[Q&A] ‘Cry Again’ Is Stefan Alexander’s Most Vulnerable Work Yet

Photo Credit: Benjy Bradshaw (@benjybradshaw)

By Alissa Arunarsirakul // April 29, 2020

Stefan Alexander’s life hasn’t been easy by any means, but this NYC artist continues to triumph even when all odds are against him. Having developed tendinitis years ago and still dealing with the long lasting pain today, Alexander truly can’t be stopped as he delivers his stellar new EP, Cry Again. The rising indie pop artist’s latest effort spans across five years of highs and lows as we learn about Alexander’s physical and emotional struggles throughout his life journey.

On Cry Again, Stefan Alexander reflected,

“I’ve consistently found that the times I can make myself vulnerable are the moments I feel most connected to other people, and that’s really what the EP is all about. I always push myself to tackle new songwriting topics, and for this EP, it was all about synthesizing thoughts I’ve been having for a long time.”

To celebrate the release of his new music, we recently chatted with Stefan Alexander about queer artists, modern dating, and of course, Cry Again.

HH: How has your identity as a queer artist affected your experience with the music industry? Who are some of your favorite queer artists?

SA: My identity as a queer artist has changed over time. I used to say, “I’m just an artist that happens to be gay,” but now I fully embrace it and have brought that identity to the front of my work. While it’s certainly easier to be an out queer artist than it ever has been before, I think there’s still an element of novelty and uncharted territory. That means we as queer artists have room to explore and find new modes of expression. As for my favorite queer artists, I love Troye Sivan, Wrabel, MNEK, Kaytranada, and many more!

HH: Your thrilling new EP, Cry Again is finally out for the world to indulge in. How does it feel to know that months of your hard work are finally being absorbed by people?

SA: I’m so excited to have the Cry Again EP out in the world! It actually took five years to make, so the EP kind of feels like it’s bringing a long and difficult period in my life to an end. The response has been amazing, hearing how people relate or are inspired by the songs. One of the best responses I get to my music is when someone opens up and tells me their story, what they may be dealing with, and how that connects to my lyrics. That’s the most gratifying!

HH: Songs like “Signs” and “Photograph” have you rejecting modern dating culture and recognizing that you deserve more than most are willing to give. What qualities do you first look for in an ideal relationship or partner?

SA: Modern dating can be difficult in our fast-paced and often flaky culture. Still, I keep going on dates and have had many lovely short-term relationships. The most important qualities that I look for are communication and compatible senses of humor. I’ve pushed myself to broaden my sense of attraction, which has certainly been influenced by conventional beauty standards that leave a lot of folks out. It’s important for me to combat those biases within myself, as well as on a societal scale.

HH: The emotional title track, “Cry Again” was written shortly after a time of pain and tragedy. Now that you’re more removed from that situation, how do you feel when you listen to that specific song?

SA: I write songs to process moments in my life. “Cry Again” was written during my recovery from a long-term illness that took away my ability to sing or play music for years. One of the coping mechanisms I developed during that time was to swallow down more complex emotions, feeling incapable of processing such intense thoughts. It took months of feeling closer to normal and healthy again to realize that the emotional part of me still hadn’t healed. Once I let all that go, it felt amazing. The song is a reminder of that journey and I can go back and listen to it whenever I have doubts about my internal strength.

HH: How does Cry Again compare to 2019’s Thunderclap EP? Would you say your latest effort offers an evolved version of yourself?

SA: Interestingly, the EPs were actually written and produced at the same time, with only one or two songs off Cry Again coming later. They’re sort of sister albums in that way. While Thunderclap feels like it was looking towards the past, Cry Again looks towards the future, a better time in the world when relationships are deeper and we can be more vulnerable with the people around us.

HH: If you could have anyone in the music industry be your mentor, who would you pick?

SA: This is a difficult question! So much of the music I listen to is older and the artists may no longer be living, but from the folks that are still around, I think I would love to have James Blake as a mentor. I’ve admired his work for years and would love to know more about his process. He also just seems like a sweet person!

HH: What are your three hidden hits?

SA: Most of the rising stars I listen to are friends of mine! If I had to pick three, I would choose “Ornament” by Kiah Victoria, “Closer Than This” by Charlene Kaye, and “Let’s Be Friends” by Jake Sherman.

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