To Alex Vargas, the idea of being described as an up-and-coming performer is pretty funny. It’s true that many are waking up to his brand of soul-drenched electronic pop now, but he’s been performing for 16 years. “I’ve been doing this well over half my life,” he says. “Other than a couple odd jobs, it’s the only job I’ve ever known. I feel so at home on stage. This is what I’m meant to do.”
Now 30, Vargas is a seasoned performer, but he has the newfound liberation of an artist who’s discovered music he truly wants to make. The Danish singer-producer’s 2016 EP Giving Up The Ghost combines his Stevie Wonder-esque ear for a chorus melody with forward-thinking production and his trademark, haunting falsetto. Lead single “Giving Up The Ghost,” together with its touching figure skating-based video, provides the EP’s heart-swelling anthem. Elsewhere, on the cavernous, minimalist ballad “Wear Your Demons Out,” he confronts the difficult reality of living and loving with depression.
The raw honesty of Vargas’ songwriting is plumbed from a life that’s been more of a whirlwind than most. Growing up in Denmark, he was never too interested in school, and found his true calling when he was cast in a local production of Treasure Island as a 12-year-old. “I still remember how it felt walking on stage at the premiere,” he recalls now. “I got bitten. I was hungry.” He eagerly auditioned for more roles, and won them. As he turned 15, he got his own guitar, and that passion for performing turned into a desire to bash out his own indie homages to Kurt Cobain. By the age of 17, Vargas had his own manager, and moved to England to pursue his dream being a musician full-time. He hasn’t looked back since.
Initially, Vargas was paired with Girls Aloud hitmaker Brian Higgins, at the pop production house Xenomania, to write his debut album. Finding four musicians to complete the lineup, the project became a band called Vagabond, who released their record You Don’t Know The Half Of It in 2009 and toured as support for both James Morrison and The Script, and played Glastonbury twice. Vagabond’s songs were quirky, guitar and synth-inflected pop songs, but looking back, Vargas knows his heart wasn’t in it. He dissolved the band before recording a second album, choosing instead to go solo and go for broke.
For Vargas, who grew up on classic rock from Pink Floyd to Queen to Jeff Buckley, the pop production house style wasn’t a natural fit. He believed in his writing — “I’d written every single word on that record, every single emotion evoked vocally was me” — but wanted to do it his own way. He began learning how to produce his own songs in Logic, and nurturing the falsetto he’d prized as a kid performer. Vargas spent time in L.A., crafting acoustic ballads that laid a stark stage for his piercing vocal to shine through.
Gradually, as the noisier, left-field electronic elements crept more into his demos, he began to find his sound: a spacious, modern kind of soul that slots alongside Rosie Lowe, BANKS, and Seramic. His songs gained a dark, shadowy energy; that was what underpinned Giving Up The Ghost, and what swelled through the ecstatic 2016 “Higher Love.”
The release of “Higher Love” eventually led to a breakthrough on the Danish music scene and with two sold out tours round Denmark and one of the most popular shows at Roskilde Festival that year, 2016 was highlighted by Alex Vargas taking home Artist of the Year at the Danish Music Awards.
The sound, which a friend labeled “noise soul,” came to form the backbone of his debut album ‘Cohere’, which was released in 2017 and an accumulated stream count that exceeds 60 million streams worldwide tells the story of a singer now reaching far beyond the Danish border.
2018 year has already seen Alex Vargas headline his first ever arena show in Copenhagen selling out 6,500 tickets while Vargas was also back at Roskilde Festival this Summer. In front of 19,000 spectators he closed a chapter and is now ready to turn the page. The brand new single and first new release in almost 1,5 years from Alex Vargas is ‘Silent Treatment’ – a song on which Vargas has turned down the noise for a minute and upped the dreamy, atmospheric soul with his sensual deep voice and crisp falsetto as the messenger.
“My perception of what success is has changed over the years,” says Vargas. His only concern today is writing great songs. “It’s about recognizing exactly what you’re in it for. When I hit rock bottom, and decided to continue doing music, I realized — I have to do this. There isn’t another option. Even if people weren’t listening, I’d still be making music.”