Fort Worth’s Abraham Alexander talks influences, from Bill Withers to Tom Petty

Abraham Alexander, leaning against a pale wall, wears a yellow sweater

Abraham Alexander
Photo: Elle Caerbert

Abraham Alexander’s arresting debut LP, SEA/SONS draws deeply from Alexander’s fascinating, often fraught biography and showcases his formidable skill as a singer-songwriter. Tracks like “Xavier,” “Blood Under the Bridge” and “Tears Run Dry” draw listeners in with the 31-year-old Alexander’s honeyed vocals, then leave them reeling with their pathos and precision.

Alexander, born in Greece and based in Fort Worth, will make a victory lap with a trio of  concerts at Oak Cliff’s Kessler Theater Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, before heading out on the road for much of the rest of the year, opening for artists like the Teskey Brothers, Shakey Graves, St. Paul and the Broken Bones and the Lumineers, across America and Europe.

I recently caught up with Alexander to ask him about his influences.  His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

On Bill Withers

“It’s his effortless confidence, and the way he phrases [things] and his guitar playing. Like, he just made folk music for people of color — incredible. That’s one thing that resonates with me is the fact of his storytelling. And a Black man playing a guitar, and it transcending what folk [music] is, and it transcending what songwriting is. I think, for me, he’s the epitome of what I’m trying to tap into.”

On Paul Simon

“The power of Paul is his ability to transcend with the guitar, and he is a phenomenal listener. He is a phenomenal arranger, and he finds these melodies that are second to none. With ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ I was watching this interview [with Simon] and he was talking about how he used to watch or listen to these gospel tunes. And he was stuck. [The interviewer] asked him, ‘How were you stuck?’ And he said, ‘Well, everywhere I went led me to where I didn’t want to go.’ Which is so profound, right? I was like, ‘OK, so for me, I try not to rush the song.’ I tried to be still; I tried to listen. … I think his ability to craft melodies, his guitar playing, and his chord structure is insane.”

On Tom Petty

“As songwriters, or just artists in general, our goal is to write a chorus that’s like [‘Free Fallin’’]. His ability, again, to open up the chords and ‘American Girl,’ you know, just all these tunes that are some of the greatest songs. I would say a modern individual that’s in that lane is Ray LaMontagne, who has been one of my favorites for a very long time, and I think he’s one that is definitely within that same vein … definitely someone I would love to collaborate with one day.”

On Gary Clark Jr., who contributes guitar to Alexander’s single “Stay”

“He is phenomenal. His artistry speaks for itself — he is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. … The way he blends hip-hop, blues and R&B … is an alchemy that not a lot of people can conjure for themselves … [and] to try to manufacture that, it’s not something that can be done. And he does it so effortlessly. … To say to a young Abraham, first learning how to pick up the guitar, like, just, looking back — they say, don’t meet your heroes, because they’ll end up disappointing you. But I when I met the man behind the artist, it was that much more incredible, you know? I’m just grateful and thankful for him, thankful for his artistry.”

KXT 91.7 presents Abraham Alexander at Kessler Theater, Dallas. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Friday is sold out, but tickets for Thursday and Saturday are $24-$384.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.