When Alexandra Savior McDermott blew into Hollywood from her native Portland a few years ago, the then-teen singer had a substantial wind at her back, with Courtney Love and producer Linda Perry championing her. “But I was a little too young to be in the music business; I just couldn’t understand it,” she says, of the lonely, secluded time she spent trying to finish her debut disc “Belladonna of Sadness,” finally slated for April release. Arctic Monkeys leader Alex Turner asked to co-produce her, and urged her to drop her unwieldy surname. The album — picture Lana Del Rey with a sense of humor, or Duffy if she delved deeper into her initially retro sound — is 2017’s first great record.
As a kid, painting was more your thing, right?
It was my everything. I would ride my bike home from school and go to this big room – when my parents got divorced, my mom let me have it, and she said I could paint the walls. So I painted a mural on the walls. But it was really nice to have that space that really helped me to escape. I think it’s really good for kids to have a place where they can have privacy and really tap into their imaginations.
How did music take over?
Well, I always thought that I would be a visual artist, and I wanted to go to art school to master my craft. Music was just sort of a side hobby. But then a friend and I did a performance when we were 14, and after that, everybody was really encouraging, going, “You can do this! You should really do this!” And I did really enjoy music, and it seemed like it was going to be much easier. But I was wrong. It was actually much harder.
But Courtney Love heard you singing online and contacted you?
Yeah. She called me up. We had a land line at my house, and the phone was shaped like a big tomato. So she would call me on the tomato phone, and I would sit in the kitchen and we’d talk and talk and talk. She gave me good advice. She told me not to let anybody turn me into a puppet.
Which several show biz execs wanted to do?
I went into one label for a showcase and played them some songs at 18. And after I finished, the guy asked me who I wanted to be: Pink or Katy Perry. And I just got up and walked out. My mom was there with me, and she was like, “Uh, I don’t think this is our guy. Let’s go.”
IF YOU GO
Alexandra Savior opening
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 18
Tickets: $15 (sold out)