Soul folk artist Abraham Alexander will be performing in Boston in the Red Room at Cafe 939 on Saturday. His tour kicked off on Oct. 15 in support of his debut album “SEA/SONS” (2023), which released on April 14 to critical acclaim and reflects back on his life experiences that led him to today.
The Daily spoke with Alexander ahead of his Saturday show.
Having originally grown up in Greece, Alexander moved to Texas in the early 2000s at 11 years old to escape the racial tensions of his birthplace. While in Texas, Alexander felt embraced by a new culture that helped form his identity.
“Texas to me is my home. That’s sort of the one place where I feel like I can be myself,” Alexander said.
Being an artist based in Fort Worth, Alexander finds there’s a special energy in Texas that allows the state to produce world-class artists across diverse genres ranging from Beyoncé to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Roy Hargrove, to name a few examples.
“I think [what’s special] is the culture of love and the culture of community. There are so many different melting pots that make up what Texas is.” Alexander said. “We all ride for each other. When someone says they’re from Texas, we really want them to succeed.”
While his birthplace is an important theme in the album — the cover image shows Alexander and his brothers in the ocean in Greece — his life in Texas still features strongly. The song “Blood Under The Bridge” is dedicated to his adoptive family in Texas, and “Stay” features Texas blues legend Gary Clark Jr. For Alexander, the track “Tears Run Dry” especially embodied that Texan energy.
“I think ‘Tears Run Dry’ could be one that kind of has the [Texan] vibe, because I had a lot of my friends come out and play on that record,” Alexander said. “It just has such a sweet love to it but also has a little bit of grit.”
Alexander’s path towards music followed an unlikely trajectory. Growing up, he fell in love with sports and fostered dreams of being a soccer player. It wasn’t until a torn ACL sidelined his athletic ambitions while playing soccer for Texas Wesleyan University that Alexander discovered his love for guitar. Soon after, he found he had a natural talent and need for music.
Released years after its inception, the song “Heart of Gold” off of “SEA/SONS” was Alexander’s first attempt at songwriting.
“[‘Heart of Gold’] was the first song that I ever wrote,” Alexander said. “I was just trying to recollect as much imagery and memory as I could conjure, and it just took me back to a memory where [my] dad was abusive; it sort of touched on that on the song, and looking for an embrace from my mother. I was just trying to tell myself to be strong. There are moments where I feel like my hands would callous and my feet would callous and just my heart would callous. It would take away from who I was. I needed to sing about that in order to not let that happen.”
This authenticity and vulnerability relating to his life experiences makes up an important part of Alexander’s songwriting.
“When I first started writing this record, it was very much to be cathartic for me and to find meaning. I think the beauty about being vulnerable is when people hear it, they sort of develop this kindred spirit,” Alexander said. “[After writing], the demons that really had a hold of me just became weaker and weaker. And so, what was once a hindrance has become a stepping stone.”
The vulnerability on the record has helped Alexander find greater connection with a large audience.
“What I’ve noticed is people just connected to [‘SEA/SONS’]. They feel truth, they feel warmth and they feel honesty coming out of it,” Alexander said. “I’m finding more and more that people just relate to the honesty. That’s sort of the feedback that I keep getting is, ‘Thank you for writing that because it became what I needed at the time that I listened to it.’”
For aspiring musicians, Alexander had a few words of advice.
“My advice would be don’t have a plan B,” Alexander said. “If this is something that you truly love, I say jump in with both feet. There’s something truly special about proving to yourself this is what you want to do. You can lie to everyone else, but you can’t lie to yourself. … It’s not going to be easy. But what is a value that is not attached with hardship?”
Alexander’s music, which NPR has praised as among the best of new artists of 2023, can be heard on Saturday at the Red Room at Cafe 939.