Artist of the Week: Ed Sheeran

This week’s Artist of the Week is Ed Sheeran. I recently discovered Ed Sheeran’s music thanks to several tweets my friends have posted throughout the past two weeks about how awesome he is (My favorite was “Ed Sheeran’s love songs are causing me to seriously reconsider my opinions on marrying a ginger”). So this past weekend I listened to his album “+” (I pronounce it “plus”) on Spotify and by the time I’d heard every song on the album, I’d determined three things: 1) I needed to buy his album on iTunes right away 2) I had to follow him on Twitter 3) I needed to start singing his praises to anyone around that had functioning ears.

The thing that I like most about Ed Sheeran’s latest album is that every song on the album is completely different; there are no duplicates or similar melodies with slightly different lyrics. As I was listening to his album through for the first time, I kept asking myself, “What genre is this considered?” He goes from fast paced songs featuring rap verses such as “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” to songs like “Kiss Me” which is soft, heartfelt and earnest. Not only are Ed Sheeran’s songs different from one another, but Ed Sheeran himself is distinctly different from any other artist pursuing a path similar to his. His lyrics are fresh and original, his voice (with a discernible British accent) is memorable and his songs are just generally easy to enjoy.

While I whole-heartedly recommend you buy his album “+” (it’s only about 8 dollars, a steal in my opinion), if you only want to buy a song or two for a test run, my top 3 are as follows: “Drunk” (warning: it will get stuck in your head), “Small Bump” (a tragically beautiful song that may require you to press pause so you can process and appreciate the lyrics) and “Wake Me Up” (a fresh and well-written love song).

I don’t want to spoil the “Lego House” video for you but I highly recommend you watch it. And yes, that is Ron. You’ll understand once you watch.

Finding the Road to Success via The Alternate Routes

Sitting in a booth at the Levee, occasionally being interrupted by the voice over the intercom informing people that their chicken turnovers were ready, the indie-rock band The Alternate Routes sat back and enjoyed a beer as they talked about music, making it big and how it all began at Fairfield University.

Several of the band’s members have graduated from Fairfield University, including lead vocalist Tim Warren ‘03, leadguitarist Eric Donnelly ’01 and drummer Kurt Leon ‘07. It was through their connection at Fairfield that all of these musicians met each and eventually came together to form The Alternate Routes.

“You know what’s funny, Tim, I don’t think I ever even told you this… The first time I ever saw you play was actually here at the Levee,” Donnelly said.

The two officially met a few days later after a friend of Warren’s walked up to Donnelly at a townhouse party and said that she was going to give his number to Warren. While Donnelly was mostly just confused as to how the girl had his number, Warren ended up reaching out to him a few days later and the two played together for the first time at the Quick Center during the spring Pops concert.

By the time both men had graduated from Fairfield, they had plans to move to Bridgeport where they would continue making music together and work on their first EP, which was released in 2003, titled “This is When”. They have released several albums over the last decade but are convinced that the best is yet to come.

“You always think the thing you’re doing is the best thing you’ve ever done or else you wouldn’t do it,” Donnelly said.

The Alternate Routes are scheduled to play on campus at the Quick Center this coming Friday, October 19th in celebration of Alumni Weekend. Tickets are currently being sold at the Quick Center box office. Tickets are free for Fairfield University students, $20 for alumni and $25 for the general public.

The band is excited not only to revisit the very stage where it all began, but also to continue to show fans and people who have never heard of them before the hard work, dedication and genuine passion that comes standard with every song.

“We’ve bet the last 10 years of our lives on the fact that people will like it… it’s something worth seeing,” Warren said.

Currently, The Alternate Routes are working on producing several individual singles that continue to showcase the band’s hearty, homegrown sound and thoughtful lyrics. Most recently, they have released a song called “Rewind” on their official website, which they worked on and produced in Nashville, Tennessee. They hope that these various singles will eventually culminate into their next album.

In addition to producing more songs, the band is also taking a step back and assessing some of the unmusical aspects of the music business that may reveal why they are still relatively unknown.

On the subject of making it big, Warren said, “We’ve been so close to being one of the bands that everybody knows about but, you know, we aren’t. We are friends and contemporaries with a lot of bands that you do know and we’ve seen that happen.”

Donnelly said, “It’s like a puzzle. You just have to figure out how to put all these things together and what makes something click and what makes something stand out. You never know. What we’re trying to do now is just own those details a little more.”

The Alternate Routes are currently trying owning these various details by themselves, as they are currently self-managed and working independently without a label. The band is quick to qualify that both of these decisions are by choice and that they feel working independently is the best decision for them at this time.

“You don’t need a publicist to communicate directly with your fans…you don’t need a label to make the people who like you happy,” Donnelly said.

One of the ways that The Alternate Routes communicate with their fans (other than their music of course) is through their social media presence. Like many bands, The Alternate Routes appreciate the opportunities and publicity a strong identity on the Internet can yield, especially given the technological tendencies of modern music fans. Donnelly said that he is in charge of the band’s social media presence, which he manages namely through their official website, Facebook and Twitter.

Even though The Alternate Routes have yet to take off in the way that they would like, they are far from being some unknown band from Connecticut. Throughout their career thus far they have toured all over the world, performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and been interviewed on BBC radio. They have also had several songs appear on popular TV shows, such as their song “Please Don’t Let It Be” which was featured on an episode of MTV’s The Hills.

Despite the confusing and multi-faceted nature of today’s modern music industry, The Alternate Routes remain optimistic that their time is coming soon.

“I’m not a cynic,” Warren said. “Guys succeed everyday at it and it’s a weird combo of…I don’t know what yet. It’s that combination that all the people in our business are looking for.”

While The Alternate Routes keep meandering down this long winding road to success, fans are invited to tag along and enjoy the ride as the band continues to deliver the heartfelt music that has helped pave their way thus far.