Artists are sometimes like superheroes; holding day jobs that can shadow the fact that they’re awing civilians in the nighttime.
27-year-old Brooklyn songwriter Derek Alexander Smith leads a one-of-a-kind dual lifestyle, working in a neuroscience lab while stealthily recording and releasing music such as his new song, “The Wheel,” from his upcoming April 30th EP, The Wheel / Saint Peter.
If Smith’s music “hovers in the crossroads of rock, folk, and country—but with a lot of varied influences,” as he described, “The Wheel” is on the side of the tracks where laid-back rock energized with Caribbean percussion conjoin. Trained in the trombone and piano early on, Smith now does most of his writing on the guitar, which is given time to shine in the single’s interlude of a bridge where he breaks out into a country-esque solo.
The EP’s release has been preceded by “The Wheel’s” music video, a charming animation of tarot cards and Scrabble letters. The cards are flown around the screen, puppeteered by sticks and put into motion by kaleidoscope effects throughout. The letters, meanwhile, appear in still shots every few seconds, each time spelling out a new message that tells their own, separate story, including characters of a scorpion and Sir Bullfrog. “The fool went to a wicked man who had a story to tell,” reads one of the excerpts, one of many cryptic phrases similar to the style of Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws” lyrics.
Inspiration for the visuals can be found within the song’s lyrics- “Put my cards on the table, and you blow them all away,” loops the chorus of “The Wheel” in a rhythmic, spellbinding recurrence. Amid mentions of fortunes and a journey fated to end before it could start, it seems very fitting that Smith chose tarot cards to represent the song.
The Wheel / Saint Peter will be Smith’s first release that was tracked in a professional studio, in this case Brooklyn’s The Creamery. His music up until now has been recorded at home, including two previous EPs and a handful of singles that were the result of quarantine-induced creative overdrive.
Smith is passionate about paying respect to his idols, saying that “I think that it’s super important for every artist to give time and attention to your influences. They’re those special people whose art fills you with the inspiration you need to do what you do.” He dedicated a Spotify playlist to recognizing some of his favorites, from Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan to MF DOOM.
The pair of songs will “perfectly encapsulate what [his] sound has always been and continues to be—a fusion of American styles with influence from all over the world,” he summarized. With the music video for “The Wheel” already out for fans to enjoy, they can also look forward to “Saint Peter” being a “jam to the core.”