You might not know his name (yet), but you’ve definitely heard his music.
At just 25 years old, Alex Kotz, known in the music world as Elderbrook, has topped the dance charts with his vibey beats and kept club-goers going into the wee hours of the morning everywhere from Berlin to Rio to Ibiza. We caught him in the height of festival season, between Austria and Budapest, to get to know a little more about the man behind the beats.
Like many success stories, his started at a young age, with some good old rock’n’roll.
“I was about 16, the age when everyone was buying guitars just because it was the cool thing to do,” laughs the London-born songwriter and producer. “I learned a few chords but didn’t really want to play anyone else’s music, so I got straightaway into writing my own stuff.”
The self-proclaimed “indie kid” formed a band with some friends and looked to the likes of The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Kings of Leon for inspiration. Despite “a lot of bad, and some not-so-good songs” Kotz persevered. Fast forward a few years, and the hobby followed him to university, where he studied music and started experimenting with production.
“The only reason why I downloaded software originally was so I could record my acoustic music, so I’d record the guitar and vocals and make that sound nice. But then I realized after a while that there’s so much other stuff you can do when you’re on a computer. I started to put electronic drums on it and that sounded good, and then I started messing around with some synths until, well, I guess that was my new sound and I just became fully electronic.”
In his first year of university, with just 100-odd followers on SoundCloud, he started uploading his music, until one song got a little extra attention.
“One blog reposted it, then two, then five, then 30. I started getting all these messages from managers, lawyers, all that kind of stuff, and I thought, ‘Oh, okay, we’ll let’s do this then,’” Kotz remembers. A few weeks later, he was signed by a record label, and not long after, released his first EP.
A few months after that, his song “How Many Times” got picked up by German duo, Andhim, who gave it a bit more house. And then suddenly… Elderbrook had the number-one dance song in Ibiza.
“It was actually a really sad song on vocals over a banging house beat,” describes Kotz. “I think people heard it and thought, ‘Hold on, this is a bit weird, this is a bit different.’ That was the first time I felt like I was really connecting with people on a larger scale.”
Those human-to-human connections are a major theme for the musician, whose latest track with Rudimental, “Something About You,” was just released Friday.
“This song is about needing someone to lean on, and people collectively leaning on each other, making everywhere just a little bit more happier of a place,” he explains. “I’ve been sitting on the lyrics and melody for a little while, and we worked on it a bit together and they gave it a little more energy, made it a little more Rudimental, so it’s a bit of theirs and a bit of mine.”
He says collaborating and touring with artists with more up-tempo styles, including Gorgon City, CamelPhat, and Clean Bandit, has influenced his own sounds. “It’s really good to see a properly energetic song going, to see the crowd jumping up and down and getting really involved,” he shares.
While he plans to continue touring (festival season in the southern hemisphere has yet to start), he’s also working on his first full length album to be released early next year. Though still under wraps, the album will play on the same idea of human connection that Kotz has already experienced so strongly, both with fellow artists and with the millions of strangers who’ve connected to his music.
Marie Salcido is a freelance writer based between Mexico City and San Francisco. Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the middle of seven children, family has always been a top priority, though her appetite for new places has pulled her far from her Midwestern roots. Whether posted in her home cities or exploring new locales, Marie’s keen interest in people has accompanied her throughout her travels — reaffirming her belief that the more you see of the world, the smaller it gets. Find her on Instagram at @mdsalcido.