Alex Clare Facebook

Alex Clare Facebook

British singer-songwriter Alex Clare has already experienced just about all the highs and lows the music business can throw at him.

Clare, who briefly dated Amy Winehouse in 2006, put out his debut album The Lateness of the Hour in July 2011 and he’s already been dropped and resigned by his record label.

The initial release of the Major Lazer-produced album on Island Universal was panned by the British radio industry, a deathblow to an emerging artist on a major label. According to Clare, he was ahead of the curve with his sound.

“The industry is ruled by a small group of people and there weren’t a lot of people [with my sound] at that point,” Clare tells Spinner. “But six months after my record came out, everyone was doing it!”

But when his song “Too Close” went viral after it was picked by Microsoft for their Internet Explorer 9 ad campaign suddenly Universal Republic, another arm of Universal Music, quickly welcomed him back in the fold.

Not being allowed to play certain shows on weekends for religious reasons — traditionally a working musician’s busiest days — hasn’t made Clare’s upward climb any easier either.

As an Orthodox Jew, Clare adheres to laws that prohibit work on the Sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. As much of an obstacle as that is, he also uses it as a spiritual lesson to get him through.

“It definitely bolsters you in hard times,” he says. “There’s the expression of ‘betochen,’ which means, trust or, or what ever happens, happens for the right reason — that’s a fundamental part of Judaism.

“No matter how bad things can seem, it’s just the way it has to be at that time. When you realize that, you take that understanding upon yourself. It becomes a lot easier to deal with the blows of life.”

Then there’s the whole thing about trying to figure out his place in the musical landscape. Nominally a “singer-songwriter,” Clare is maybe a bit too bass-heavy for the Starbucks scene typecasting that goes with that label. Getting people like Skream and Nadastrom to remix versions of “Too Close” doesn’t do anything to make his place any less blurry.

“Well I think that most people that write and play their own music are [singer-songwriters],” Clare says practically, before adding a cheeky jab. “You just have to open your paradigm a little bit. Some people assume that its just you up there with your guitar… and you might be wearing tweed.”

In fact, the album has as much to do with Clare’s childhood jazz and soul influence and a bit of a reggae vibe that you just can’t escape when recording it in Jamaica.

“I spent a lot of time with my dad listening to jazz records and going to jazz concerts,” he says. “For an English person, I think I have a weird vocal tone because I learned to sing through blues and soul records.”

Additionally, Clare would suggest his music’s anti-Brit-pop, a genre he was never a fan of.

“I didn’t like the tonality or the lyrical content,” he says. “I felt it was wasted in the Brit-pop music of the ’90s. It could have been a lot better. A lot of it sounded the same to me. If I wasn’t listening to soul, it was something rave-y or underground.”

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