Sometimes there is a pleasant but jarring distance when you meet an artist or read an interview with them. It's not that it's a letdown or a step up — more that a new, equally intriguing persona joins the mix. Grimes becomes Claire, a wildly intelligent nerd; Pipilotti Rist is serious to the point of being a little scary. But there is also a joy in meeting someone whose intensity and aura perfectly match her art, which is the experience I had when speaking with Alexa Wilding, whose new EP Wolves has just been released. Wolves was written during a terrifying period in Wilding's life, a time when she needed to reclaim herself as a person and an artist while also tending to a sick child and a fractured family. Out of it came an intimate howl, a deeply personal manifesto, and an incredibly vulnerable challenge to the world to accept a woman as she is. Lenny is thrilled to debut a new song, "Stars," from Wolves, and a new video for the eponymous song, as well as the interview — see below!
Mikki Halpin: You have identical twin boys, West and Lou, who are three years old now. Twins are overwhelming, but in addition to that, Lou was diagnosed with brain cancer when the boys were just one. In what must have been the scariest time of your life, you ended up writing the album. How did that happen?
Alexa Wilding: When I had West and Lou, I wasn't sure what was going to happen with my music, even though I had two albums under my belt. I had heard stories of mamas questioning everything that came before their babies, and it's true, you are so turned on your head, especially bringing two into the world at once. It was like getting wrapped up in a tornado. I definitely was not the serene mama in the caftan gorgeously nursing on a Moroccan rug, like in the magazines. I really struggled, one baby attached to one boob, the other boob attached to a pump, while I fed the other baby from a bottle with my free hand, chained to my bed and wondering why I wasn't feeling total elation or looking like Jane Birkin! My babies brought me crazy joy, but I was super-overwhelmed.
Lou's diagnosis popped the maternal pressure bubble, and suddenly nothing mattered but keeping our family together. My husband and I spent eight months switching off nights between the hospital and home. During the first round of chemo, I was so traumatized I would sit up nights in Lou's room, staring out the window at the East River, listening to the beeps of the monitors. The strange thing was that even though I was in hell and terrified for my son, it was the first "alone time" I had experienced since becoming a mother.
I turned to the only thing I knew, which was writing songs. We had a kid's Casio piano in the room to entertain Lou, but soon my own songs started pouring out. When I tell people that I wrote an album while Lou was in treatment, they assume it's about cancer, but actually, I was writing about the years leading up to becoming a mother, making peace with an old part of myself so I could best become this new person. My son is cancer-free, and that's all that matters. But that time will always be special to me because it secured my triple identity as a mama, musician, and writer.
MH: The album is named Wolves, and I've heard you refer to your children as little wolves. Can you talk about that?