EXCLUSIVE: Alex Warren Talks Transition from TikTok to Musician

Being one of the most followed Gen Z stars on YouTube Instagram and TikTok, Alex Warren pulled a miracle turn from sleeping in friends’ cars to now having tremendous success, a story that easily will inspire others. Warren is originally known for his famous TikTok videos and going viral with many of his friends and formerly being part of the Hype House. Now, Warren is signed to Atlantic Records and is on trajectory to being the next big singer/songwriter, similar to a Lewis Capaldi or Ed Sheeran. We chatted with Warren about his latest single “Chasing Shadows” and more!

How are you?

I’m good. How are you? 

Good. let’s just start off with obviously “chasing shadows.” I kind of read the description of the song and I love how you got the idea behind it from seeing your dog running, which is adorable. But then again, I know the song overall has a deeper meaning to you. I was just curious about how you were able to get in touch with those emotions just from seeing your dog chasing her shadow?

Yeah. I mean, a lot of times when I’m writing my music, it’s like therapy in a way. You kind of just talk about how you feel and you write it down, which is exactly how I think of it. I think in the long run, I’ve gone through a lot of traumatic events, growing up and as a child to the point where I kind of see, especially when I’m writing songs, I see the things that happen in my life a little differently. Like with a lot of people they see my dog chasing her shadow as funny and where I, you know, I must be amazing at parties, I saw something really depressing.

It’s really interesting, like one day we were playing with a laser pointer and my dog started getting really interested in it to the point where when we stopped playing with a laser pointer, anything that was remotely a shadow or just casting something of that sort, she was chasing it.

And it made me really sad because she kept crying, trying to catch it. She’d never could. And it made me think like, For weeks on end, I would just hear crying and pouting, knowing that she would never actually catch her shadow. And it was just sad and depressing. And then I thought about when I was writing, I was chasing shadows, like we all do it.

It’s not just universal to someone losing a parent or losing anyone in their life. Constantly, we’re either chasing the approval of others or chasing that dream body that you wish you had or chasing the approval of your parents. For me it was something where like, you know, when my parents passed away, a lot of people were like, they’d be so proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved.

There’s a part of me that just feels like would they or can they even see it now? And so like that’s something where you know that you take one thing and it can mean so many other things. That’s kind of beautiful in its own depressing way.

Wow, that’s a deep answer. I love the concept of chasing after your shadow because like you said, we do do that a lot in life.

I know you’re just recently signed to Atlantic Records , how has it been working with them because I know it’s like such an iconic label. 

It’s been really crazy. I think the whole thing was like, you know, you hear so many horror stories with labels and I knew that I had a lot to prove coming from TikTok or social media to music, and I needed a label’s help to be able to do that. Atlantic has been in the industry for so goddamn long, to the point where I have so many tools at my disposal now. I’m able to study music theory and be able to better my songwriting and go through what we call A&R bootcamp, which is just me in 10 hour sessions every day, taking in so much information. It’s something so beautiful and something so cool. For the last seven months I’ve been working my glutes off trying to make it in this industry and it’s amazing to have the support of a major label like Atlantic.

You mentioned TikTok, so I’ll bring that up. I know you originally got your start on social media. I know a lot of musicians are starting to kind of go over to the music world from TikTok like Dixie and you know, Lil Huddy and all those other people. I feel like you were able to do it in a way that I kind of forgot about you on TikTok. How did you go about trying to move away from that image of being known as a TikToker and now being known as a musician, fully?

I think the one thing I did differently was that I didn’t try to move away from it and that’s why it has felt so organic. I think a lot of people were like, look at me I’m a musician, treat me like a musician, I’m not just this. I think what’s helped me has been saying, Hey, yeah, I am this, but you should also go listen to my music.

I never try to run away from it. However you want to view me, view me. My music speaks for itself and I have nothing to walk away from.

I also hope what sets me apart is that my music is relatable. You could be the happiest and most successful you’ve ever been yet still have experienced pain and loss of some sort. I hope what sets me apart is choosing to not sing about the cooler parts of my life and instead focusing on the tough parts, the parts that I hope people relate to and find helpful in realizing they’re not alone. I’m singing about things that I feel like a lot of people go through. 

