Interview: Alberta Cross Talks Going Solo & His Road Back to the Basics of Good Music

From by Nicolle Monico
Interview: Alberta Cross Talks Going Solo & His Road Back to the Basics of Good Music

Before Petter Ericson Stakee stepped inside an abandoned church-turned-studio in upstate New York to record a solo album, he was touring the country on the heels of his former band’s 2012 studio-produced album. Together with bassist Terry Wolfers, the duo called Alberta Cross, had claimed their stake in the music community with features on TV shows such as Sons of Anarchy and Californication. The English-rock band toured together from 2005 until 2013. After Wolfers left to pursue other ventures, the Brooklyn-based, singer-songwriter decided he needed a break; a time to figure out what he wanted his music to be and how it should sound.

alberta crossPhoto Credit: Alberta Cross

In the years since, Stakee has re-emerged in 2015 with a new Alberta Cross album that channels his rock roots while managing to capture a more soulful and raw sound. Written and produced solely by Stakee, the album is a return to the basics, an homage to the power of unmanufactured music. I recently caught up with Stakee to discuss the road to his album, touring and his most-vulnerable song.

When asked about his mindset prior to recording the album, he spoke of the time right after his final tour as a duo. “We toured for like eight years, you know? […] I wanted a little breather, and to regroup and figure out where I wanted to take all of our stuff,” said Stakee. “There were certain things that I wanted to change up and the people I worked with. Kind of a fresh start. I managed to do that and get out of all the industry stuff.”

alberta crossPhoto Credit: Alberta Cross

Discussing his time in London before being signed, the singer recalled the simplicity of songwriting and creating prior to being on a label. He spoke of writing songs without anyone else around and having only his own thoughts be the guiding factor on his music. “We just wrote all these songs and no one else was really around. No one had any input, everything was purer really,” said Stakee. “That’s kind of how I felt with this record, just wanted to write all of these songs and create my art without anyone saying anything.”

Like any good artist, Stakee began to notice his craft wasn’t being allowed to breathe. The many hands involved in the process were suffocating his music and creating overproduced sounds. While living in Brooklyn, he found himself jamming with friends at various bars around the city—each musician playing the other’s music and no one needing to be in the limelight. It was those moments, those simple sessions that inspired his forthcoming album.

alberta crossPhoto Credit: Alberta Cross

After months of songwriting and playing with friends, Stakee took his new songs to upstate New York to a recording studio called Dreamland. The old church was, to him, the perfect backdrop to his album. “I wanted to produce it myself with a friend. I wrote everything myself and I wanted to record it in Greenland, live in the church room, and keep the grit and the soul in the track, and not to overthink it too much,” shared Stakee. “The rawness is almost a good thing.”

Wanting to keep his songs fresh, he chose to bring in his musician friends to contribute their instruments to the record, a tribute to the late-night jam sessions that initially inspired him. While he doesn’t see the album being about one over-arching theme, he does believe it is filled with all kinds of stories about life. “I’m like a sponge, I take everything I see or I’m going through or see other people going through…all different kinds of stuff,” quipped Stakee. Filtering down his songs from 20 to 16 and then finally 12, Alberta Cross’ third album was finally complete.

alberta crossPhoto Credit: John Lattanzi

His vision for the project was to create an album that could be enjoyed from start to finish, something that many listeners nowadays don’t do too often. Stakee has previously shared that today’s average person has a short attention span and instead of going on a musical journey, often pick and choose a few songs to listen to. Hoping to disrupt the standard, this album is a great example of what good songwriting looks like.

Albert Cross’ first single was Isolation, which dropped this past summer, in it Stakee croons, “You lost yourself to wealth and greed/Got misdirected in the misty light/Could I catch you in a dream/Yeah, well I couldn’t let them bring you here/So I could feel you here.” Filled with strings, horns and percussion, it’s a great starting point to get a glimpse of what Alberta Cross is all about. Stakee considers his last song, It’s You That’s Changing, one of his favorites. “I think lyrically it’s probably one of the strongest I've written,” said Stakee. This just came out. The best songs I write always come out really quickly, and almost everything is down before I know it. It's really kind of out of my control. […] I feel like on this record, I like all of them a lot.”

alberta crossPhoto Credit: Alberta Cross

Another thing he’s already doing differently this time around is how he chooses to tour. “The important thing that you learn with touring, is that if you tour too much, you burn yourself, and it's not enjoyable at all,” shared Stakee. “You almost kind of lose yourself, you can really get into such a blur. There’s a new town all the time, and even if you love playing your music with other people, you could really just burnt out quickly. You get very exhausted as well. But if you do it right, like I'm hoping to do on this record […] you’ll tour a lot but you don’t take every tour you can.”

Alberta CrossPhoto Credit: Alberta Cross

The new self-titled Alberta Cross album drops in the US on October 16 with three upcoming tour dates in New York this November. But don’t worry, there will most likely be more shows added in the future. In the meantime, be sure to play his album from Track 1 to Track 12 and enjoy music the way it’s meant to be heard, from start to finish.

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