Your real name is Alex Kotz, what does your artist name “Elderbrook“mean?
When I was making the change from acoustic music to electronic, I had to think of a new name. I was watching comedian Reggie Watts‘ stand up and he was making fun of English sounding names. He said ‘Now introducing the lovely and talented lady Elderbrook.‘ I thought if I was called Elderbrook, that I could then sample the bit before every song. I never did, but the name stuck.
How did the collaboration with CamelPhat for „Cola“ in 2017 come about? Did your life change in any ways after its release? Did this massive success change you?
Well, the Camelphat guys came down from Liverpool looking for a vocalist. They did a few sessions with some different people and then they heard my vocals on the Andhim remix of How Many Times and thought we might be a good fit. I was only in the session a few hours and they played me the instrumental that is cola and something just clicked. I heard back a few months later that defected wanted to sign it. The rest, as they say, is history. As for how it changed my life, it got my music out there and has allowed me to work with some incredible people like Diplo, Milky Chance, Tiesto, and lots of other great talents.
Your music is song-based, it is minimalistic electronic music with soft voices and atmospheric beats. You started with indie and hip hop music. What made you shift more into the electronic music? How and when did you discover it?
I first came across electronic music properly in university. This was around the same time I was going out clubbing, which is an obvious crossover. I tried to remake the tech house stuff I heard in the clubs but I didn’t know how to do any of it on a computer so that why it ended up being quite an original sound: I had to use some of the skills I already had to try new things.
When did you realise you wanted to become a professional musician? Did you ever have doubts with this decision?
I always wanted to be a „professional rockstar“ but as you get older, reality sets in. I was quite happy just producing and engineering for others. It was while I was doing that, that my first song Rewinding kicked off on soundcloud, and since then I’ve been really fortunate to become a full time musician again.
What kind of struggles and challenges have you faced as a solo musician playing your songs live?
When I first started playing live, I was adamant that I wanted a full band. I went down that route but it is roved to be too costly and difficult. From there I learnt how to play the instruments myself as well as singing and looping. It’s an ongoing and evolving setup and I’d love to one day have a band again. As for challenges, it was difficult in the beginning travelling to new places by myself and trying to navigate that with all of my equipment.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far in your career?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is that it’s ok to say no to things. Not everything suggested to you will be the direction you want to take, and you should never feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to in music. At the end of the day, it’s your sound and it’s your voice and it’s important to preserve that.
In March you released your newest single „Numb“, which deals with feelings of being alone and feeling detached from the world and from others. How did you personally experience loneliness?
The idea for the song came about when I was away from home playing SXSW. It was quite an intense trip (to Austin) because, as anyone who has been will know, it’s a lot of shows in a very short period of time and it’s quite draining. I was by myself in my hotel and really missing home when I thought of the lyric ‘reaching in the dark with nothing there to touch’. It’s about how I was really missing my fiancé Sophie, wishing she could be there too. I then went to record the song in Los Angeles with producer Nicky Nightime in his downtown loft, who has made lots of massive electronic hits.
Our current issue of Numéro Berlin is dedicated to the theme „the new luxury“. What does real luxury mean to you personally?
Real luxury to me is staying in a hotel room with a deep free standing bath. There’s nothing nicer or more luxurious than a deep, bubbly bath.
How do you usually get into the process of songwriting?
Each time the process changes. There isn’t really any structure. I usually just spend a bit of time playing around with sounds until I get something that sounds good and captures my attention.
What makes a good song lyric?
A good lyric is something that sounds natural and familiar but has a deeper meaning. Or, sometimes it can just be a series of words which sound cool together and don’t really mean anything. It depends on the mood I’m in and the type of song I want to create.
Who are your influences musicwise and who would be your favourite artist (dead or alive) you would like to collaborate with?
Growing up I loved Kings of Leon and Bombay Bicycle Club. As I grew up, I loved and leaned more toward electronic music such as LCD Soundsystem and Gorillaz. My sound is a bit of a mix up of all of these. I would love to be able to collaborate with Etta James. Her voice is incredibly powerful and rich and has such a unique timbre.
What kind of music do you listen to at home to calm down?
I love listening to peaceful piano music and bossanova music. Bossanova transports me to faraway shores, and piano music because there are no lyrics to distract me so I just get lost in the sounds.
How has Corona affected your career and your life?
I have been in lockdown the same as the rest of the world for the last few months. However, I’m very lucky to have a cabin in my garden, set up as a studio. This means I could finish off my debut album during lockdown and have cabin sessions doing covers of my favourite bands.
What does the rest of 2020 hold for you?