Alex Watts

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His tongue firmly placed in his cheek, Watts likens himself to Bruce Springsteen as he recounts the gathering of his band to launch the new release at Cherry next week.

“I always wanted to have a bigger band and every so often I’ll be writing a song and get a piano line and think that it would make a cool horn line,” Watts explains. “The bigger band had its genesis when Alex Gow and I got asked to put together an all-star band for this one-off event at the Post Office Hotel in Coburg for their birthday party. They just wanted us to do covers, but do it in a cool way, so we put together horns and everything.

“It was a good excuse because someone else was paying for me to pick whoever I wanted and ask them to play. That was the genesis of it and I wanted to do it again, so this time I’ve got Eliza [Lam] from Oh Mercy, Joe [Cope] from Eagle and the Worm, Steve [Clifford] from The Hello Morning and Nic [Glenie] from Saskwatch. It’s just great to be able to play with some of the best musicians in Melbourne as far as I’m concerned.” 

Although Watts’ first musical adventures are vastly different from his now mostly acoustic brand of slow burning rock, it seems the seeds for it were starting to take root even back then.

“I still to listen to The Clash all the time and Joe Strummer is one of my favourite musicians of all time,” Watts tells. “Back then I was always listening to Crowded House, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan. It’s always been a part of my musical pedigree but I just got better at it. In Dirty Sanchez, the band had to convince me to sing and we actually had to audition other singers because I didn’t want to do it.

“The idea of starting a band and putting my name in front of it meant I had the versatility of being a solo artist as well as being in a band. I could do solo shows and band shows and if the band broke up I wouldn’t have to start all over again. I would have done it earlier but I just didn’t have the confidence. I thought I couldn’t sing like that so I need to cover it up with all these drums and guitars.”       

Watts is unabashed in describing his music as pop rock which seems a daring move considering the genre doesn’t really have a grassroots support network to draw an audience from. While he concedes that point, he also thinks if you’re good enough then it doesn’t really matter what style you’re playing.

“People will find you if you’re visible enough and good enough but you just have to work a bit harder,” Watts advises. “When I was playing in punk bands straight out of high school and hanging around the ska scene it was cool because you could have your first gig on a lineup with a bunch of other ska bands and play to a packed out Arthouse. If you’re a guy with a guitar singing songs it’s not the case but you just have to find your audience and build.”

BY RHYS MCRAE