In My Own Words: Marcus Alexander Talks Music, Racism & Change
"In My Own Words" is a series where we give artists the space to express what is on their mind--unfiltered and uninhibited. Today, musician and Famous Exchange bassist Marcus Alexander talks about what place he--and creativity--have in the ongoing conversation about systemic racism, black persecution, and change.
Photo by Baleigh Kathryn
On what he’s been working on during the pandemic
Life has been pretty crazy. My band Famous Exchange was rolling…we had two residencies set up, (we were) making deals with media groups, getting ready to book studio time…and then BOOM, coronavirus. For a while I was pretty depressed after losing all the gigs and freedom to perform, but I was able to dig myself out of that funk and start focusing more on technique-based practice instead.
On how his band Famous Exchange and how they have helped him grow
To me, music is the language of emotion, so meeting with other artists allows us to let the music describe our experiences. It is hard to quantify, but music, like sports, is a medium that brings people together of all different backgrounds. Whereas someone’s heritage may influence the type of music, skill and musicianship transcends all barriers.
On the relationship between art and unrest
Art is and always will be a reflection of the artist’s own reality. We can look recently to the inception of hip hop and how that has its roots in expressing the frustration of systemic oppression. We are witnessing history and that is always a great source of inspiration.
On doubting your work can have an impact
We all contain self doubt at some level with anything we do. When we think about how we can make a difference on an individual basis, words seem powerless amongst the sea of information we receive daily. But by putting ourselves out there, if we can break through to even one person, then you have contributed to whatever cause you believe in. Persistence is the first step to success.
On the social responsibility (and pressure) he feels as an artist and person of color
I think it’s common for people to want to over explain when presented with circumstances beyond their understanding. I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out against racism as a man of color and as someone who experiences different modes of it in everyday life. I would say that most people want the same things in this country: to be treated with respect and be afforded the opportunity to create the life they choose. We really have to look at the way our country is run and put partisan politics aside for the sake of uniting under the banner of one USA. Once everyone understands that all Americans are playing for the same team, we can break down cultural barriers, understand each other better, and ultimately dismantle the institutions that weigh us down to build something better and more inclusive.