There are so many artists signed to Atlantic Records. I’m curious what artists from Atlantic Records you would love to collaborate with or work with. 

Ed Sheeran or Lizzo. Those are my two favorites. 

Very different. 

Right?! I think it’s cool. A lot of people assume that I would say Lewis Capaldi as my dream collab. But I think the coolest thing to me is the diversity of voices and Lizzo and Ed Sheeran have pretty different voices for me and I think it would compliment each other. Iconic .

I definitely think that Ed Sheeran would be a great duet with you actually. When did you know you wanted to get into music? I know you kind of had a rough upbringing, so going into social media, was music always your dream to get into or?

When I was six, I got a guitar from my dad for Christmas and that was the dream of running around my house and my underpants singing and playing chords. Social media, I started off doing music. If you scroll the way down to my TikTok and everything, it’s covers to songs that I love. The problem is no one cared . So no one gave one fuck. I was in a really tough spot in my life where I had to figure out what I was doing. And so I started making vlogs as a way of like, you know, these are going really popular and it’s going very well. You know, I’ll do it. And so I started doing vlogs and they took off pretty quickly after that.

It was crazy and it. I always just thought I was never able to do music. I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t think I had the look. I was a chubby kid. I just didn’t think it was in the cards. There were no musicians like me at the time.

You had like Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, a lot of Justins. I just didn’t feel like there was anyone like me and it was impossible for someone like me. And then came along, James Arthur and Lewis Capaldi, and so many of these people who didn’t look essentially like they’d be musicians or like they wouldn’t follow the mainstream Hollywood look, I guess, or like the voices, deep baritone voices didn’t really do that well in pop music.

I always wanted to do it, but never felt like it was possible. Then I posted a singing video on TikTok on the toilet, it got 10 million views overnight and everyone’s like, you should make a song. And I’m like, what? Wait, this could actually work. This could be cool. And so I posted “One More I Love You”, which I had written when I was fifteen.

I love the true authenticity of that video being how you kinda got famous in music.

Like out of all the videos I could have posted, me on the toilet is the one that went viral, and I’m so happy because it is the coolest bar story ever. I don’t even drink. I will go to the bar and tell everyone that story.

Also I do love Lewis Capaldi. He’s so authentic. He literally wore a sweatshirt and jeans for one performance. I love that.

I take a lot of inspiration from that. At my first concert, I wore pajamas. 

You know what? I need to be more like that because I’m afraid to go outside in pajamas into a grocery store.

It’s awesome. It feels so free. 

If you could set up a fan of your music in any setting for them to listen to “Chasing Shadows,” what type of setting would that be? 

That’s a really good question. I’ve never been asked that. I feel like if there is an auditorium in the middle of the forest, that would be really cool because the song, kind of like the way that we wrote it in the production of it, just sounds like you’re chasing something. It sounds like you’re running towards something or running away from something. And to me, that reminds me funny enough, about like “Wonder” by Shawn Mendes, if you’ve ever seen his music video of him running through the forest after training, it reminds me so much of that.

I feel like the auditorium would be really cool. It doesn’t exist, but it’d be sick . 

I like that answer. That actually is one of the cooler answers of that question. 

Disneyland, because if it was Disneyland, if they hated the song, they still enjoyed the fact that they were at Disneyland so I could write it off like they liked my song . 

Clever. I know it’s kind of that generic time of year to reflect. Is there one special moment that has happened this year that you’ll always remember?

Signing my record label deal. I had always thought that signing a record label deal was something – like when you do it, you’re in a meeting room with hundreds of executives and it’s this huge thing, and maybe it is the case for other people, but I loved the way I signed my deal. I signed my record label deal in the airport on a DocuSign. It was one page of DocuSign after we went through everything and I was just in the airport about to be delayed from my flight. I almost missed my flight by five minutes because I was signing my record label deal. There was just something so cool and so crazy about it. You had this idea of what it would be like as a kid and it was completely the opposite for me, and I actually really loved it. I loved the fact that I was just like, sign, okay, let’s get to work . 

