Alex Dezen made his first impression on the music industry years ago when he stepped out with his notorious outfit the Damnwells. Now that that sixteen year phase of his life has found its close, he has been working on his solo music. In fact his second album, II – what is expected to be an extraordinary work – is due out February 3rd. But while we wait through the holiday season to get our ears on it, we’ve actually got the exclusive premiere of his new track “New York To Paradise”.
The piano and vocals begin the song at the same time, a sense of connection between the two is palpable. As Dezen sings lovingly of his mother, he highlights the beauty of New York City and the magic that people envision there. The song itself is mid-tempo, with a slight Billy Joel feel to it. (And we’re not just saying that because of the singular piano with which he sings.) It’s an enchanting song, and if it’s a precursor for what to expect from II, we are not sure how we will get through the holidays without it.
What was the inspiration for the song? Is there a story behind it? When did you write it? What was the writing process like?
It had been a tough year, with both the death of my stepfather and biological father. Let me start there. As a songwriter we are expected to write about the wrenching experience of loss, and I feel like I’ve been doing that almost without pause for my entire career, so I wanted to find some bit of hope in all this. I thought about my mother. I had to read the eulogy at my stepfather’s funeral, and like any eulogy, it was filled with all the things I never got to say to him. So, for this song, I wanted to write a kind of eulogy to my mother, a eulogy for the living.
Did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like before you recorded it? How was it the same/different from your original thoughts about the song — vibe-wise, sound-wise, instrumentation-wise?
Since the chorus of song is fairly complicated, I wanted to make the instrumentation simple but affecting. I didn’t want any purely rhythmic elements. The melody would provide whatever rhythmic elements were inherent. But I didn’t want an “acoustic” song. I wanted something a little challenging to listen to, career be damned!
Any great/funny stories about the recording of the song you can share?
When I was doing the string arrangements, I locked myself in my studio for 2 days. I didn’t sleep much, working almost around the clock, chasing the muse around. At the end of the second day, when I was just about finished, my neighbor’s kid knocked on the door (he’s about 3). Upon seeing me in a seriously disheveled state, he immediately started crying. I needed a shower. I guess that’s a funny story.
How do you feel the song came out? Are you happy with the results?
Sure! I don’t think I’m ever totally happy with the results of a song or album. But I’m more happy with this stuff than I have been with anything in the past, both Damnwells or otherwise, so yes. I’m happy. As much as that’s possible.
How do you hope listeners feel or what would you like them to take away from it when they listen to the song?
I don’t think any self-respecting songwriter can ask their listener to respond a certain way. I just hope they hear it. It’s hard to hear a song like this in a world like ours. I hope people can still find the time for songs.
What else is coming down the pike for Alex Dezen?
Nearly done with the third solo record before the second one comes out. People can expect a lot of stuff. I’m writing for my life. I’m just getting started.
II is due out February 3rd via Poor Man Records. Keep up with Alex at AlexDezen.com.