the only ex you should listen to: now ex | music
Between directing, producing and editing films classically trained singer/songwriter Now Ex is creating anthems for a generation. Amidst a few days break in Manhattan, the East London based musician answered a few of our questions, delving into the process behind his creativity, collective loneliness and how writing helps him to make sense of the world and his surroundings. With music very much in is DNA, there’s no doubt Now Ex has an extremely exciting year ahead of him.
Hi Now Ex, how are you doing and where are you right now?
Hey everyone! Thanks for having me. I’m doing well thank you! I’m writing this sat in a sun drenched café on Ludlow Street in the lower east side of Manhattan. It’s -2 degree outside, but wonderfully warm and pleasant in here. Enjoying a couple of days here staying with my sister, who lives in the East Village, before returning to London in a couple days and beginning the new year officially! As soon as I return I’m doing a week of production with MyRiot - the fantastically talented producer duo who produced much of the Sad Kids In America EP and who I Iove collaborating with. We’ll be working on my second EP, so I’m very excited for that.
“Sad Kids In America” is a stunning EP can you tell us a bit about the story behind it?
Thank you so much. It feels so great to have it out in the world. The EP is really about growing pains, about figuring out who you are in the face of the inevitable discomfort that comes from being a young person trying to find their way and the obstacles we so consistently face from heartbreak, to finding purpose in what you do, to feeling part of a community and not just being an isolated single entity sort of floating through time. On top of that, I suppose it’s my reflection on the last few years and the incredible pain so many people feel, caused in large part by the combination of the pandemic and the growth of internet culture. I think so many people feel unseen and alone, I know I often do, and Sad Kids In America was my attempt to create something that could unite people, even in our collective loneliness but ideally also in our strength and optimism for better times to come.
What is the driving force behind your music? Given the fact you are also known for your exceptional directing work, how much of a part do your music videos play in conveying the message of a song.
I’ve been making music since such a young age that it’s pretty much an innate thing at this point. It’s my way of making sense of what’s happening in my life, of translating the world around me into something that I can understand, and that hopefully also speaks to other people. When I first started writing songs, it was definitely in response to the artists that I loved as a young teen, and an attempt to create music that had that sort of power to transport an audience to another world through emotion. The bands I obsessed over back then were exceptionally good at this, and I guess I wanted to be a part of that, and do it for others ultimately. The film thing is quite interesting, because I came to it quite late, at least compared to music. I was in music, initially in the classical world, from around the age of 6, whereas I didn’t pick up a camera until I was at uni. So film really is the new kid on the block for me. That being said, the two movies I’ve directed really have been the basis of my early career after leaving university and have influenced what I’m doing with my music hugely. From a songwriting point of view, I think it’s meant that I write music that is inherently cinematic, as though it’s a soundtrack to someone’s life or something that is happening that also has a strong visual component. The music videos are of course a great opportunity to combine both and to use my filmmaking experience to make films for the songs that are more personal than they might be if I were just farming them out to production companies or other filmmakers. Music videos are also just a really exciting filmmaking medium because there really are no rules and it’s a format that encourages incredible experimentation. We just released a video for my song ‘There Used To Be A Rave Here’ that I think is a great example of this. We took a pretty mad concept, that of building a multigenerational audience in VFX and placing them in a Victorian music hall, and pulled off a film that I think really is quite unique. I know for a fact that I couldn’t have done it this way were it not for my understanding of the filmmaking process, mostly just from a cost standpoint if nothing else. I direct, produce and edit the films myself, so we’re able to make cool stuff for a fraction of the market cost.
How has the last two years impacted you creatively?
The pandemic has been largely kind to me from a creative standpoint, whilst of course being very tough from a personal one as it has for us all. Now Ex was born in May 2020, with the release of my first single, so I’ve had the pandemic to contend with since the very beginning. Because of my film work, I had been on the road non stop for a couple of years, shooting my last movie in Georgia, and the pandemic really gave me the space and quiet to focus on what I wanted to do with Now Ex and really launch it properly. It also forced me to focus on building an audience online, which has been really important to getting off the ground and a substantial learning curve.
What are your plans and goals for 2022?
Now that the world is starting to slowly open up, I think my hopes for 2022 are really to just keep on going and develop what we’ve started with Sad Kids In America in EP2, and really keep exploring the sound world that I think we’ve built. Playing live and touring properly will be a big part of this, and is something my manager Jay and I talk about on an almost daily basis. I grew up performing constantly in the classical world as a kid, and my grandmother was a concert pianist, so it’s just in my blood and DNA. It’s the part that I love most and I think it’s what I’m best at. It’s been very tough not getting to do much of it in so long, and I’m now bursting to get out there and play to anyone who will listen.
Tell us your top three tracks released in 2021! We want to know what you’ve been listening to. :)
Uncomfortably Numb - American Football feat. Hayley Williams - Okay, so this song wasn’t released in 2021, but is my most listened song of the past year by a mile.
lmk (if you wanna see me) - Modernlove. - some new mates of mine have this band called Modernlove. and they are great. I love this song.
Where The Silence Goes - LEAP - my good friend Jack’s new band LEAP are awesome. Highly recommend you check this tune out, gonna be big.