Click on any one of Alec Wigdahl’s videos posted to YouTube, and a majority of the comments are forecasts.
“Your [sic] gonna blow up soon I’m calling it 2020,” writes one user.
“This man is gonna blow up i swear,” predicts another.
“Whos here before he blows up??? He’s (original) [sic] in some way.”
The commenters may not be far off. So far the young musician’s catalog boasts incredibly catchy tracks supercharged by his emotive voice, the full power of which can be heard on the acoustic version of his latest single “Cologne,” a song tinged with a kind of lost-boy angst. His is an of-the-moment sound — that combined effect of a danceable beat and synths harmonized with lyrics lamenting unrequited love and the growing pains of young adulthood.
19-year-old Wigdahl grew up in Richfield, Minnesota, where he spent a childhood absorbing his dad’s taste for classic rock and oldies, as well as his mom’s indie favorites. It wasn’t until the end of high school, though, after a scoliosis diagnosis resulted in surgery, when a recovering Wigdahl began taking songwriting seriously.
“I had been playing instruments my whole life, but it had always just been a hobby,” Wigdahl told me. “I had back surgery and I had to stop playing sports and this whole shift in my life happened. I discovered songwriting and this passion for music that was probably always there — it just took a while to figure out.”
In high school, Wigdahl cut his teeth playing open mics around the Twin Cities. After graduating, he decided to pursue music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where his confidence grew and a career making music started to seem less like a faraway dream. “I noticed I had more and more people coming up to me about this EP I released,” Wigdahl remembered. “I had this moment where I was like, ‘maybe I could actually do this.’”
Soon after matriculating, Wigdahl realized that the career he wanted couldn’t take off without hustling full-time to self-release music on streaming services and promoting himself on social media.
“I have always been a big believer in recognizing the time you’re in,” Wigdahl explained. “No one really [gets discovered] by going around and playing shows anymore.”
Social media is precisely where his work paid off in 2019 when Wigdahl received a direct message from someone he now likens to an adopted parent: Taz Taylor. Taylor is head of Internet Money and the affiliated label 10k Projects, a young beat maker collective based in Los Angeles whose credits include internet savvy rappers Lil Tecca and the late Juice Wrld.
“When they did reach out to me it was weird because I already knew who they were,” Wigdahl laughed. “But now they’re my best friends.”
Wigdahl’s 2019 EP, Strawberry, was created alongside Internet Money members while Wigdahl crashed on a sofa inside the studio of the collective’s Los Angeles residence, a far cry from how he began composing tracks alone in his childhood room. But the sound of Strawberry still bears resemblance to what Wigdahl considers to be his roots as a singer-songwriter.
It features folk-pop ballads alongside tracks like “Misbehaving,” on which hints of guitar fall into the background as an infectious beat and Wigdahl’s voice take center stage. The song is a perfect example of what can happen when a trained acoustic musician with an ear for the charts teams up with hip hop-focused producers.
“When I first started songwriting it was Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, John Mayer — those were the people I studied to learn how to play guitar and write songs,” Wigdahl explained. “I still love that kind of music, but I think in terms of my career and where I want the direction of music to go, I don’t want to get stuck in the singer-songwriter box.”
It could be that Wigdahl’s single “Cologne,” which has a darker Billie-Eilish-type production and an accompanying music video in which he stumbles through a funhouse mansion strung with cobwebs in search of a ghostly ex-lover, is the gothic pop direction the artist is heading. “But I’m still broken, I’m still crazy/ From the last time,” he sings.
Wigdahl was just beginning conversations about touring when COVID-19 put the world in lockdown. In regard to how it feels to be steadily gaining visibility while fans are in quarantine (“Cologne,” released in March, has over half a million views on YouTube and over 1.4 million streams on Spotify), Wigdahl is optimistic and currently focusing on unabated studio time and building a platform on social media. His next single, “Lipstick,” will be out later in June.
“I definitely am anxious to go play shows,” he said. “I spent so many nights playing at open mics wishing it was a stage, and now I’m actually at a level where I could go play shows on a stage in front of a crowd, and I’m really excited for it.”
As far as where his sound is headed, Wigdahl maintains faith in his practice of following his gut. He recently signed a lease on his own apartment in Los Angeles, and is committed to expanding the type of music he makes while cultivating his flair for pop and finding inspiration in old favorites like David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and Kings of Leon. “I never want to force myself to make a certain type of music; I’m trying to make the songs that feel really natural right now,” he said. “I’m trying to evolve where the music’s going.”