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Interview with Andrew X

Andrew X “Miracles” (pop-retro)

It’s been more than four decades since the launch of MTV and the beginning of the music video era. Since then, there’ve been countless music videos made. Yet it’s arguable that the clip as an art form has never been better than it was in those early days. The visual language established in the ’80s has been supplemented, reinterpreted, and complicated, but it’s never been improved upon. Warmth, imagination, humor, innocence, personality: the first generation of video had all of that in spades. Musicians continue to draw on the aesthetic of early MTV, and nobody is doing it with more confidence — or more attention to detail — than Andrew X.
The North Carolina singer-songwriter isn’t just an imitator. He’s a carrier of the torch. Through his gorgeous, melodic, and fundamentally optimistic music, he demonstrates a deep understanding of the elements that made ’80s pop-rock so delicious and so hard to resist. Naturally, he’s making videos to match, and “Miracles,” smartly directed by Luke Pilgrim and Brad Kennedy, is a delicious throwback to the first-generation clips that continue to inspire us.”Miracles” is the wildly hopeful and blissfully romantic centerpiece of Driving at Sunset, a radiant full-length that introduces Andrew X as a pop-rock traditionalist with plenty to say to modern listeners. He’s found collaborators with a similar knack for timelessness: Anberlin and Copeland producer Matt Goldman and Killers and Imagine Dragons mixing engineer Mark Needham. They’ve given Andrew X’s tales of longing and wishes enough muscle for a contemporary playlist and amplified the elements that anchor these songs to pop-rock’s glorious past. The result is an album that feels like the soundtrack to the best coming-of-age movie never made — one where the hero gets the girl in the end, of course.

The sly, wonderfully sweet “Miracles” clip ends happily, too. The protagonist is a man obsessed with an infomercial host and a dedicated consumer of all the projects she sells. Yet she’s more than just a pretty girl on a screen. In ’80s romantic comedy style, she’s a young woman with dreams — and a bit of a dreamer herself. Will these two lovers step out of their fantasies and find each other? Well, of course they will: anything else would be an affront to the source material. Pilgrim and Kennedy decorate the clip in ’80s colors, dress the actors in period fashion, and shoot the whole thing exactly as Phil Collins or Steve Winwood might have. The computers and televisions are old-fashioned CRT monitors, and there’s hardly a cellphone in sight. For three glorious minutes, you’re right back in the heyday of MTV, and that’s exactly where Andrew X wants you to be.

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The video for your song “Miracles” follows a very interesting plot of how a man falls in love with a woman through a TV. How did you think of this concept for your video?

Andrew X: The concept was dreamed up by the producer/directors of the video, Luke Pilgrim and Brad Kennedy. When they first pitched it to me, they had a great story board with lots of well-thought-out images. I believe it initially was Luke’s idea. I think he was just listening to the song, and putting his mind in a creative place, when he had the idea.

The video serves as a nostalgia piece not in just the sound of the song, but in the visuals as well. What made you want to strike that nostalgic spot with viewers?

 AX: I am a huge fan of ’80s music, movies, and television. Much of, if not most of, the movies and television I watch are from that period. Same goes for the music I listen to on a regular basis. The songs I write have that vibe to them. Even my last record, Young Hearts, that I originally released back in 2015, has a real retro vibe! Matt Goldman that produced the upcoming record, Driving At Sunset, really wanted me to lean into the whole ’80s vibe. He knows me really well, and how much I love anything related to the ’80s, and felt strongly we should lean into the nostalgia of it all.

When Luke and Brad presented the original storyboard for the video, they both felt strongly we should lean into it also. It just felt genuine.

How did ’80s pop-rock influence the music you make today?

AX: ’80s pop-rock has greatly influenced the music I am making. From the chord progressions and melodies, to the instruments and tones, much of my music draws influence from that era of pop-rock. I’m really big on classic sounding music. I think there is something special about it. Something valuable. I feel in many ways it has stood the test of time pretty well. This era of music just makes me feel great. Makes me feel my best. When I hear it, I’m happy. I’m motivated. I’m encouraged. I wanted to try and bring songs into the world that do those same things for others.

 How did the reign of MTV in the 80s influence the visuals and story you have in the music video for “Miracles”?

AX: I think the visuals and story are influenced by ’80s culture and television in general, from the clothing and sets we used, to the inclusion of the television shopping network in the narrative. I think MTV in the 1980s really launched the idea of the music video to mainstream culture. There are so many great videos from that era! To me, many of those classic videos transcend music, and go beyond into the culture of our society at that time. They serve not just as a medium for the art of audio recording, but also for visual and graphic art, and for the arts of theatre, film, storytelling, dance, and performance.

What was it like working with director Luke Pilgrim for this music video?

AX: It was great! He made it fun, and he is super professional and always comes prepared. I have known Luke for many years! He is an old friend that I haven’t seen in nearly a decade! I met him back in 2005 when he was touring with his old band Last November and I was with my old band Hot Vegas. I first met him at a show in Atlanta, GA at a venue called The Masquerade. Our bands played many shows together throughout the southeastern US from 2005 until 2015.

Luke has always been a tremendously talented guy. He used to write and record all of his band’s music. He even directed his own music videos. He is a few years younger than me, and I remember being like 21 and him being like 17 or 18, and thinking to myself, “Wow! This kid is super-talented!” I was always so impressed with the variety of skills he had at such a young age. If he wanted to do something, he just did it himself, and he did it well! His recordings and videos were great!

 How did growing up in North Carolina influence your music career?

AX: I get asked this a lot, and I’m still not totally sure how to answer it? I grew up in northwestern North Carolina where bluegrass and country music are more popular than pop-rock! So, I don’t really feel like living in North Carolina has impacted my music very much. On the other hand, I’ve always loved the beach, the coast, and the state of Florida! I’ve always dreamed of living there. I’m a big fan of warm weather, winter just isn’t my thing. My music has always seemed to do well in many areas in that state. That is one reason my old band used to tour there a lot.

I feel my parents’ tastes in music when I was a kid influenced my music today more than the state I live in. My mom always had me watching VH1 as a kid. We didn’t have MTV at that time. You had to have a satellite to even get it. She also ran a beauty shop in the ’80s and ’90s that was always playing pop radio. I spent many, many hours there!

Also, my father has always been really into all kinds of music. He has a very large collection of vinyl, cassette, tapes, and CD’s. He has always been into hi-fi stereo setups, and his musical tastes really influenced my own.

What is a goal that you wish to achieve in the music industry in the coming years?

AX: Hopefully, I can just simply be in a position to be able to continue to make records that I love, and am able to share the songs with people at live shows. Honestly, I’m not really into the whole idea of being famous or anything like that. The whole idea of promotion on social media that is so popular right now is very cringy to me, but I’m doing my best to do it. It just feels a lot like shameless self-promotion, which isn’t my thing. I feel like the music kinda speaks for itself. It is what it is. I am what I am.

 Moving forward, I would love to continue to build a strong team, one that hopefully includes a label, who could help cover the costs of making and marketing records in the future.

What do fans of Andrew X have to look forward to in the future?

 AX: In the coming weeks, I have all sorts of things lined up! On September 20th, 2023 I will be releasing the 10-song full length album Driving At Sunset! Until then, I will be promoting three singles from the album: “Miracles”, “Where Are You Now” and “Whatever It Takes.” Each week I will be dropping a major piece of art related to the album. For example, I will first release the original audio version of the song, followed by the lyric video, music video, alternate Golden Hour version (remix), and then an acoustic version. I have also formed a band so I can play full band live shows!

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