Jay Alexander doesn’t beat around the bush. As a worship leader, he feels like it’s important to be honest about the balance between hope and faith in Jesus, but also acknowledge that it can be hard to deal with real struggles like depression or anxiety.
His newly-released EP, “Relatable,” examines just how hard that balance can be.
“They say songs are like therapy, but sometimes they feel more like suicide notes,” says Alexander, 26, a local banker by day and songwriter and performer by night. “Each song is just a product of singing out and feeling something.”
Released in January, the album includes a darker, more lo-fi sound inspired by the local Winston-Salem music clubs he plays at. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but friend and producer, Adam North, encouraged Alexander to not just let his songs live in his head; record them.
So he started doing so, but with a songwriting technique that’s completely random. He doesn’t write anything down; he just sings melodies or lyrics over and over until he knows them by heart.
“It’s the absolute wrong way to write a song,” he says with a laugh.
His track, “What If,” tackles issues of feeling like his loved ones would have been better off without him, and how he copes with those emotions. “Another Song,” his most vulnerable track on the EP, is about his struggles with depression; what it’s like to pretend that everything is OK. Yet, that balance between his faith and emotions wins out at the end of the track when you hear him sing out, “You’ve been listening all along.”
A New York native, Alexander moved to Winston-Salem in 2017 after living in Orlando, Florida, as a teenager. Influenced by bands like Sum 41 and Blink-182, those teenage years of struggling shaped his love for music and his desire to channel his emotions, dreams, and fears through songwriting.
“I draw a deep connection between the arts culture in New York City and in Winston-Salem,” Alexander says. “I feel the same way here as I did in New York — that people dream the same way I do. They just go for it. It’s a safe place.”
There’s a lot of expectations and pressure while being a church leader, but Alexander only wants to be a positive voice in his community. He wants people to know that it’s OK to struggle with mental health, to walk through depression and anxiety, and to still believe in God and the hope he brings.
“My music is honest,” Alexander says. “Sometimes things suck.”
To listen to Jay Alexander’s new EP “Relatable,” visit spotify.com.