Sam Smith, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus all made a name for themselves; some before they could legally drink a beer. Camden New Jersey’s Graham Alexander owned his own recording studio and office by then.
Graham was in middle school when he formed his band; The Roadrunners, had a NYC and Philly following and was writing and recording music for an independent label at age 14! In 2008, Graham (19) began his own company which consisted of his studio, production, rehearsal and office facilities in Camden County, NJ. He also went on the road playing alongside artists such as Badfinger, Blood Sweat and Tears, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, America, James Taylor, and Norah Jones. In 2010 and 2011, Graham debuted on Broadway as the lead in Rain in New York City. In December of 2011, Graham Alexander’s self-titled, full-length album was finally released to worldwide acclaim. Within weeks, the song “Biggest Fan” was featured at #6 on Spotify’s “Top Tracks from 2011.
I caught up with Graham who also performs at The Vault, in Berlin, NJ to pick his brain about his life, his career and his passion for performing.
Pati Buehler: Obviously you knew at a very young age what you wanted to do with your life. Who or what was a big influence on you to pursue a career in music and the music industry?
Graham Alexander: Ummmmm, I’d say it was just a matter of music happened to interest me at a time where I had very little else going for me. My parents had recently gone through a bad divorce and what struck me was music and then I happened to find a guitar and that was it. It was all over and I never really questioned myself after that. I had seen it could be a job or career through several sources. My grandmother was a big band singer, my father a bassist/producer/songwriter/singer. So those things reassured me that it was possible I would assume.
At 20, Graham began writing and recording his first full-length studio album in 2009. His debut album was released December 6, 2011 and, weeks after, his song “Biggest Fan” was featured on Spotify’s “Top Tracks of 2011 – Picked by Users” playlist.
PB: Tell us about your music, your band and what you hope people will walk away with about Graham Alexander through his music.
GA: Well, I’d say the music strives for honesty across all forms. I don’t write songs for the sake of writing songs. I kind of just write to how I’m feeling or what I’m seeing. So above all, ideally I’d like listeners to walk away from hearing Graham Alexander music with the feeling that they’ve just heard something that someday might be considered “Classic” and ideally transformative or reaffirming of their own feelings as a listener. In the studio, I play and produce a large amount of the material heard on both of my long playing releases, however I do have long time members of my touring band or great musician friends that play on particular songs and occasionally I have been known to favor elements like a string section, horn section, or orchestra. Music made by many people has an entirely different feel than that made by just 1 however, both I feel can have extremely satisfying results.
Those who have lived in South Jersey since childhood will remember the Camden skyline, the “RCA Victor” building and that iconic photo of the little dog and the ‘talking machine’ high on its side. Victor Talking Machine Co. revives and returns to Camden County in the town of Berlin, NJ with Graham Alexander CEO of Radio Corporation of America, Inc. recently announcing the revival of Victor Talking Machine Co. This recording facility, Victor Records Studio A in Haddonfield, N.J. and in Berlin, N.J., is the official label headquarters, archive, historic vault, and intimate performing arts center known collectively as “The Vault”- the firm’s headquarters. Graham performs not only his music, but that of other artists including the Beatles at the newly formed venue.
PB: Having thoroughly enjoyed your “Lennon Live” performance and by the way the band is awesome, tell us about your passion with the Beatles music.
GA: I’d say my passion is for all music. Really I care more about the songwriting than anything else and it just so happens two of the greatest songwriters of all time were in the same band (and another in Harrison really). I’m not actually the biggest fan of 60s sounds (oddly). Certain acts that came in with bands “like” the Stones or Beatles really embraced a cartoonish version of what music in 1965 sounded like (I’m looking at you *the association*). That being said, thanks for the compliment! But that show isn’t actually my band but rather a show the venue puts on from time to time. Think of it like a dinner theatre ….but with Lennon music, I suppose! 😀
PB: Any musical hero’s or heroines?
GA: Virtually anyone who’s doing it in the year 2016. For that matter: anyone that has ever made music I have tremendous respect for – even if I’m not a listener of their music. Victor Records (the record company that releases my music and is also the record company that I operate) has a back catalog of lots of music- of all kinds of madness. Hearing someone’s story coupled with their music – it’s hard not to love so much when you’ve heard so much. I love music in general- some songs I listen to are made by artists like: Taylor Swift, The Beatles, Tupac, Glenn Miller, The Philly Pops, U2, Radiohead, George Michael, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Led Belly, The Rolling Stones, Maroon 5, Reeve (Carney), The Neptunes, Caruso, Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin, anything but Lou Reed really.
PB: Graham, your talent and drive is a fine example for young artists and entrepreneurs. Your enthusiasm for music and the music industry at such a young age is remarkable. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
GA: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years”? Sounds like a song! In ten years… I can’t call where I’ll be in 10 minutes, but if God has any mercy the rapture will have happened and I’ll be on earth looking for people to band together with. No. No. No. I’m sorry; I’m pacing back and forth while writing this. In ten years ideally I’ll be with tons of other musicians and artists enjoying the new music industry as it more properly supports content creators and artists having fought a long battle between 2016 and 2026.
Graham released his second album, Repeat Deceiver, through the revived Victor Talking Machine Co. label in 2014.
“The Music of McCartney” at the Vault
Having enjoyed Graham’s “Lennon Live” this past November at the Vault, we couldn’t miss his “Music of McCartney on Jan. 9, 2016. Once again this young man proves to be a tour de force when it comes to his presentation and arrangements of composers Lennon and McCartney. Graham and the incredible band open with “Band on The Run”. From there they take the journey presenting some of McCartney’s most recognized and beloved songs such as “Jets”, “Hello/Goodbye”, “Lady Madonna”, “I Saw Her Standing There”. Alexander takes time to share some nostalgia about McCartney such as the fact that Lennon was favored over McCartney by the press for some unexplained reason and that McCartney played both right and left handed guitars. Incidentally so does Graham Alexander as he jokes as to this being the reason he was cast to play and sing the role of McCartney on Broadway in “RAIN” at age 22, I should add.
Alexander’s interpretation of these iconic songwriters is mind- boggling similar to the actual artists, yet his personal reflections seem to joyfully jump out as natural as if he’s sang them forever. His “Blackbird” and “Bluebird” beautifully sung and bearing a striking similarity to McCartney, quieted this most appreciative crowd. There are a few more reflective moments. He shares a bit about the ‘opposite bookend” relationship between Lennon and McCartney and Paul’s acknowledgement of Lennon’s passing with a heartfelt rarely performed song “Here Today” written by Paul in 1982 about the passing of his friend and co-collaborator of such legendary music. “Jets” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” McCartney’s later solo songs were well sung as well as standout rocking version of “Live or Let Die” and finishing up with the always grande Beatles finale “Hey Jude”.
The Vault in Berlin NJ has become ‘the’ hot spot in a few short months for friends and fans. Graham Alexander is at the helm of the Victor Records Studio, welcoming all to enjoy the intimate space where great performances seem to be a monthly event.