To accompany this months round up of Dam Fine Affair, we thought it would be appropriate to make Alex Roberts this month's featured artist. Alex Roberts was solely responsible for booking each band that played. With a wealth of experience as a musician, Alex understood better than anyone what music would best suite the festival. Amongst the 13 acts, Alex also included himself for an early evening performance. His engaging character and expressive songs lured people out of the sun and into the marquee where they could enjoy his insightful lyrics and masterful musicianship. Alex included stories to accompany his songs which gave us a greater understanding of his personal connection with each song. Alex seems very comfortable on stage and his storytelling was an integral part of his performance. I asked Alex how he developed his stagecraft?
“I learnt the hard way, doing lots of gigs where I was dying on my feet, trying to maintain an interaction with the audience. I learnt you can't just be a good musician you need to be a good performer. A gig is reciprocal You have to engage people, it doesn’t matter if I’m having the time of my life playing guitar, if no one else cares about it, it's just narcissism”.
Do you have venues and audiences that you prefer?
“I just want to play to a crowd who are on the same level as me. Most the time this is small venues like art centres and small festivals just like this one (Dam Fine Fest). It's about striking a balance between what you do as a creative being and what you do as part of a community. Because that’s what a gig is, it’s a moment when everyone in the venue become part of the same community. So it is very important to gauge what they want".
Alex has travelled extensively so I wondered how audiences differ thorough the world and what has been his favourite place to perform.
“The one thing I have found is that people all over the world are all the same. Everyone wants to have a good time, everyone wants to feel part of their community. The best place I have played was on a train from Delhi to Mumbai in India. When travelling with a guitar people will always want you to play it. I started my journey in a relatively empty carriage, but after a few changeovers the carriage became quite full. I spent the best part of the journey playing ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson, because that was all they wanted to hear”.
Speaking with Alex it became obvious that despite being an exceptional guitarist he considers himself to be a songwriter foremost. I wanted to know why he was so passionate about lyrics.
“Stories are really important, humans have always told stories. Before people could write their stories down they would sing them to make them more memorable. That is why folk songs will often have a moral tale or some kind of lesson which is accompanied by a catchy melody. This is why I think words are so important, but music is important also, I like to think of music as a vehicle for the lyrics. The better the vehicle the more enjoyable the journey”.
Alex explained why traditional folk songs often have morals and lessons, but does he have a message that he is trying to express in his songs.
“Yes, but I don't know what it is yet. My feeling is that every time I sit down to write a song I'm getting closer to my internal truth. Maybe I'll never get it, but with every song I get one step closer to it. I sincerely believe that one's internal truth is the most powerful thing you'll ever find. So song writing is very important to me”.
Two months ago we featured Hip Route, who highly praised Anderwood Weissenborn guitars. Alex Roberts also plays an Anderwood Guitar. I asked how he discovered these guitars and why they are so popular?
“I had a gig in Christchurch a couple of years ago, this bearded guy walks in wearing a beanie hat with a guitar on his back. During my break he came over to say he liked my music, knowing I played lap steel he handed me his guitar and asked me to play it. I tried it out and am still playing today, they are great guitars. Anderwood guitars give you a lot of bang for your buck, you really won't find a better guitar”.