Growing up in Austin, 18-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist Alex McArtor would often attend concerts and music festivals as a kid. These were the earliest inspiration for her music career – and they also led her to reflect on the mystique surrounding musicians.
“I grew up around music, and my parents were always talking about the Elvises and stuff like that, and how ‘Oh my god, they were so amazing,'” she recalls. “I grew up seeing these people as not human.” She remembers going to one particular festival in middle school and “worshipping” a band that was playing, then feeling underwhelmed when she actually met the members. “When you see something from far away, it can be anything you want it to be — say some guy on stage looking like a total god,” she says. “And then you meet him and it just kills that magic of that.”
That experience was the inspiration for her latest single, “Biggest Fan,” which was actually one of the first songs she wrote many years ago. McArtor’s deep, crisp voice, acoustic guitar, and somber lyrics conjure up Lana del Rey with a hint of classic rock as she paints a picture of a woman following a glamorous rockstar to his room, a “silver castle on the moon” that nevertheless “tastes like litter and cheap perfume.” In the catchy chorus, she sings: “Starry-eyed, she’s hypnotized/Wants to stay with him for the night/Says I’m your biggest fan.”
Inspired by The Carpenters’ “Superstar” (and Sonic Youth’s cover of it), McArtor used lots of reverb, echoing effects, and weighed-down electric guitar toward the end. “[Sonic Youth] gave it a very whimsical kind of alternate reality,” she says. “There was just a feeling when you heard it, and I kind of wanted to use the same instrumentation for my song as they did.” McArtor also uses film as songwriting inspiration, playing the music as she watches a movie on mute or looks at a still. For this one, she used The Virgin Suicides, perhaps apt given the naive yet disillusioned woman at the center of the song.
She worked with an artist called MadHag to create a dream-like visualizer for the single. MadHag drew a man and a woman outside amid giant flowers and a colorful, starry sky, and then animated it. “I’m a big fan of supporting young artists because I’m also an artist, especially girls,” says McArtor. “I was like, ‘Tell me what you see when you hear this song.’ I wanted this to be youthful and almost naive in the artwork, and she gave that to me. You have the stars, and it’s very whimsical.”
McArtor released her first two EPs, Spoken Word and Heart Talk, Vol. I, last year, showcasing dark, dramatic rock songs like “Touch” as well as folkier ones like “East Coast.” Despite her age, many of her songs have an older sound to them, which she chalks up to influences like Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac. With plans to complete her senior year of high school in New Hampshire – after spending the past year homeschooling in Dallas – she’s still not sure if she wants to go to college or not. But she’ll certainly continue to write new music — a promising endeavor, as her earliest work already displays an impressive mastery of sound and lyrical depth.