Olly Alexander: “I’m doing all the things I dreamed of doing as a child”

Olly Alexander fully agrees that as soon as a pop star earns enough money to afford it, she should buy her mother a house.

In fact, the singer and songwriter of Years & Years – and the revolutionary actor of the Channel 4 drama Aids It’s a shame – it goes even further: they should be contractually obliged to do so. He smiles at the thought. “Oh my God, that was the best thing to do.”

He doesn’t have a rich background, he adds. “As a single parent, my mother struggled constantly. I’ve always wanted to provide for my family and my mother, whom I love so much, and so I felt that buying her a nice place to live was something I had to do. As soon as I made money and I was able to do it, it was done. It was great and I feel so lucky I was able to do it. She is home now and she is adorable; she has a cat and a beautiful garden she is doing.

Given his growing fame, I wonder if his mother dared to ask for an update. Not yet, he says, but he’s not serving it. “I’m helping out with the garden, so we’ll see what happens in a few years.”

Alexander’s public profile was already considerable thanks to his musical career as the main face and strength of the electro-pop group Years & Years. It has become even more so since its star went on It’s a shame.

“It definitely escalated things,” he says, “because it was like being famous again. Not that you consider me super famous, but once the show came out, it was obvious how many people were watching it. To be honest, it was overwhelming as the level of awareness of my name seemed different.

“I suppose many thousands more people are aware of what’s on television than what’s on the radio or Spotify because television has a much wider reach.

When he first heard of it It’s a shame, he knew it was going to be a “televised event”. “Of course, we had no idea what the reaction would be,” he adds. “There were many unknowns about it, but I’m still amazed by the answer and the fact that it touched so many people.”

As soon as he read for the part of Ritchie Tozer, Alexander says he knew who the character was and that he could relate to him.

“Ritchie came from the Isle of Wight and moved to London at the age of 18 with big dreams, big ambitions; he always hid aspects of his life from his friends, his family or himself, “he says.

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Olly Alexander with Nathaniel J Hall in It’s a Sin

“I definitely related to this because I moved to London when I was 18 with, yes, big dreams, big ambitions and I had not yet come to terms with my sexuality. In this sense, I immediately related to the character. I know many other people in the cast also linked to their characters because they had experienced something similar “.

Acting roles

There will be more acting roles to explore, Alexander suggests, but in early 2022 he is focusing on the new Years & Years album. Formed in 2010, the group topped the charts with two acclaimed albums, 2015 Communion, and 2018 Lignum vitae.

Now it’s a solo project, the success or failure of album number three, Night call, rests on Alexander’s shoulders. Not that he should be worried: it’s one electro-pop song after another. Perhaps inevitably, it refers to the musical era of It’s a shame: Disco, techno and 80s dance.

“At the end of 2019, I had a lot of songs I was working on before we started shooting It’s a shame, but after the response to that show we all know what happened, “he says of his augmented profile.

Encouraged by the extraordinary reception for the show, he started writing again. “I felt I had to create something new that had energy and was inspired by the music I had been immersed in while making It’s a shame. I also think it was because I was living alone during the various blocks, because I was missing all those things. “

Just like the show, the feelings of freedom, drama, pain and joy bounce from song to song. At the start of recording the album, he didn’t know how he wanted the music to sound, but gradually he focused on what made him feel good and what inspired him: dance music.

“I used my time in the studio to feel that sense of release and to pour out as much as I could,” he says. “Also, that same sense has become one of the main goals: that people listen to the songs and have fun, get up and dance.”

The songs certainly accomplish this, but they dig into the lyrics and layers of a life unfolding. Not surprisingly, Alexander keeps a diary; in fact, he has written one since he was a teenager. Is it true, I ask, did he once write to one of them that all he ever wanted was to be a pop star?

“It is, and I still keep a diary. I have boxes of it. Sometimes I open one and really shudder at what I’ve written, but I also admire the determination of the younger me, “he says.” You hear a lot of people saying that if there is a formula for success, then it’s just being in the right place. at the right time, but it’s up to the person to make sure you’ve done things to put yourself in the right place in case the time is right.

“In the end, you never know when things are going to happen, so it’s a combination of all of these things. It’s pretty crazy, however, to know that I’m doing the things I’ve always wanted to do and have dreamed of since I was a child. “

It’s a happy and healthy story: how ambition and talent can blend into one successful life, how the instinctive use of memories, memory and music can inspire art. It’s no surprise that Alexander regularly dips into his back pages with dog ears. He says that from words and / or phrases he draws inspiration for songs and for life. The downside? Switch from the paper diary to the small screen. We both agree that, um, it’s a shame.

“More recently, I’ve entered the ideas into my Notes app on my phone, which I think is a little sad because you never keep things on your phone, right? If you write it down on paper, it’s a memory, a memory. “.

On January 21st, the new Years and Years album, “Night Call” will be released.

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