In what seems like a past life, the musician Abraham Alexander played college soccer at Fort Worth’s Texas Wesleyan University. But after an injury permanently sidelined him, Abraham—born in Greece and raised in Texas—started gigging with his guitar. Gradually, he started to make a name for himself in Fort Worth’s roots scene.
In 2017, he started collaborating with fellow Texan musical forces—Fort Worth resident Leon Bridges and Austin’s guitar maestro Gary Clark Jr.—for a cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio,” and he recently traveled to Los Angeles to collaborate with Bridges on a forthcoming project. Two years later, Alexander released his self-titled debut EP, bringing his eclectic sound on a tour that took him throughout Europe.
But finishing his own first full-length album has been a challenge. Alexander was scheduled to play three shows at SXSW—one at Malverde, another at the Luck Reunion, and one at the 04 Center—but the COVID-19 crisis led to all three being canceled. The pandemic also delayed his plans to finish the album, which is due out later this year.
Now, Alexander is in Fort Worth with his guitar, writing music and, like many musicians, wondering when he’ll be able to get back to the studio. Despite the called-off shows and delayed record release, he’s hopeful about what he can still accomplish in 2020 and beyond. We caught up with Alexander to see what he’s up to On Texas Time.
On his forthcoming album
It’s about how to let go. On the record, I talk about my birth mom, who was killed by a drunk driver nine months after we moved to Texas from Europe. I was eleven. As I was writing this album, I was thinking about the Latin word “alma mater,” which means “nourishing mother,” but is so often used to talk about school. Think about everything you learn from school: how to be a friend, how to stay out of trouble, how to get into trouble. I only spent ten years with her, but I learned so much from my mom, and the woman who would become my foster mother. I’m trying to create a way to share that with more people, and to help anyone who has ever lost something. How can I help them digest that? That’s the question at the center of a lot of this record.
On art as therapy
I was eleven when I moved from Greece to the States. I’m just now rediscovering moments from my past, like a memory of visiting the beach on my last week in Greece. Through music, I could recapture the smell, the things my mom was saying to me. I want this record to reflect that and to be a way for people to understand me more. I want to walk people through my life. It’s kind of like therapy for me. I’m reliving those things, and in order to move forward, I have to put them down.
On the similarities between Texas and Europe
I have an unusual family. I have two blood brothers, but since I have an adopted family, I am also one of ten siblings. We’re all about the big family dinners, where everyone sits down at a table to catch up and share a meal together. That’s one of the interesting things about parts of Europe, too. I’ve seen some of that Texas hospitality when I’ve toured. No matter how long you’ve been gone, you have a seat at the table and a warm meal to enjoy as you talk about what you’ve been doing recently.
On his unorthodox crime show inspiration
I’m a huge fan of crime TV shows like Narcos. I started watching it with my family before I went on tour, and they waited months for me to watch the next episode. I came back, and they were like, “All right, time for episode three.” Those boards they use on shows like that are a vivid, interesting art form. You track the bad guys, and if one thing doesn’t fit, you can go back to square one. In a way, they’re telling a story. So I started using one of those for my new album. It’s ten songs, and they’re all connected by my personal experiences. I’m always looking at the board, asking if this part of this song connects to the larger story.
On playing with Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.
I remember a video of Gary Clark playing Mahogany Sessions (a London-based YouTube series). Here was this African American guy holding a guitar, being passionate, telling his truth. And being from Fort Worth, I’ve grown close to Leon. In 2017, I joined him and his band in the studio with Jon Batiste for a cover of “Ohio,” and they blew me away. I see these two young black musicians connecting with themselves and the world, and it shows me what the future could look like. I’ve gotten to play with them more often recently. I can’t say much about that yet, but look out for it.
On being kind to yourself
As creatives, we can be downright cruel to ourselves. Instead of saying “Shit, five people showed up,” I say, “shit, five people showed up! They took the time to come see what I’m doing!” Whenever I start being cruel to myself, or comparing myself to other people, I remind myself that I’m on my own path, and I focus on what I need. Right now, I need more isolation. It’s unfortunate that we’re all being forced into isolation right now, but maybe I can turn this into a positive. I can focus on my work, I can re-center myself and, most of all, I can be kind. A lot of the time, that just means saying what I need to say. Whenever I’m writing, it’s easy to get caught up in finding a different way to say what’s in my heart. Sometimes the best way to say what you’re feeling is to just say it.