Features December 7, 2017

Alexander Burnett: The Sparkadia frontman and hit songwriter steps out of the shadows

Alexander Burnett: The Sparkadia frontman and hit songwriter steps out of the shadows

Alexander Burnett is the type of artist that makes you dizzy just thinking about how many different projects he has on the go.

The Sparkadia frontman turned songwriter and now one half of electronic music act Antony & Cleopatra resides in London, and his new project recently signed to Dew Process/UMA – just in time to release the infectious future-pop track ‘Twitch’.

But in what is far from a linear career move, how does a pop artist become so immersed in the electronic music scene?

“Back in 2010 or 2011, I started co-writing with other people who were dance artists, so people like Digitalism, George Maple and Hayden James, and all those characters,” Burnett told TMN.

“It then led me to discovering a bit more about dance music, because obviously, my background was guitars and indie-pop. I think it’s been from understanding dance music and enjoying it and enjoying the sense of kick and tension release and different ways of writing songs, like hook-based.

“I think Antony & Cleopatra’s probably a result of doing all those co-writes with all the wicked artists.”

But the venture into a new genre of music via songwriting was also fuelled by a dilemma that many artists face – Burnett’s decreasing passion for his craft. Which came at a time when Sparkadia’s album The Great Impression debuted in the top 10 on the ARIA album charts.

“There’s an element of falling a bit out of love with the guitar and maybe then that didn’t feel as right to just keep on doing Sparkadia.

“All that [songwriting] probably led me to then falling in love with a new thing.”

The shift was far from strategic either – Burnett, like many curious creatives, followed his instincts the whole way.

In the past two years, Burnett has co-written some of the biggest tracks to hit radio, including ‘Something About You’ by Hayden James and ’U Don’t Know’ by Alison Wonderland (featuring Wayne Coyne), as well as collaborated with LDRU, DJ Snake, Nicole Millar, Dan Sultan, Japanese Wallpaper and Paces.

“There’s a part of me that thinks, ‘Wow, I probably could’ve done another Sparkadia record in the last five years or whatever.’ But there was also a big part of me saying, ‘No, work with other people, see where that leads you. Enjoy it.’”

“And I think I wouldn’t have had some of the songwriting successes if I’d been a full-time Sparkadia guy. I think that may have also led me down a different track, which may have been better or worse, but I think this era is all about trying different things. Everyone seems to collaborate, radio stations don’t seem to play purely just pop or dance.”

Burnett lights up when he speaks about collaborating with other people, like the process refuels his creativity. He describes it as a process where he is always learning, opting for the relief from the “draining” option of writing from an autobiographical point of view all of the time.

But in the age of rapid music consumption and digital downloads, Burnett sees his job as important as ever – and isn’t intimidated by the pressure of success.

“My job is people get me in to write songs that will connect, either in clubs or on the radio or on Spotify. But I’m finding far more it’s all sort of the same thing, because if a song is played on radio, then more people listen on Spotify and they want to play it in the clubs.”

“I don’t ever think about writing hits, I think that’s dangerous. But I always try to write songs that will resonate, and songs that are real and have heart and are truthful, because I think that’s the only current thing in these days.”

Almost 11 years after he released his first single, it’s the wise words of former general manager for The Music Network (and Icehouse founding member) Keith Welsh that Burnett still carries with him today.

“He told me once, ’If you’re not singing about something, then you shouldn’t be singing.’ I’ve always carried that into every project.”

Related articles