From frontman of York pop rock band Elliot Minor to songwriter for hire and now contemporary classical composer, Alex Davies’ musical career has been one of twists and turns.
He seems to have found his niche, however, recording as Wide Eyed, with pieces such as First Light and Song For Three earning him more than a million listens on streaming services as well as airplay on Classic FM and Scala Radio.
Davies says he learnt much working at London’s Tileyard Studios as part of a team of writers for artists such as Kodaline, You Me At Six, James Arthur, Birdy and Sigrid. Compared to Elliot Minor, with whom he scored four top 30 singles and a top 10 album between 2007 and 2008, creating radio hits today is a more exact science. “I guess not as much thought went into writing (then),” he says. “Because we’d been writing these songs at such an early age, 16 or 17, you just write whatever fits, which is great starting off as a young band, but if you’re writing for other people the thought and the lyrics are so important – who is your demographic, who’s going to be listening to this music? It’s a totally different approach. It took a while to learn.”
His interest in classical music actually pre-dates Elliot Minor. He was, he says, “obsessed with John Williams’ film scores at the age of 12”. “That’s what I listened to before pop music. I guess I’ve done a bit of a 360 (degrees), but it’s always been at the centre for me. Maybe neo-classical stuff and a lot of choral stuff, because I grew up in the choir. Renaissance harmonies have always been a big go-to for me, I just love all the harmonic clashing. I definitely tried to use that in Elliot Minor.
“You hear that a lot in film scores, a lot of the suspense and the harmonic structure in that. There are quite specific things that I like that I’m hoping will give me a little bit of a selling point with my music. Some people might be able to pick up on a little bit of my identity there.”
He also cites the “huge influence” of Thomas Newman, whose film scores include 1917, American Beauty, Erin Brokovich and Skyfall. “In the background there’s quite a lot there with synths and ambient sounds. You can’t necessarily pinpoint one through the wall of sound, but I’m again trying to create a bit more of an identity, so it’s not just solo piano – a bit Thomas Newman-esque, there’s a waterphone in all the effects he uses.”
Davies was taught piano at school by Alexis Ffrench, the musician, composer and broadcaster. “I got a lot of advice from him to pursue my rock career as well,” he says. “Charlie Simpson from Busted, who’s a good friend of mine, he seeks advice from Alexis Ffrench. There was an advert in the NME from a record label that said it was forming a band and he told Charlie to go for it, and what a great decision that was, he went on to have huge success.
“Alexis has been a brilliant influence not just in classical music but music in general.”
Wide Eyed’s new single, Arc, is out on April 23.