Growing up, David Alexander, who is now known as the Swedish electronic music producer, Summer Heart, hated music. He just wanted his musician parents to be “normal.” His mother was a singer and his father was a piano player and the duo would travel around Sweden when Alexander and his younger sister were kids. As a result, the children would often find themselves sleeping on greenroom benches or with their heads down on restaurant tables. It was an unorthodox upbringing that both introduced Alexander to music and, at first, pushed him to want to rebel from it. Later, though, in his teenage years, he discovered the guitar and, a few years later, he discovered software for creating beats and songs. What once seemed abnormal now seemed paramount. Alexander has followed his love of making music ever since. Today, American Songwriter is premiering Summer Heart’s latest single, “Ocean,” which has also inspired the project’s next record release.
“Somehow when I was young,” Alexander says, “I decided I wanted to make my own music. I don’t know why.” He adds, “Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time on my own. You get a little bit—it doesn’t make you smarter. I’m sitting at home with my own thoughts and sometimes it feels like I’m going crazy. So, I tried to put that into the music.”
As a kid, Alexander’s professional musician father had a small studio in the family’s home. Analog equipment and myriad instruments were right at Alexander’s fingertips. Yet, his creativity was sparked when the family got its first computer. He downloaded some free music programming software he found online and began to experiment with it. He found a sequencer and began making odd drum patterns. He recorded some guitar overtop. Though he was into bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, he wasn’t into recordings covers. It had to be all original stuff. Later, Alexander played his songs for some friends and they said it showed promise. He was encouraged by their interest. As a Swede, Alexander was also buoyed by the success of musical countrymen like ABBA and Max Martin. In 2011, he got his first MacBook laptop and he began to make music on the GarageBand program. Music quickly became consuming.
“Even though the city I’m from is quite small,” Alexander says, “it had a really nice scene. Bands were coming through. There were DJs and clubs and things going on. Even before I was allowed to drink, I could go to concerts. It was inspiring. Then once I got into music, I began dreaming about bigger places and touring the world. I chased that dream for a little bit.”
At first, Alexander says, he was interested in touring the globe with his songs. But after many European tours to the U.K., Germany and other locales, along with four U.S. tours, he realized that the effort it takes to traverse the world might not be how he wanted to spend the majority of his time. Lately, even before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live music and touring, Alexander had been writing and making more music collaboratively. He was working with as many musicians as he could. While he’d been more precious and personal about his production style prior, more recently Alexander has been interested in increasing the number of cooks in the proverbial kitchen. These days, that often manifests by sending files back and forth between artists.
“I think it was in 2018 or 2019,” he says, “when I realized that it’s actually lots of fun to write music with other people. So, I collaborated with lots of people here in Sweden, in Stockholm. Just creating interesting instrumentals, playing around, jamming, having a good time, drinking beer and eating snacks.”
Alexander’s 2020 EP release, Ambitions, was born from these sessions. And the more open-minded production style stuck with him. More recently, as 2020 faded and 2021 dawned, the now thirty-year-old musician says he’s been contemplating the idea of isolation more and more. During the pandemic, Alexander says he’s spent significant time alone, so much so that he openly jokes about moments of feeling like he’s going mad. Yet at least part of this sense of aloneness is welcomed. Today, there is so much tension between people because of feelings of fear, anger and worry that Alexander wonders if he might be better off in nature somewhere —perhaps living by an ocean in some untouched seascape. His new single, “Ocean,” will also appear on Summer Heart’s next release, Oceans, which will likely drop in April.
“Being stuck in a city is not fun right now,” he says. “There’s something happening with people. It makes me want to move to the countryside, to the ocean. I’ve never had that feeling in my entire life before, wanting to escape the city. That’s what the new single is about.”
That Alexander is feeling a sense of existential and locational crisis makes sense. The pandemic and many of 2020’s global events have damaged people’s sense of security but, more personally, Alexander also lost his mother in 2020. In many ways, her passing forced Alexander to put his career on hold, including a more permanent move to Los Angeles, and gain a different perspective. The tragedy is sadly one of the many he’s had to absorb in the past calendar year. Yet, music remains for the artist. It’s thanks to the art form’s ability to transform and summon anew that Alexander has been able to move forward, both as a person and musician. Music, for him, is connective and a bridge out.
“I love how much can put me into different moods,” Alexander says. “It’s like nothing else. I can feel something that nothing else can make me feel, both positively and negatively. Music has that power.”