Alexx Mack lives like she's famous--brash, wild and free. She's a little bit bad, too--"champagne me, baby, all night, I'm crazy," she pounds on the opener to 2015's stellar Like We're Famous. These days, however, she's far more self-aware, less provocative and the most honest she's ever been in her life. On her new song, a moody escape "Whatever I Want," she is vulnerable, raw and broken. "My heart's so right; my head's so wrong. They fight inside of me. When nothing works except the hurt, you feel so good to me," she weeps, desperately clutching to the restlessness itching under her skin.
While "Whatever I Want" kickstarts a new era in her life and career, it may or may not lead to a full-length album in the coming year. "I went through a lot of really, really, really tumultuous heartbreaks this past year, and I really realized that there was nothing out there that showed my true vulnerability. Because I really am, I'm a fucking sensitive ass person," she shares exclusively with Popdust over a phone call recently. "I'm very strong, but I'm also very vulnerable, and the world has gotten to see so much strength from me. I'm good no matter what, I'm good no matter what – and although most of that is true, there is a part of me where I'm like 'fuck, my heartbreak.' I wrote this song, and I remember writing it and leaving the studio at eleven o'clock at night and driving to my manager's house and playing him the demo and being like, 'this is me.' Not saying everything else wasn't me, but this is the most honest I've ever been."
"I'll be the one to touch you in your dreams, and I'll be the one to haunt you when you speak," she later charges on the chorus, her feathery vocal brushing softly against the tropical-house production. The vulnerability is rich in her voice, intensifying the sorrow--despite the shimmering backing music. "Whatever I Want" is only scratching the surface; that same vulnerability appears to be one of the album's core themes. "With the EP, it was all about strength, because that's where I was in my life. I was finding this newfound strength. Now I'm finding a strength in vulnerability and being completely honest, and I'm not going to lie, a lot of these songs are influenced by the things that happened to me this year, to where it felt like I had no strength left in me," she says. "I'm really excited to be able to tell people, or show people you can be strong, but you can have these moments. I'm not saying that you have to be a bad bitch all the time. I feel these things too."
The anticipated music video is expected to drop later this month or early December. She teases the concept, "It's really raw and gritty, and I was lucky enough to film the video with – the actor in it is actually a friend of mine, so it was very real. It really captured the highs and lows of a relationship. It's really intimate; there's a lot of – not physical violence, but there's a lot of emotion and anger, and a lot of love. I'm most proud of it, out of anything I've ever done, and I really hope people can feel from it what we put into it."
In the age of monstrous streaming, Mack eyes a string of singles before cementing a definite project. "I think I'm gonna release another song when I feel like it's right. I plan on releasing another song in January that I'm really excited about, and then I'll take it from there. I don't wanna have some crazy glam package plan again, because I really just want it to be so authentic to where I am each month, and be able to share it with the people who listen to my music, what I wanna share with them in that moment."
With a whirlwind of buzz surrounding the upstart, she relishes in "being able to do what I want, when I want" as an independent artist. She has not been courted by any major labels, but that doesn't stop her from becoming the new princess of pop; her destiny is etched into her music. In our exclusive Q&A, she reflects on a pivotal songwriting moment, being so personal in her music and lessons she learned about herself. Take a look:
Did you find it easy to open yourself up in such a vulnerable way in your songwriting?
Ha! No. It was really difficult for me for a minute, because I remember after I did the EP, I thought, "you know, I need to write more songs that are in this vein, and blah blah blah." And I was just writing stuff and it just wasn't right, it just didn't feel right. And then, it all started pretty much with "Whatever I Want," because I wrote that when that happened, and then all of a sudden I was like, "I need to get this out. There's so much in me; I need to get it out." I started to do that. It's easier now, but at first it was very difficult.
You talk about Like We're Famous; would you do anything different with that EP?
I believe everything happens for a reason, and every song that's on there is on there for a reason, so no I wouldn't. I'm very proud of those songs; I'm very proud of all the hard work that everyone who were a part of it put into it. I'm proud of all the hard work I put into it. It's just a natural process of growth I think. I'm not the same person I was when I wrote those songs, pretty much two years ago. Because although that came out a year ago, I wrote "Bad" like… two years ago, you know what I mean? I've just grown.
Do you find this industry discouraging?
No. I wouldn't do anything other than what I do. Sometimes people say nice things, sometimes people say mean things, some people don't like you, some people do. I don't do what I do for anyone else, I just do it for myself. I love it.
What kind of styles or other themes will you be exploring in your new music?
Honestly, the biggest thing for me, stylistically, that changed has been a little more current. It's less of a nostalgia, more of a modern sound. But honestly the biggest difference for me was to make sure that everything I did was honest. Every melody, every lyric, everything was honest to what I want that song to realize.
In terms of songwriting, what has been your favorite session from this new batch of songs?
Oooh. I don't know if there have necessarily been favorite sessions, but I can tell you that the next song that's gonna come out, it started with me. I was losing my mind, I had this romantic situation that was great at first and blew up in my face, whatever, and I sat in my apartment and I legitimately felt like I was losing my mind and I grabbed my guitar. This was when I was really really really flooring the vulnerability aspect. I grabbed my guitar and it had been so long since I had written a song outside of a session, and all of this stuff just came pouring out, and I was like "where did that come from? I would have never said that if I'd been surrounded by another person, or two other people. I don't know where that came from." And that was probably my favorite moment. This is the most honest I've been, sitting with myself right here, doing this.
What are some things that you've learned about yourself as a person?
I have learned that I am a walking contradiction. I think that's what I've learned. I want stability, but I don't. I want love but I don't. I don't know, that's pretty much what the last year has been about, it's been about me trying to figure out – because if you think about it music is completely fuelled by the most common topic: love. And I feel like I really needed to learn to love myself, and learn to love this and accept this, and blah blah blah. But the biggest thing I learned is I'm a walking contradiction, and I'm okay with that.
What are some other songs that you can discuss or tease a little bit?
Just because I'm not sure what I'm going to necessarily be releasing, and when, the next song I know that is coming out – one of the lyrics is "the hardest part about this is I'll die a romantic," and that's honestly just fuelled from the fact that no matter what happens I know I'll always believe in that fairytale love, even if I'll never achieve it. The song is just honest, so honest about my life and about wanting someone to walk away, because I don't want to be – I wanna fly, but not wanting someone to walk away because I'm addicted. If that makes sense. So I'm really excited about the next song, I really really really am. And then after that, there's one that we're currently working on and it's a real romance story that happened to me over the past year and a half. But I'm excited about that one too. I really want to share these experiences with people.
Is there an element of concern with revealing such personal stories about another person?
I don't think it matters, because for me I'm not naming them, I'm not naming specific things that happened. It's more like I'm talking about my feelings, and who I am. On top of it, I read this quote that said something along the lines of "if it happened to you, you can tell the story of how it happened to you. It's your story to tell if it's happened to you." These are my stories as well because they all happened to me.
"Whatever I Want" is out now on iTunes.
Take a listen to "Whatever I Want" below:
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