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December 08, 2023 6 min read

“the music you release [is] a time capsule of your life at that point”


The Canadian pop sensation is getting candid around mental health on new EP, "if you only knew". 




“Hey y’all!” exclaims 24-year-old Alexander Stewart as he walks into intimate London music venue, The Lower Third, with a huge smile on his face. “I tried to dress very London today,” he says, chuckling while sporting a smart, grey cable knit paired with dark slacks. It’s late afternoon when we chat and later that night, he’ll play a show to his eager contingent of fans in the British capital.

With his impressive five million monthly Spotify listeners, 300+ million global streams, and now a new EP “if you only knew”, out today – it’s understandable that Stewart’s raw emotions and angelic voice have touched fans in several corners of the world. “I've poured so much emotion into this EP,” he says. “It's turned into such a beautiful snapshot of this time in my life, and I can't wait for my fans to hear these stories.”

In a pre-performance chat with Man About Town, Stewart dissects the project, shares his thoughts on touring and the importance of being earnest in his music...



Hi Alexander! Congratulations on “if you only knew”! Can you talk us through what you set out to document with this project?
It's about mental health and really dark feelings. I think I got to the point this year where I almost felt I wasn't ready to talk about it all. However, then I got to a point where I almost felt ashamed that I hadn't talked about this major part of my life that I knew could potentially help other people. I've definitely gotten more comfortable, and I just want to express different parts of myself and how I feel.


What is your favourite lyric on the new EP and why?
The whole EP? That is hard! I would have to say “If you only knew”... but interestingly enough, when I wrote that song and I listened to it, I felt like it wasn’t honest enough. So I went back into the studio and rewrote the verses to make them even more gut-wrenching. I think my favourite lyrics are from that song and, specifically, the first two lines of the song: “I've been trying so hard to survive. Sometimes I think I want to die.” They are the polar opposites of each other, and it just says it exactly like it is. What a really cool way to start a song, right? Just talking about it and ripping the bandage off.


Another track, “october”, broke my heart too. How did you find yourself putting this song together – was it all at once or over the months?
It is actually really interesting because on the EP, it sounds like the most playful song of the bunch. Saying that, it's really interesting because people probably won't know that I'm not even talking about this October, but the song is actually about last October. The idea came about a long time ago, and it is about this long-delayed heartbreak where lots of realisations were happening. This is the year where I wanted to talk about it, but in a different way. So, it is about a timeline of heartbreak, but in a different way. It took a minute to come together, but with time, there is usually some sort of clarity and perspective.


You have taken us on a beautiful, relatable journey from your older material to songs like “october” and "blame's on me" released in the last year. As an artist, how do you think you’ve changed since your earlier tracks?
Though I say this with hesitancy, I think the main factor here is honesty. Five years ago, the music I put out was still very honest, but who I was back then was much more sheltered. Since this newer music started with “blame’s on me” about a year ago, I have felt like this music is almost a rebirth of my career because it is the first song where I really took some major accountability for things that had happened in my life. Maybe in the past, I sometimes played the victim in my music. So, this was a turning point for me in which I truly understood I was also at fault, and I actually shared that fault. That felt so good! Putting something like that out into the world and being so honest meant the feedback came back positive. It has all really shaped my songwriting over the last year, and it’s pushed me to try to incorporate more honesty into my work.



And how are you feeling lately? You just toured with Charlie Puth and Eric Nam. What is your favourite thing about touring?
I am feeling great! So, I've literally spent the last six months of my life touring, which has been my dream since I was a little kid. It has been wild and very fun. My favourite part about it is that it’s so different from opening your own actual show. When I open for Charlie and Eric, not everyone knows the words, and it's a totally different experience. It is still so special though, and in the back of my mind I find myself thinking, ‘How can I win these people over?’ (Laughs). It's honestly just so fun, especially when you go from city to city and every crowd is so different. Sometimes in some cities, you get much quieter crowds who are just listening, and in others, you get super-amped crowds that are going crazy!


When you put your music out there, do you feel like it is less personal to you, or do you feel more attached to it because you’ve vocalised it?
Well, I think that is the cool thing about music. You look back, read, and/or you listen to the music you release, and it's a time capsule of your life at that point. Saying that, I'll always relate to it in that sense. However, you do start to relate to it differently as time goes on because you mature and grow and have different relationships and different paths. So, yes, I think when I put these songs out there, at the moment I put them out, I am so attached to them and they mean exactly what they mean to me. Then, as a listener, it means whatever it means to them. It all comes down to interpretation and that is completely key in art.


Your music sort of plays on a lot of motifs, such as love and loss. Are there other themes you want to explore?
Totally. I think over the last year, most of my music was songs about relationships which obviously is a very key part of my life. However, I think for me, it is more about exploring how I feel, and the new EP has songs that are about more than just relationships.


What do you do when you feel stuck?
I’m honestly kind of a believer that if it's not just naturally happening, don't force it.
There's been so many times that I've been in a session in the studio or just writing a song where I'm kind of sitting there and it's just not happening. And I'm like, maybe it's just not meant to be at that moment. Then, I’ll go back to it a few days later and then it will be written in like two minutes. I think that's probably when the best kind of art gets created, because it is authentic and not forced.

What is the best advice you have received this year?
It's actually something that my manager said to me. Since I’ve been travelling a lot and haven’t been home, I started to feel like I was losing a lot of friends. It was hard and it sucked because I hadn’t experienced that before. When I was distraught over it, my manager said to me: ‘You have to remember that some people are just meant to be in your life only for a season and that is okay.’ It definitely helped me cope. I like to look at life with the view that everything happens for a reason. So, I can look at some of these relationships and those friendships and realise that it is true; some are just meant for that one season, but they are all totally different, teach you something and are there for different reasons.

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