South Florida has a burgeoning singer-songwriter on its hands, and his name is Alex Di Leo. The talented vocalist and writer of indie and alternative tracks recently So We Go, a six-track melodic and tonally beautiful EP that channels artists akin to Coldplay and Vance Joy. I had the pleasure of speaking with Di Leo over the phone while he was at home in Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago. We spoke about working in Los Angeles, the making of So We Go, and a recent video shoot he did for the eponymous EP track.
Where are you based out of?
Down in Fort Lauderdale. All the way at the other end of the country. You’re almost at the point of the West, and I’m at the bottom.
Nice. I know literally nothing of Florida geography, but are you anywhere near Hurricane Matthew?
Yeah! Literally as soon as you answered the phone, the rain just started picking back up a little harder.
Oh man. Please stay safe, it looks really bad out there.
Thanks, man. Yeah it’s bad, but I think we’re just going to get the tip of the South of it. I was actually just out in LA this past weekend. Do you go there a lot?
I don’t. I’ve been a couple times, but I don’t usually go there. I just kind of rely on the people I know that live out there to relay any information to me. (laughs)
For sure. How far is the drive?
The drive is about, on a good day, about five to six hours, if there’s no traffic. As soon as you hit Los Angeles traffic though, it takes longer.
Oh wow! That’s a lot longer than I thought it would be. Are you anywhere near Big Sur?
If my geography is correct, Big Sur is actually a little bit North of San Francisco. But I could be completely wrong about that. How far are you from cities like Miami or Orlando?
I’m actually about forty-five minutes north of Miami, and I’m three hours south of Orlando.
That’s not too bad.
Yeah, it’s a pretty easy drive.
What brought you to LA?
I was actually shooting a music video for my third single, “So We Go”, which is the title of the EP. It was cool. We were shooting a little bit in LA, and then we shot a little in Malibu over Saturday and Sunday. It was a good time.
How long did the whole shoot take, including pre-production and shooting?
This shoot was a little more “guerrila-style”. Some of the crew would be there starting at ten, and then we would go until eight or nine the first day. The second day we started around the same time and finished just a couple hours before. I think it was definitely the highlight of my year.
On Sunday night, we were wrapping up the shoot and finishing up the last scene. We were shooting in these canyons within Malibu. The view was pretty crazy. The sun went down, we finished the last scene and then two minutes later, someone was streaming this radio station from down here in Fort Lauderdale called 104.3 The Shark. I had them streaming it because I was told that my single, “I’ve Been Waiting” was going to come on the radio. We finished up the shoot, and like two minutes later, it came on the radio. An hour after that, it was also played on a station in Tuscon. It was just a very surreal moment.
In terms of the song, “So We Go”, what would you say that the video represents for the song as a whole?
So basically, the video goes through flashbacks in a relationship, and the good times about the relationship. It’s more of a lifestyle video than a performance [video]. The song is called “So We Go”, and I came up with the title kind of like the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”. I kind of resembled it to that, in a way. It talks about love at first sight, and always wanting to go back to that first moment where you first fell in love, and always wanting to continuously live that.
Throughout the video, there were moments when the director and I were talking, and I’d be like, ‘ah shit, that totally ties it together.’ It’ll definitely come together in the end. That’s the second video I’ve shot so far for the EP, so I’m definitely excited.
About long did it take for the So We Go EP to come together?
So I met Josh Diaz, who produced the whole EP, in November of last year. We started working on pre-production for the EP in early January, and really started tracking in late January. We didn’t really do too much pre-production. We finished up the first three [tracks] by the end of March, and then we started on the next three, and finished those up by the end of May. It took about five, almost six, months to grab all of those tracks and put them together. And that’s without mixing and mastering, because all of that was completed on the first day of August.
That sounds like it’s a good amount of time to put everything together.
Yeah, and with the first three songs that I had recorded, I had written those one hundred percent before we went into the studio. As we were recording those songs, I was in the process of putting a band together. Throughout that process, I had to come up with a few more songs, and the band helped develop and arrange them, and that’s what helped me pick the next three as well. It was a seven month process for the whole EP.
What did Josh Diaz bring to the table for you as a producer, and really helping you bring the songs to life?
He has such a different mind, but it works perfectly with mine. That’s why we started working together; in November, we did a live video of my song, “Reason”. Just working through that, we had so many similar ideas and concepts, to the point that we were like, ‘oh shit, we need to work together.’ Working with him in the studio was really easy for us to move forward and just collaborate and come up with great ideas. He definitely has a different mind. We definitely have different things about us, but when you put them together, it works. One of the really cool things that I think we did during the EP, on most of the songs. The only two you don’t hear it on are “I’ve Been Waiting” and “So We Go”, but I guess one day [Diaz] was walking by a junkyard down here in Fort Lauderdale. He saw this piano just sitting in a junkyard, so he picked it up, brought it to the studio one day, and he said, ‘dude, we’re gonna tear this thing apart.” I was like, ‘okay.’ It was an upright piano, but it was one of the extended, taller, upright pianos. We tore the whole piano apart. With the wall that had the upright strings on it, we laid it down on this table and we clipped all of the strings that weren’t in the tune of the song I guess. We tuned the other strings, and we basically hit the strings with wrenches. We ended up calling it the “Dolcemore”. When you listen to the EP, especially in “Waking Up”, it really comes out a lot. It provides this ambient…it’s hard to explain, you don’t even know what it is, really. But it was a really cool sound. It was like, “oh shit, we definitely have to add this to the rest of these songs.” I think that also gave a unique sound to a lot of the songs.
That was something that I don’t know if I would have ever thought of. It was a cool experience during the process, for sure.
Last question: what does music mean to you?
I don’t know what I would do without music. I feel like it feeds the soul, for not just dedicated artists and musicians, but I feel like it feeds people in general. I watched this video on Facebook yesterday, just one of those videos that popped up in my news feed. It was like this funny video about how people act when they’re at the gym listening to music, in the car, cooking, doing some sort of activity with music and without it, where it shows the differences and stuff like that. It’s true; music has such an effect on people. If you’re feeling depressed, whether you want to be depressed or happy, there’s a song that will make you feel whatever way you want to feel. To me, the best part about music is writing something special whether it’s literally one line or one melody that just makes you get these goosebumps. Where it makes you go, ‘oh shit that’s good, i like this.’ Music is just the constant chasing of getting that goosebump feeling over and over and over. You’ll write a song, and then three years later, you’re still playing the same song, and yeah it’s probably great playing the song and stuff, but I guarantee you’re not getting that same initial goosebump feeling of when you first wrote the melody, you know? I don’t know. I think that’s just a very special part of music to me, that continuous chasing of the goosebumps you get, the continuous high of it.
Alex Di Leo's EP 'So We Go' is available now. Click the iTunes button below to purchase.