just stop being a musician?
“I was pretty determined to make sure this record came out, because I didn’t want to fall into the shadow of the music industry. I was hustling. I think whether or not I am a public artist, I’ll write songs just for personal experience and to exercise my creativity.”
Presumably, when you were writing most of this album, you didn’t have a label. Did you feel like you were writing differently because you didn’t know how it would be released?
“I think it was probably a good thing, because I wasn’t thinking about whether or not it would be acceptable, especially because I was on a major label, so a lot of the songs that I was writing before I got dropped, I was intentionally trying to impress this label that I wasn’t really suited for. When I had that freedom, it felt like I’d write the songs and they would just go into the abyss because there was nobody for me to send them to and and nobody was listening at all. But then I think that’s probably what made them a lot more personal than my last record.”