Alex Ebert is a musician, filmmaker and activist. He founded Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros in 2008 and won a Golden Globe for best original score in 2014. He founded Big Sun Foundation, which specializes in facilitating Community Land Trusts. He currently CEO’s the crowd-sourced social radio app Tuners, is writing a book called “Kingdom Cool”, and resides in New Orleans, Louisiana.
For two decades, Ebert has created original music in myriad forms, styles, shapes, and sounds. From his earliest days as an emcee to the early-aughts buzz of Ima Robot, to the world-beating heights of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the critically acclaimed Alexander solo project, the Golden Globe-winning neoclassical film score composition for 2014’s “All is Lost,” and beyond, Ebert’s ability to lose himself in his art and achieve success is undeniable. Transcending boundary lines in the spirit of self-examination, he has spent the better part of the last few years completing a daunting amount of work, including 4 EPs, a biographical documentary feature film, and now the culmination: a post-genre double album of new material [TITLE TBA].
Recorded and produced by Ebert in his Piety Studios in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans (where he has lived since 2013), the album is filled with that special kind of ingenuity required when working alone, and the trio of singles — “Gold,” “Hands Up,” and “Automatic Youth” — set the stage for two albums’ worth of music unlike anything you’ve heard before. While not explicitly “futuristic”, it feels like it’s coming from some future in which the separations of genres has dissolved.
If there is one defining feature of this opus, it is the facility with which Ebert moves from one vocal delivery to another – from singing to rapping. “Rap is high-volume verbiage, and over the past two years, the lyrics that began coming to me were highly detailed and descriptive, too much to parse down to a singable phrase or two without losing their power,” Ebert says. “That’s when I knew I had to come back to rap.” (Ebert began his music career rapping in a group called DVS Minds).
Ebert’s flows on the double album are measured, witty, highly personal, and deft, as these first 3 songs attest to. These 3 songs paint a story. “Automatic Youth” begins. It is the crushingly personal account of Ebert’s breakup with his baby mama – the astounding jazz bass playing by New Orleans’ Donald Ramsey in a sultry number that showcase Ebert’s story telling rap abilities. “Hands Up” take us into Ebert’s post-breakup depression as Ebert choreographs a race through parts of the brain in a hunt to kill his destructive self: “Gunfight in the hippocampus/ I chased you through the Saharabellum”, as he takes us through the poetic trudge of living with suicidal thoughts. “Gold” completes the trio. It lifts us out of Ebert’s depression with his lyrical lists of self-prescribed tools for sanity in a rough world, while morphing effortlessly from croon to rap to Kinks-y outro as the sung hook “Everything you touch/to gold” climbs to cacophony.
“I’ve always loved making whatever art came to me, and felt sorry for the paradigm of artistry that constrains the artist to one look, one mode, one sound,” Ebert says. “I never related to that, and as an artist I resented it.” His urge to embrace it all had long conflicted with that artistic golden rule, “to thine own self be true.” Two years ago, while reflecting during a hiatus from Edward Sharpe, that conflict ended. Ebert realized that he had his own, different, just-as-valuable maxim: “To all thine selves be true.” “There was liberty in finally realizing that the search for me—for my distinctive voice—was actually an embrace of all my voices,” he says. “And so I embraced more of my past, no longer hiding my different talents for the sake of brand-consistency. Suddenly it was my very inconsistency that became my superpower. To put such disparate things out in short order just communicates to myself, and to the world, that I’m not afraid of contextualizing one variety of expression with another.”