SHK Live Session with Alex Winston from SHK on Vimeo.

Alex Winston is a Detroit girl at heart. But like hundreds of other music hopefuls, she made the pilgrimage east to New York — where she came to work on her debut album King Con. When Winston started writing her own music it was an anything goes, no rules situation; she was never concerned with making any one type of music — just with sharing herself and her songs with the world.

The result is an album with catchy tunes like “Velvet Elvis” and “Sister Wife,” that are airy, danceable and grounded in their universal themes. She takes friendship, idols, being young and heartbreak and gives them the Alex Winston treatment: a light hearted and distinct sound that can’t help but put a smile on your face.

We met her at Passenger Bar in Williamsburg, just as it was beginning to snow. It was cold outside, but the songstress more than made up for it with her winning charm and high pitched, persistent laughter. When she started playing her acoustic set — she choose one of her older songs “Don’t Care About Anything” — her power, presence and emotion took over the space. Read our interview with Ms Winston below and watch our exclusive acoustic video performance above, but I have to warn you, you’ll most likely have the tune stuck in your head the rest of the day. —Carsen Russell

SHK: IT’S SO COOL THAT YOU’RE CLASSICALLY TRAINED IN OPERA. HOW DID YOU TRANSITION INTO THE INDIE POP REALM? 

ALEX WINSTON: When I started writing my own music, I didn’t really know what I was doing and it was so different from my experience with opera because there was no structure and no rules. I never really thought anyone was going to hear those songs and I guess that’s when I was at my most confident and uninhibited. I wasn’t thinking about the genre of music I was making or how it would be received, I was just excited that I figured out how to work GarageBand!

THE GUARDIAN SAID YOU WERE MOST LIKELY TO BE THE NEXT BIG AMERICAN INDIE-POP ARTIST TO MAKE IT BIG IN THE UK, AND SAID YOU HAD ANGLOPHILE SENSABILITIES. SO HAMBURGERS, OR FISH AND CHIPS?

Hamburgers! As much as I love the U.K. and appreciate how they were really the first to embrace my music, I’m very Midwest… I can’t help it.

WHAT FASCINATES YOU IN REAL LIFE THAT’S TRANSLATED THROUGH YOUR MUSIC?

On the last record I was really fascinated by niche American subcultures and trying to relate to concepts and rituals that seem totally foreign at first glance. I’m not really sure what direction I’m going to go in on the next one,  but I think it will be a bit more personal. I’ve been on a hell of a ride this year, and I’ll probably feed off of some of that craziness and uncertainty.

ALEX WINSTON IS A SUPER ANDROGYNOUS NAME. HOW OFTEN ARE YOU MISTAKEN FOR A BOY PURELY BASED OFF THE FACT?

Quite a bit! I don’t mind it though.  If I were a boy, I guess I’d sound a bit like Tiny Tim….

DO YOU AIM AT ANYTHING SPECIAL TO CREATE YOUR OWN STYLE?

Honestly, I just want to make music that won’t make me cringe in twenty years.

WHEN YOU PLAY LIVE, YOU HAVE A REPUTATION AS BEING VIVACIOUS AND WILLING TO DO “ANYTHING.” HOW DO YOU GET AMPED UP FOR A PERFORMANCE?

I wouldn’t say anything! [Laughs] But yes, I like a lively show. I went to a Little Richard concert when I was a kid. That set the bar unrealistically high. He had a cast on his foot and crutches, yet still managed to put on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. I love artists like Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and pretty much all the Motown artists because they were entertainers. I really strive to be like that.

IN YOUR VIDEO FOR “CHOICE NOTES,” WHIMSICAL GHOSTS START FOLLOWING YOU AROUND DOING A LITTLE DANCE. DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING HAUNTING YOU, WHIMSICAL OR NOT, IN REAL LIFE?

The only ghost haunting me at the moment is my best friend Vinnie who is still pissed that I made him wear sparkly red tap shoes and a sheet while chasing me through a scrap yard in that video.

OK. SO. RANDOM QUESTION…. YOU HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, HOW DO YOU DO IT?

…. What’s your angle?

[LAUGHS] OH, YOU’LL FIND OUT SOON ENOUGH. 

TELL US ONE THING WE SHOULD:

SEE:  American Movie, My all time favorite feel good documentary. I’m on a mission to convince Mark Borchardt to direct my next music video.

HEAR: “Lungs” by Townes Van Zandt.

KNOW:  Even when a snake has its eyes closed, it can still see through its eyelids.

This feature is from our “Odyssey Issue” that is available now. Get all the goods here, for free.

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