Alex da Ponte
When Alex da Ponte was 22, she recorded an album called Nightmares.
“I think that’s part of getting through your 20s,” she says casually. “You get your heart broken and you write a record about it.”
It’s casual, perhaps, because it’s sort of always been the way Alex processed things, since she was a kid, growing up isolated in Key West. Living in a house on stilts that perches over the water will draw out the creativity, especially in a kid born of a musical family — a many-generations-removed relative was Mozart’s librettist, grandmother sang opera and there was always a piano in the home — and Alex tried to write the songs she wanted to hear.
“I remember writing really ridiculous Blink 182-style songs in middle school because I’ve always been trying to create something that I want to listen back to,” she says. “So it’s a really selfish thing, I guess — I needed an anthem.”
But now, Alex da Ponte is 27. And in January she'll release All My Heart, a record whose title is as evocative as it is precise.
"I found my people, I guess,” she says. “You can tell I've grown and matured, which they always tell you that you will."
Case in point: just a few years ago, playing shows was mortifying, awful, all those eyes bearing into her. Each band member she added was a stitch in a safety blanket that took the attention away from center stage. And just a few months ago, Alex took the bull by the horns, walked into a meeting with a Blue Barrel Records executive, played a fuzzy demo recorded on an iPhone voice memo and said to him confidently, “this is the hit.”
That hit was “Nevermind,” and it will be the first single from All My Heart. "I've learned in life that I can make things happen for myself."
Ultimately what Alex made happen was a thesis for 20-something self-discovery. All My Heart is bright, fresh and biting, as honest and brash as it is knowingly self-conscious: that perfect juxtaposition of emotion that pop music has been trying to capture for decades. Guiding you through it is Alex da Ponte, her voice earning comparisons to Jenny Lewis and Karen O, and her style (a blend of femininity and punk undeniably influenced by 90s alternative) to Courtney Love’s Hole.
Standouts on the record include “Dinosaur,” a simple and surprising alt-pop love song (a gentle little dinosaur / but your heart sure weighed a ton), the sharp, witty post-breakup gem “Tell Your Friends,” and of course, that hit: “Nevermind,” a sweetly sung indie anthem whose title phrase again seems to capture that indecision of this perfectly undecided decade.
While working with Blue Barrel Records meant Alex was able to record All My Heart at Music+Arts Studio, she held to one philosophy from Nightmare — “we had a dream team then, so I had to have a dream team for this record, too.” This time around the dream team included Rick Steff and Roy Berry on keys and drums (Lucero), Geoff Smith on bass (Star & Micey), Jonathan Kirkscey and Jessie Munson on cello and violin and Robby Davis on guitar.
And now the girl who used to hate the idea of taking center stage says she's settling in to the idea that all eyes may be on her come spring. "These songs are me,” she says. “I'm documenting my own life and creating these things because that's what I want to sing about. I feel like I am claiming that this year."
All My Heart is out January 29 on Blue Barrel Records.