Interview: Alexander 23 Contends with Long Goodbyes in Pop Ballad “See You Later”

Alexander 23 © Julian Burgueño
Alexander 23 takes us through his song “See You Later,” which tells the tale of a thousand broken hearts (and a thousand used tissue boxes) through poignant lyricism and compelling harmonies. 
Stream: “See You Later” – Alexander 23




Saying goodbye always seems to have a sad connotation, but I couldn’t feel more of the opposite.

A goodbye isn’t necessarily a goodbye — a final, dramatic parting. The french phrase ‘au revoir’ is a different sort of goodbye, one that implies a distant, romantic destiny: ‘Until we meet again.’ But such farwells are especially hard to say to someone you have learned to love, because, after all, love changes you forever. That change can be spurred by the simplest of things: a conversation, a shared meal, a hug at the door.

But these marks, left on the heart, mind, and soul, can hurt terribly too, especially when they exist as memories instead of longed for realities. On his latest single “See You Later,” Alexander 23 tries to delay the inevitable out of fear of hurting his lover. So instead of cutting ties completely, an emotional compromise is made: he bids her an ‘au revoir’ instead of an absolute goodbye, tempting the fates themselves.

See You Later - Alexander 23

See You Later – Alexander 23

I don’t want to go, but I can’t afford to miss this flight
I paid money I don’t have just to see your face for the night 
I don’t want to go, but to stay would only make it worse
Sometimes, the only way to get over her is to hurt
I pack my bags, pack my bags
so full, I can barely zip it 
I pack my bags, but the best I had
Oh no, I couldn’t fit you in it

There is a lot to like on this single: Buttery guitar licks and a crispy backbeat are overlaid with strong overtones of buzzing synths and zesty acoustic plucking, creating a charming, mid-tempo composition that fits perfectly with Alexander 23’s skillful crooning. Like most indie-pop ballads, the song’s breakup-induced mournfulness is tempered by warm sonic elements, like a roaring fire blazing amidst a blizzard. But for Alexander 23, this ballad, though lyrically about heartbreak and sitting with the burden of memory, is personally motivated by feelings of kindness, namely gratitude.



It’s not goodbye, but it
don’t sound like see you later

When we are both crying
in this broke down elevator

You’re only mine if you’re mine to lose
It’s not goodbye ’cause
that would break her,
so I’ll say see you later

“I’ve thought about this a lot, but I think what I would love people to take away from “See You Later” is just how lucky we are to miss people in the first place,” Alexander 23 tells Atwood Magazine. “Saying goodbye always seems to have a sad connotation, but I couldn’t feel more of the opposite. If you miss something, then it was worth building. That feeling of missing something precious, even if it hurts, is one of the most significant feelings in the world.” In our conversation with Alexander 23, we discussed his upcoming EP I’m Sorry, I Love You (out October 25, 2019 via Interscope Records), what he hopes fans take away from “See You Later,” and why he really, really hated his first guitar.



A CONVERSATION WITH ALEXANDER 23

Atwood Magazine: Before jumping into the track “See You Later,” can you tell me a bit more about how you got involved in music, where you got your start?

Alexander 23: I saw my dad playing guitar and I was like, “Oh, that looks awesome!” So I started playing guitar, and at first, I absolutely hated it. I actually quit, but a year later, I picked it back up and it has been a love affair ever since. I played in a bunch of different bands, ending up playing in pizza places, coffee shops, and little bars in my town. I just never stopped from there.

Atwood Magazine: This fall, I know you are opening up for two rising stars like yourself: mxmtoon and Omar Apollo. How did those two opportunities come about?

Alexander 23: I was a fan of both of them before the opportunities were presented. It just kinda came through the pipelines. I’m grateful to be able to hop on the ride with them. It’s cool when you get to play shows with people whom you genuinely are fans of.

Atwood Magazine: Speaking of amazing experiences, how’d it feel performing at Lollapalooza?

Alexander 23: Oh, it was epic! A dream, really. To be on that stage in front of such a crowd — it was definitely surreal.

Atwood Magazine: What was the exact moment when you realized you wanted to be a musician professionally?

Alexander 23: I just love songwriting. I’ve been obsessed with writing the best songs — and writing songs that I feel are completely accurate and honest to me. And so in high school, I really started taking songwriting seriously and spent a lot of time doing it. At one point, I realized that I needed to find any way to make it sustainable so I could keep following my passion.

Alexander 23 © Julian Burgueño

Alexander 23 © Julian Burgueño



Atwood Magazine: Many of your songs deal with heavy topics like heartbreak and depression, but there is always an upbeat, hopeful energy, whether manifests as bright guitar riffs or in your voice. Can you speak more on this?

Alexander 23: It’s super conscious. I really, really want to be able to talk about heavy things. I think it’s important to talk about those dark moments, but to also present them in a a hopeful way because you know, I’m a happy person, and I want other people to leave that way as well after they experience and listen to my songs. I don’t want people to feel totally destroyed, but rather uplifted in some way. I’ve started being super open and vulnerable right now, and it’s been really cool. Because everyone is being incredibly open with their music, I think people are connecting to music that is reminiscent of the seventies or eighties.

I think it’s important to talk about those dark moments, but to also present them in a a hopeful way.

Atwood Magazine: Was there a particular part of your life you were trying to confront or reflect upon with “See You Later”?

Alexander 23: Yeah, definitely. What I have found with songwriting is that the more painfully specific and detailed I am about my own exact truth, the more people like my songs. I think there is something definitely relatable about heartbreak. I wrote a lot of this song standing in Penn Station, about to fly from New York to LA. I think the song does a good job of summing up the emotions and musical color of the whole project.

Alexander 23 © Julian Burgueño

Alexander 23 © Julian Burgueño

Atwood Magazine: Was there a particular moment in your career that really reaffirmed why you went down this path of becoming a musician?

Alexander 23: Oh, one hundred percent! I get these beautiful messages all the time — people telling me how my songs helped them get through this and that. What’s cool for me is seeing how diverse the reactions are, whether it’s the loss of a family member or some sort of mental health situation. When you see someone get so positive about life, and your songs helped do that, it reminds you why you like do it and why you started doing it.

When you see someone get so positive about life, and your songs helped do that, it reminds you why you like do it and why you started doing it.

Atwood Magazine: What do your hope fans take away from this track?

Alexander 23: I’ve thought about this a lot, but I think what I would love people to take away from “See You Later” is just how lucky we are to miss people in the first place. Saying goodbye always seems to have a sad connotation, but I couldn’t feel more of the opposite. If you miss something, then it was worth building. That feeling of missing something precious, even if it hurts, is the most prized feeling in the world.

Stream: “See You Later” – Alexander 23



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Music Critic. Professional Ramen Slurper. Mosh Pit Enthusiast.