You signed it in an airport. That’s awesome.

I will never forget it. I will never forget when I signed my record label deal. That’s the highlight of my music career. 

We have this question at ECHO that we like to ask everyone. What is one quote that you’ve heard in life that you’d want to ECHO out to your fans?

Gosh, there’s so many. I would like to quote Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana, “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days.” That is my favorite quote. The reason behind it is I’m so focused on having my music be perfect, making sure everybody likes it. Then if I see one hate comment out of the hundreds of thousands of my music, I start… like someone once said too much autotune on one of my songs, and it was like out of the hundred thousand comments that said, we love this so much, I read that comment and messaged my entire label, the producer, everyone and I said, Hey, is there too much autotune on this song? Like, what’s going on? Out of everyone who’s commenting, one person did and I immediately thought it wasn’t perfect and I immediately wrote off everything else and I’m like, oh my God, is this song bad? Like, what’s going on? You have to realize it’s like, you know, I’m so focused on making everything perfect that I might make a mistake and I have to like let go and just realize that some people aren’t gonna like, and some people are, and I shouldn’t let that ruin my day.

How do you manage to do that? I know coming from an industry primarily being in like social media for two, a few years, how do you manage to stay grounded and think healthily, and be happy overall? 

That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think the biggest thing for me is I’m surrounded by a ton of my friends and a lot of people don’t have outlets to get a lot of these feelings out. I’m blessed that my job is to get my feelings out into music. I don’t think that if I had writing sessions and I think if I was in a different line of work and I wasn’t getting help, I think I’d honestly just spiral. 

I used to think a lot of the feelings I had were invalidated because not a lot of people went through what I went through. I feel like there’s no one I can talk to who will understand, and a shrinks job is to make you feel better. You would need someone to talk with that has gone through the same thing. The beautiful thing about my platform is, let’s say I post a song on Snapchat and there’s hundreds of comments being like, I lost my mom five years ago and I’ve never related anything as much as this song. Or someone’s like, I didn’t even lose a parent, but I’ve gone through an abusive relationship and this song describes it perfectly. It’s crazy that it’s so universal and I think that’s the coolest thing. The people listening to this music think that I’m helping them, and in a way I am, but it’s crazy to think that none of them realize that those comments in the way that they’re taking this music is helping me even more. You know, saying that sounds really selfish, but at the same time it’s cool because I made this music just to get my feelings out . The fact that so many people find it hopeful and find it relatable and they feel like they’re not alone in the situation is so cool because it makes me feel the same way.

I do love your music by the way. You have a unique tone to your voice. I’m excited to see whatever happens next in terms of your career. Speaking of that, I know it’s almost the new year as well, 2023. What are some of your big musical goals for 2023? 

I really wanna put out an album, and that’s all in the contingency that my songs do well beforehand. If I was able to put on an album, it means that I did pretty well for myself, so that would be awesome. I’ve been building my music up for the last year. I’m not expecting it to just happen overnight. I’m working my booty off. My one goal really is just to have the music get to as many people as possible.

I think the biggest thing is like seeing how it’s helped a lot of people. I talk about this every day -it just takes one TikTok to fucking get a song to as many people as you need, or one social post or whatever. My whole thing is I just want people to hear the music and whether you hate it or love it, you were able to come to that opinion listening to it. 

The goal is just to be able to put out an album. I have so many songs and that I really wanna put out that I absolutely love, and it’s all following the same suit of kind of just like a message to my younger self, or going through the things that I went through. My entire album, which I’m really proud of, is literally just stories about me. But they’re delivered in a way where everyone can feel a certain way to those songs. I cannot wait to put that out. 

I can’t wait to hear that because I do love nostalgic songs when you reflect and everything so I can’t wait to hear your album. Hopefully it comes out soon. 

Yes, you and I both!

Stream “Chasing Shadows” and “Headlights” now!