Alexis Harte is a prolific musician who gained notoriety for his extensive work in film and television including Google Spotlight Stories’ Oscar-nominated animation VR short Pearl, for which he created original lyrics and music.
Alexis most recently wrote “The Night of My Death,” a song about the gently broaching subject of death and self-reflection on how we prioritize our lives. Through a rhythmic acoustic guitar and pop beat, the song asks if you knew the moment of your death and could freeze it, what would you do with your last evening? Filmed with a one-man crew as well as using the natural light and surroundings of Tilden Regional Park, the music video for the song features Alexis in a state of solitude to set an intimate and subjective tone.
Check out our chat with Alexis below, where he talks about his latest single, and answers some fun rapid fire questions for us.
Valarie – Welcome, Alexis Harte. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Alexis Harte – Ahem…The pleasure is all mine!
Valarie – As a musician, composer, singer and songwriter born and raised in California, you’ve grown up with different genres of music that developed this deep seeded genuine love and has grown into not only a way of life but also a fruitful career. Would you say that music has always been your calling?
Alexis Harte – Music has always been front and center in my life, but I’m not one of those who knew from day one that they had to be professional. I dabbled for a long time and pursued other career interests, mainly environmental work. But, I’ve always been drawn to music. I mainly thank my folks and my brother for that. They had the staples of 60s and 70s folk rock: Bob Dylan, The Band, Kate Wolf, John Prine, The Beatles, Carole King, Cat Stevens, etc. My older brother brought home the Zeppelin and Stones LPs, as well as Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament, Brothers Johnson, and a bunch of other cool late 70s and early 80s stuff. It’s all living in me somewhere.
Valarie – You’ve had a brilliant success story with your music played on anything from TV series, film and the Oscar nominated the virtual reality animated short ‘Pearl’ for Google Spotlight Stories. Where do you draw inspiration from, to capture such vibrant storytelling?
Alexis Harte – Well, Thanks!
As a songwriter and a father to a musical daughter, Pearl was a perfect gig for me. I told myself if I couldn’t write a decent song about a father and daughter living in their car pursuing their dreams, I would need to shutter the songwriting shop and go to dental school or something.
So, in the best cases, the scoring and songwriting of a scene draws on past experience. And when it doesn’t, you have to be an actor and worm your way into the part.
Valarie – With your latest single “The Night of My Death”, you’re bringing the emotions and solitude of what our deaths would be like. What was the thought process like from considering the potential emotional impact?
Alexis Harte – Yes, I’m turning 50 this year, so “The Night of My Death” feels a bit like taking inventory of life, so far, and trying to get my priorities together. In that way, it was cathartic to write, but it also dredged up a lot of difficult issues related to loss. It’s little early to tell, but people do seem to be reacting to it in pretty different but generally strong ways, which is actually really reassuring to me. Some people probably just love Jon Evans’s blistering guitar solo!
Valarie – 2018 is gearing up to be massive for you with new music coming out plus you’ve just released a new EP titled “Briefcase”, which is out now. It’s been a few years since your last release (7 to date). What was the process like since all of your releases are like an “in the moment” time capsule and can we be delighted with more in the future?
Alexis Harte – I put out “A Perfect Waste of Time” in 2016. So, two years to produce the five songs that make up “Briefcase” is a pretty languid pace, isn’t it? I’ve been busy with Pollen Music Group projects and the guys thankfully gave me some time off to let me scratch the itch that became “Briefcase.”
I did not really sit down and write these 5 songs sequentially. Thematically and lyrically. they were sculpted pretty slowly and more like microphones left on in five different rooms of my house, 24/7, over the winter, catching the conversations, arguments, jokes, hand-wringing, rough-housing, etc. The “songwriting” was more about editing this live feed down to the typical song format, with verses and choruses as needed. The songs are kind of three-minute mini-plays from scenes taken from my life over the last year.
Valarie – You’re part of the Pollen Music Group. What has that been like and are there any surprises that we can look forward to?
Alexis Harte – I am incredibly lucky to have found my Pollen partners: Scot Stafford, JJ Wiesler, and Dave Lebolt (who left a few years back). In some ways, Pollen is like a great band, but without the rigors of road life or big egos. We all bring our own strengths to the table and have built something pretty special over the last eight years.
Valarie – You’re no stranger to performing live. Are there any shows, tour, etc. coming up?
Alexis Harte – Yes! I am doing a really fun show in Berkeley on July 11. I was part of this cool project, where I had exactly a week to write and record a song, sign the guitar, and send it along to the next songwriter! On July 11, at the Back Room, the latest batch of songwriters—me included—will be doing sets. Come and say hi!
Valarie – Any plans you’d like to share?
Alexis Harte – Starting in the Fall, Pollen Music Group will be scoring a really fun animated series. Can’t say more now, but please like our FB Page to get updates. I’m also liking the idea of releasing singles on a regular basis, as opposed to collecting them for an EP or album, so there might be something new coming along soon on the heels of “Briefcase.” For that, keep up to date here.
Valarie – Quick rapid fire questions before we go, which of the following would you choose? Sour Cream or cottage cheese?
Alexis Harte – Sour Cream
Valarie – Surf ‘n’ turf or vegetarian?
Alexis Harte – Surf ‘n’ turf
Valarie – Go out exploring or staying at home?
Alexis Harte – Go out exploring
Valarie – Bike or hike?
Alexis Harte – LOVE BOTH
Valarie – Coffee or tea?
Alexis Harte – Coffee
Valarie – Behind the scenes or front row?
Alexis Harte – Behind the scenes
Valarie – Late nights or early mornings?
Alexis Harte – Late nights
Valarie – Engineering or songwriting?
Alexis Harte – Songwriting
Valarie – Analog or digital?
Alexis Harte – Analog
Valarie – With such a huge list of favorites growing up, whom have you been a fan of (past or present)?
Alexis Harte – Hmmm. Tough one! Mentioned some of the past stuff above, so here are three current acts that I like and admire in different ways:
Elbow, Funky Negrito, Twenty One Pilots
Valarie – Thanks, Alexis Harte, for taking time out to talk to us here at T.H.E – Music Essentials. It’s been an absolute pleasure! Best of luck!
Alexis Harte – Indeed! You guys are doing awesome and vital work and I really appreciate you spilling some virtual ink on my new project!