Alex McArtor
Spoken Word

“I didn’t grow up on Taylor Swift — I grew up listening to The Doors.”

No surprise once you take a listen to McArtor’s new release, Spoken Word, an exquisite, dreamy and downright epic music debut that pulls inspiration from both classic rock and ‘90s alternative while showcasing the singer-songwriter’s powerful voice and pensive soul.  

But it might surprise you once you realize McArtor is only 16 ... a fact you’ll quickly forget after you spend a few minutes talking to the singer, who (cliche aside) certainly has what they call an “old soul.” Or at least fantastic taste. “I was always into alternative bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and artists like Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Led Zeppelin,” she says. “Plus, I grew up in Austin, which is obviously a musical city. All that inspired me.”

McArtor would spend her downtime from school writing poems, singing and eventually “grabbing a guitar and experiencing teen angst,” she laughs. She eventually showed her parents some of her songs — and they were impressed. 

Most importantly, they encouraged their daughter to continue writing. A strong demo and some live performances in Dallas (where McArtor’s family moved) eventually led the singer to Aaron Kelley, a multi-instrumentalist and music producer who’s worked with everyone from Don Henley to Charlie Puth. Together, they helped shape the songs on Spoken Word into five tracks that flit between ethereal and epic. “I write things acoustically, but sometimes I want a big sound, and I want it be heavy at times,” she says.  

For lyrical inspiration, McArtor takes a rather unique approach. “I can’t just ‘write,’” she says. “But I’m really into film — that’s a passion of mine — so sometimes I’ll write songs over photographs or scenes from movies, like Trainspotting. That way, I can kind of ‘see’ things moving.” (Speaking of good taste, McArtor credits films like Velvet GoldmineGarden State and My Private Idaho for providing musical inspiration).

That said, there’s always a personal statement at the core of McArtor’s music. Take “Party’s Over,” the dreamy, Mazzy Star-esque ballad and first single from Spoken Word. “At first I didn’t know what I was writing, but I think I was trying to describe moving away from Austin,” she says. “It’s about change, and I wanted the song to be something like David Bowie’s ‘Heroes,’ really having it hit home as you’re listening.”

McArtor hopes to tour with a full band in the fall; in the meantime, she’s posting new music on Soundcloud and getting quite a rapturous response, as evidenced by the 300K listens to songs like “Touch.” She admits, “I haven’t really looked at it; I was just writing new songs and I wanted to get them out there. Actually, when I told people, most of my friends didn’t even know I did music! I’m glad it’s taken off on its own.”

While McArtor is still young, she already has a musical endgame in sight. “When this doesn’t feel authentic anymore, I am out,” she says. “I think one reason my family’s so supportive is that I’ve been passionate and taking responsibility for all of this. It’s been me painting a picture, not doing something because some guy is telling me what to paint. I think when something comes from you, that’s when people feel it.”