LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT ALEXA WILDING, THE 19TH CENTURY MUSE TO PRE-RAPHAELITE ARTIST AND POET DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI — EXCEPT THAT SHE FORGED A DEEP, SEEMINGLY PLATONIC BOND WITH THE PAINTER, WHICH STOOD APART FROM THE EXPLICIT TRYSTS ROSSETTI FAMOUSLY FORMED WITH MANY OF HIS OTHER MODELS. NEVERTHELESS, THE WORKING-CLASS WOMAN, WITH HER AUBURN HAIR AND ENIGMATIC GAZE, WAS THE PROTAGONIST OF MORE OF ROSSETTI’S FINISHED WORKS THAN HIS MORE RENOWNED SUBJECTS.
Over a century later, the New York-based singer-songwriter Alexa Wilding appropriated the storied moniker, substituting her namesake's poignant stare with haunting lyrics and vocals. We first met the contemporary Alexa soon after, in 2009, on a fantastical photoshoot that saw her channeling another bygone character: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, “Orlando as a woman, that is.” She had just debuted her eponymous EP and spoke of using music as a kind of companion, for herself and others. Today, Alexa is releasing her third album, titled “Wolves,” written at the bedside of one her infant twin sons as he was — ultimately successfully — undergoing cancer treatment. And while the harrowing experience and seven years of life that have transpired since that initial collaboration have undoubtably transformed Alexa's spirit, she speaks of her new music in analogous terms: “Strangely,” she says, “the songs kept us company, and we both made it out, happy, healthy and free."
IF YOU COULD RELIVE A DAY OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I'd relive the minor ones: days off on tour, when a new city laid itself out before me, or idle days of losing myself in a book or recipe. Mostly I daydream about lazy days past, now that life is so full!
WHAT IS A DECISION THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFE?
Becoming a mother snapped me into focus as an artist, a woman and a person.
WHAT'S ONE DECISION THAT YOU WOULD GO BACK AND CHANGE IF YOU COULD?
There isn't one — mostly a handful of blunders where I didn't speak up for myself and, as a result, doors closed when they could have opened.
A SUMMER MORNING SONG
A SONG FROM THE FIRST ALBUM YOU OWNED
YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD PICTURE
YOUR MOST PRECIOUS OBJECT
A PICTURE OF FREEDOM
A SONG YOU HAVE LISTENED TO 10 TIMES IN A ROW
A SAD SONG
A SCENE THAT IS MADE BY THE MUSIC
WHAT DO YOU WISH WE TALKED ABOUT MORE?
Fear. My son, Lou, is a cancer survivor, so as a family we have stared fear in the face. Fear is a gift for it shows us what parts of ourselves need love. We should spend more time talking about what we are afraid of, what we have seen and what we hope to never see again. Fear, like love, connects us to every human that ever was.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE?
A PERFECT STYLE MOMENT
YOUR FAVORITE NEW SONG
YOUR FAVORITE BODY PART
AN IMAGE THAT WAS ON YOUR WALL AS A TEENAGER
A SCENE FROM A CHILDREN'S MOVIE THAT MAKES YOU CRY
WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST KISS? WHO WAS IT WITH?
On Barrow Street, with my first love. I don't know what I loved more — him or the fireplace smell of the Village at night, probably both the same.
WHAT WOULD YOUR 16-YEAR-OLD SELF THINK OF YOUR LIFE TODAY?
I think she would be happy that I'm doing all that I hoped to do, albeit with some crazy twists in the road.
SOMEONE YOU LOVE
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT PARENTING BOYS?
Encouraging their softness and quieting their innate aggression, without wounding their spirit. The physicality of boys is something so foreign to me, and I am always, as their mother, caught in the crosshairs. Lots of ripped hems and busted toes.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART?
When they are still, boys deeply love their mamas. I was told this, and it is true.
WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE
A PICTURE YOU WISH YOU'D TAKEN
YOUR LAST GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH
A SONG YOU'RE EMBARASSED TO LOVE
A SONG YOU WISH YOU WROTE
WHAT DOES THE WORD "FEMINIST" MEAN TO YOU?
I believe in a woman's right to choose in every sense of the word — how she lives, acts, desires and loves. Hopefully this choosing will continue to change how we move in the world.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE ICONS?
Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Nico... singing mystics with style.
A PLACE YOU HAVE CALLED HOME
THE LAST THING ONLINE THAT MADE YOU LAUGH
HOW WOULD YOU HOPE YOUR SONS DESCRIBE YOU WHEN THEY GROW UP?
I hope they will describe me as brave and ever-loving.
WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
Every breath my children take. My husband's love, my family, my brilliant friends. The music that keeps coming. Mother Earth.