Interview: Alfie Caine talks music, art and Cambridge life, ahead of the release of his new single
‘Alone on the Dancefloor’ drops this Friday
Alfie Caine is both a musician and an artist. If you check out his Instagram, you’ll find a variety of material: self-written singles and acoustic covers interweave posts of strikingly vibrant paintings, depicting residential interiors and exteriors with stunning detail.
The former Cambridge architecture student, who graduated from Gonville and Caius in 2018, has already amassed an impressive portfolio of paintings, and released 3 singles, each with their own accompanying music video. We caught up with him to discuss his creative process, Cambridge life and the mingling of art and music ahead of the release of his new single, ‘Alone on the Dancefloor’, due out on Friday (15th May).
Alfie experiments with his music style for the new single, creating an energetic dance bop that contrasts with the calming tone of his earlier work. He is humble and down to earth, revealing the inspiration behind his new song: “It was a salsa class in Madrid. We were there as part of an architecture trip and my friend, Leanne, encouraged us all to go, and I thought, oh god this is going to be awful. And there was this room with all these Spanish pros – I was going to make a complete fool of myself.”
In hindsight, he wishes his mindset had been different. “Nobody cares how you’re dancing”, he says, “everyone is too busy thinking about how they’re dancing – it just doesn’t matter. But I know all my friends do this – they fear what people are going to think. But really you should just all dance as if you’re on your own”. It was this realisation that triggered the lyric writing process and the shift to a lighter, more upbeat style.
With the help of his friend, Hannah Owen, Alfie produced the music video over the last few weeks, creating a compilation of his friends dancing on their own in lockdown. He hopes the song can lift people’s spirits: “It is quite light hearted – I don’t want people to take it too seriously. But I also want it to be something people can really enjoy themselves to.”
During lockdown, he has also been working on a series of covers with his brother, Chester. The pair of them sit on a couch, with their family dog and Alfie’s paintings in the backdrop, creating the most warming and delicate acoustic covers of a series of niche songs.
“At Cambridge I discovered so much more about myself”
While Alfie considered creating his own music at school – after his sixth form piano teacher recommended that he tried writing his own songs – it was only at university that he truly began to explore his own songwriting and creativity. “At Cambridge I became a lot more comfortable in myself – I discovered so much more about myself. I experienced a lot more too, there was more to write about”, he shares with a slight laugh. “It helped being away from home and discovering that it’s not architecture that I wanted to pursue. Before I wouldn’t have known what route I wanted to take. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I hadn’t gone there.”
A year after he graduated, Alfie got the chance to meet one of his favourite songwriters, Ina Wroldson, at her small-scale concert. She referred him to her pianist, Olav Tronsmoen, who was into songwriting and had just been signed to her publishing company. After Alfie sent him some music, he invited him to Norway to write with him. “In January this year I went to Norway and we had two days in the studio and I brought a few song ideas with me, and “Alone on the Dancefloor” was one of them.”
Out of the music production process, Alfie enjoys songwriting the most, and went along with the idea of writing for other artists, not necessarily to be an artist. He says it would be an absolute dream if an artist covered his new single.
Even now, most of the content that Alfie is developing was drafted in Cambridge: “Throughout my degree I was always writing songs, whether I was on my bike to the department or while I was drawing. I’d get an idea and write a rough demo down.” He stresses that Cambridge really was the turning point in his life. It’s what made him who he is today and gave him the confidence to pursue both his music and art career.
“People love the kind of art that’s an escape from everything”
When I ask Alfie what unites his art and music, he initially says he finds the “process quite separate”. He enjoys the two different creative processes and notes that while he spends the majority of his time painting, he always listens to music while doing it – and this is often a source of inspiration.
After a slight pause, he delves a bit deeper, expanding his motivations behind drawing residential interiors: “The thing that links the art and music – is essentially a feeling. The best music is a song that makes you feel a certain emotion. With these interior spaces, there’s a sense of familiarity as there’s a solid space or place. I might heighten the colours to evoke the kind of light that people find really uplifting or a certain time of day when I feel happy or other people feel happy.
“Especially now, people love the kind of art that’s an escape from everything – and I think always that’s what art is about – trying to capture that and condense it and get it in one piece of art, whether it’s on a canvas or in 3 minutes of a song. In a sense there is a link – that’s what I’m trying to create and that’s what I get the most pleasure out of achieving – if I feel like I capture that in my song or in my artwork.”
“Be fearless and go for it”
I ask him what advice he would give to a Cambridge student who would like to get into the music or art industry. Characteristically humble, he laughs, unsure of what to respond. “Persevere with it – there’s so many instances where I felt like there’s someone who’s so much better. There’s always that comparative, especially at Cambridge where there’s so much talent too, and just in general. If you believe in what you’re doing and you persevere, things do start to take shape. Now I’ve realised a style of painting and technique that I love.
“Also don’t be scared of sharing your work. The more I put up, the more people are willing to buy things. Be fearless and go for it. If you saw me before university I would never have done any of this.”
Cover photo credit: Alfie Caine