Alex Gardner Biography
"I want to write great pop songs that last forever," he says. "My own music taste is so diverse, from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley, that I can appreciate the good in any song. I can pick out a fancy guitar riff and go 'Wow, that bit is really good'. Regardless of where the music is from. That's why my songs go from soulful ballads to pumping pop tracks."
Having supported Paolo Nutini across Scotland, played on the same bill as Mika and Paloma Faith and performed dozens of his own shows, Gardner has cut his chops live. "Performing is such an essential part of what I do," he enthuses. "I was always the guy at parties who'd get the guitar out."
Tracks like 'Picture Me Running', 'I'm Not Mad', 'Where Were U When I Was Sleeping' and the huge 'Yesterday's News' have already become audience favourites, not least at 2009's T In The Park where Gardner wowed the BBC Introducing... stage, strutting his stuff with a confidence that belies his young years. "I'm 18 going on 30," he agrees.
Alex Gardner grew up in Edinburgh, surrounded by music. Mum was a violinist with an orchestra, his older brother played in a heavy metal band. "I started having piano lessons when I was 5," he says. "Though I quit when I was 6. I couldn't stand someone telling me how to do it. If music sounds right, then it has to be right. It shouldn't matter about the method."
He got his first guitar when he was 10, and was soon writing his own songs - the lyrics to one or two have even found their way into a couple of today's tunes. By 16 he'd had enough of school - "I was a 'b' student - not great, not bad, but I couldn't really channel my attention" - and strove to make something of himself.
"Edinburgh is absolutely beautiful, but I wanted to see if there was a bit more excitement in London." So Gardner took the M1 South for the bright lights of London - which is where he met Brian Higgins, Xenomania's director.
Higgins famously likes to steer his young charges in new and unchartered ways, encouraging them in musical directions they may not have considered before. But that wasn't the case with Gardner. "Brian's great 'cos he takes a singer and exposes them to all different kinds of music, and they find where they should be. But with me and Brian, it was different. I had an idea of what I wanted to do. He had an idea of what he wanted me to do. And it was bang in the middle. That's how I got to be sitting here just 18 months later."
Indeed, Gardner's progress has been uncharacteristically speedy. When you hear his music you'll understand why. His rich, soulful voice has already been compared to prime Richard Ashcroft, Paolo Nutini (inevitably) and "people I've never heard of, so you just sit there and nod - but if they're successful artists that's got to be a good thing, right?"
Meanwhile his songbook runs the gamut from after-hours love song 'Lush' to the aching dancefloor strut of 'Heartbreak' to signature tune 'Yesterday's News'. New songs are coming thick and fast, too. "Enough for a double-disk, with b-sides!" he laughs. "Which is a great situation to be in - the struggle of 'I can't take that one off', 'I've got to keep that one'."
Good news, because in this age of disposable singles and downloads, Gardner represents something old school in the best possible way: he's a proper album artist. "Each song has its own message, each one has a different story," he says. "But they all relate to each other."
Get used to the name Alex Gardner - with this amount of talent at his disposal, the sky's the limit.
He grins. "2010's going to be a hell of a year."