There was a time when London-based artist Alex Clare fielded mainly one uncomfortable question from the inquisitive media: What was it like dating Amy Winehouse for a year? “Now I’ve spoken about it so much, I just don’t see how it’s relevant anymore,” he says. He has much more to discuss these days, like his 2011 debut album, recently reanimated by the platinum-selling success of its soulful single “Too Close,” which was prominently featured in a Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 TV commercial. “It’s been quite a nice thing to have happen,” he says with understatement.
How did Microsoft find you?
Somebody liked my song, and they played it for Keith Rivers, who made the commercial, and subsequently he used it. But when they made the commercial, they originally had another song in mind, but that didn’t really work out. So when he heard mine, he said, “Yeah! That works!”
What was the other song?
I can’t say, man. I could say, but I just don’t want to. That’s being a bit mean to the other person.
Is TV the new radio?
Indeed it is. It’s an amazing medium for exposure. And you kind of need to have something like that if you release songs, because it’s the only thing really happening nowadays. But my music’s also been picked up by a couple of films, and a song I wrote called “Relax My Beloved” has been used in the U.K. quite a lot, in commercials and by the BBC in a lot of their dramas.
But before “Too Close” hit, you’d been dropped from Island Records. Were things looking bleak?
It was a pretty depressing period. But everything turned out well — it, uh, just took a bit longer than I expected. But now I have a multiplatinum single all over the world, in most territories.
How did you spend the down period in between?
I did a bit of catering. But mainly I went back to school in Israel, and I was going to stay in school in Israel, until that song became a hit all over the world. So I left and came back to music. But I was actually in a yeshiva, a Jewish school, learning biblical and Talmudic text. It was awesome! Besides making music, that’s the only thing I would ever want to do with my time.
As an Orthodox Jew, are there certain days when you don’t perform?
Yeah. I don’t play on Friday and I don’t go anywhere on Saturday days. And obviously on religious festivals, as well. I won’t compromise my beliefs for my career, and I really do believe that if you make the right decisions in life, you get rewarded. Massively.