It’s 4PM on Day 1 of Sunset Music Festival 2017 and local DJ/producer Christian Alexander has just wrapped up his first set of the weekend: a short set that serves as a precursor to his main performance on the Sunset Stage of Day 2. The 22-year-old artist and resident DJ at The Amphitheatre/The Ritz moved from New Jersey to Florida at the age of 12, where he started playing the piano. His interest in dance music stretches back even further, to about the age of 6, thanks to his two aunts from Miami. He recounts a particular experience when he was at their house in Miami: “They were playing Ultra 2004 the DVD. I was so little at the time, I was like ‘What is this? This is amazing!’ ‘This is Ultra, it happens every March in Miami.’” That was enough to capture Christian’s interest. When he turned 13, his two aunts took him to his first music festival experience. “I loved it. You know, Ultra was all-ages back then, so anybody could go. I guess 13 was an ok age.” He’s careful to point out that the setting was a little bit different back then. “It wasn’t as crazy as it is now. The biggest stage was the main stage, and that is where the live stage is now,” referring to the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre.
Although Christian took an early interest in dance music, he’s quick to point out that punk rock has a big influence on his creative style: “I went to Warped Tour in high school. I loved it,” noting that one of his favorite effects to add to his tracks is a guitar pluck, which he says helps maintain the flow of the track and keep it unique. Some of his biggest influences are Fall Out Boy and Blink 182, with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket being one of his favorite albums. If you catch one of his sets, there’s a good chance you’ll hear a little punk rock thrown in the mix.
While punk rock and the guitar play important roles in his tracks and DJ sets, he’s confident that the piano is the most critical element of his songwriting process. “The first thing I do is write chords for every track on the piano. I write chords, record them into Ableton, and then I’ll build the song out from there. I would say the piano is definitely the biggest part of my creative process.” In addition to Ableton, Christian also mentions how he enjoys working with Sylenth, a virtual analog synthesizer, and Serum, a wavetable synthesizer. However, Christian also notes that he’s been fortunate to work with a local mastering engineer, KC Gilmore. As a result, he’s come to appreciate “that analog sound is very important.” Although digital tools like Ableton, Sylenth, and Serum have had a big impact in shaping his creative process, he adds: “there’s still nothing better than a nice analog studio.”
Christian has been spending time both in his personal studio at his apartment and KC’s home studio in preparation for some new releases, including “Do Not Disturb” ft. Athrs and “I’m Free,” two songs that he debuted at Sunset Music Festival and that will be available on his Soundcloud and Spotify accounts in the near future. He mentions that he’s been hard at work producing new tracks to showcase his production skills, admitting that “one thing I’ve been lacking over the last couple of years has been posting original music on my Soundcloud, which is why I’ve been working so hard in the studio the last couple of months, trying to get music out there for people to realize I’m not just a DJ, I’m a pretty good producer as well. I want to show that.”
On top of his new music releases, you can also hear him live at upcoming shows, including an opening set for ATLiens on July 7 at Myth Nightclub in Jacksonville, FL. This will be Christian’s first Jacksonville show. “I’ve never partied with the Jacksonville people, so I’m excited. I heard they go in.” In addition to his upcoming set at Myth Nightclub, Christian Alexander regularly performs on Saturday nights at The Amphitheatre/The Ritz, while also venturing to Orlando to play at Gilt Nightclub and Miami for Miami Music Week. He’s previously opened for artists like Slander, Shaun Frank, Kygo, Galantis, Tritonal, Jauz, and more.
When asked what draws him to Tampa, he emphatically says: “The people. There’s nothing like Tampa people. They go in. It can be the slowest house show ever—there will still be 1000 people there jamming no matter what.” That connection to the people is the same aspect that he enjoys about playing at a club like The Amp or Gilt. Compared to playing the main stage at a major festival like Sunset Music Festival, he says: “I really like the intimacy of the club vibe, you’re right there, you kind of hear them yelling sometimes, but you know, nothing beats a good festival crowd.” The intimacy is particularly evident in Orlando: “At Gilt, I’m 4 feet away at the most, right behind the subwoofers. So the crowd is right there. They’re a very educated scene. Every time I play in Orlando, I prepare a lot for that set, making sure that I’m opening correctly for the artist.”
Just like the proximity and connection to the crowd holds Christian accountable while he’s performing, the modern age of social media reinforces an artist’s connection to listeners, presenting benefits and challenges to succeeding. “I think one of the biggest challenges is being a musician and a marketing specialist, because you have to use social media 24/7.” It’s an added challenge for an artist like Christian, who already has his hands full as he works towards completing his undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida Tampa in Biomedical Sciences. He would have already completed his degree, but decided to pursue an additional minor in Biomedial Physics, which he will complete in December 2017.
He balances his workload with a strict time management regimen using his calendar on his phone. “Everything by day is broken down by time.” He breaks down his days between studio time, homework assignments, live performances, class, and everything else that comes his way. “That list is my life. I stick to it, I don’t deviate from it, and if it wasn’t for that, or just having time management skills, I would get lost in everything. I would have flunked out of school, maybe would have been lazy with my music.” With his schooling almost complete, Christian will have more time to focus on his music, where he hopes to expand his reach. Some festivals on his radar that he would like to perform at include Imagine Music Festival in Atlanta, GA and Okeechobee Music Festival in Okeechobee, FL, two independent music festivals that put a heavy emphasis on visual and performance art, and supporting local talent.
The sun has set on another successful Sunset Music Festival, which boasted increased stage production, a world-class lineup, and upcoming local talent like Christian Alexander. If you missed Christian at Sunset Music Festival, you can catch him playing regularly in the South Florida area and beyond as he expands his reach.