By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor
Alexa Wilding is a New York native with a story just like every New Yorker’s, in its uniqueness and wild, unpredictable twists. She started her solo career after having toured with such names like Au Revoir Simone and Ben Lee, following the footsteps of her idols, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell. When she took a few years off to raise her twins, she was hit with the news that one of her sons had cancer. After several years of treatment, he’s recovered and is currently healthy, but the experience left indelible marks on Wilding and her family. During her time spent with her son in isolation, she wrote her latest album, “Wolves,” and quickly recorded it and filled it out with a band. In the midst of stepping back into the world of the music business as the album prepares for its release, Wilding sat down with WSN to talk about what it’s like to be her, now, having been her, before. (This interview has been edited for brevity.)
WSN: So I had watched a few other interviews that you’ve done – after all the dreams you’ve had of becoming the next Joni Mitchell, how did it feel to have the NYT almost off-handedly call you the “neo-Stevie Nicks?”
Alexa Wilding: That kind of trumped everything. It was, you know, it’s a great line. It’s something to live up to. I mean, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, all those artists mean the world to me, more so than a lot of artists working today. With the exception of some of my friends who are musicians who I love. I definitely tend to listen to more older stuff. I remember I read recently an interview with Andy Samberg talking about his wife Joanna Newsom. He said something like, “oh, what kind of music do you listen to in your house?” And he said “oh, I’m married to someone who exclusively listens to 70’s vinyl, mostly female singer-songwriters.” And I was like, “yeah, that kind of sounds like my house too!” But Stevie Nicks is incredible, because she just kept going. And it’s such an inspiration… and she’s a real girlfriend, a real inspiration. And that’s something that kind of stuck with me, is that it’s really important to not only be stellar in your work but to be a stellar human as well. That’s something also to strive for.
WSN: I was going to ask along those lines, do you think the way you experience music or your personal taste in music has changed over the years at all?
AW: Yeah, definitely. I think becoming a mother was crucial in changing my relationship to music, simply because I wasn’t able to give it the time, especially the first year, that I had given it before. So when I was able to listen to music, go hear music, or work on music, it was such a luxury, whereas before, I sort of took it for granted. And then when my son was in treatment – he’s fine now – we spent a lot of time in isolation. And there was really not much to do except listen to music, and I found my relationship with it was really strengthened and my love of it was reaffirmed. I see music – listening to it and making it – as a method of survival, for sure. For me, at least.
WSN: What do you think has been the hardest lesson for you to learn – in your career, at least?
AW: Oh I’ve had lots of horrible, horrible lessons. [laughing] I think the thing that’s the hardest is that it’s hard sometimes to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Which is why I think taking a few years off to have my children and see one through a health crisis was – while I wish it hadn’t been under those circumstances – I think it was kind of crucial to me, because when I wasn’t able to do before was be with my music 100%. I really learned to have a natural joy from it, both listening and making music. And it’s really easy when you’re promoting yourself and trying to gain listeners and fans and press, it’s really hard to remember why you’re doing it in the first place sometimes. A lot of rejection… you know, I’m kind of an acquired taste, as is everyone. I don’t love every band out there. I think one of the hardest things is keeping that practice, almost like a spiritual practice. You have to put that time in every day. Because it brings you joy. So I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is just to keep going. And if you’re someone like me, it really isn’t a choice. You have to keep going. It’s just what you do.