'Father' of lines: Everclear singer opens up about singing for his kids' tuition and his own deadbeat dad
MOORHEAD — Art Alexakis is on the phone to discuss the 20th anniversary of "So Much for the Afterglow," but before he starts talking about Everclear's best known album, he puts me on hold to talk to his daughter.
Rock 'n' roll may keep him on the road — Everclear will play "So Much for the Afterglow" in its entirety and other hits Saturday night, June 17 at Bluestem Center for the Arts — but family comes first for the singer/guitarist.
"I'm still paying off student loans for my eldest daughter and the younger one, the 9-year-old, is going to college, so I'll probably be singing these damn songs until I'm 90," he says with a laugh.
And there are plenty of songs to sing. From the mid-1990s through the mid 2000s, Everclear's knack for mixing pop hooks and harmonies with charged guitars made the group a staple on MTV and radio. The biggest hits from "So Much for the Afterglow," "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You a New Life" and "Father of Mine" all landed in the top four of the Alternative Songs charts and the instrumental, "El Distorto de Melodica," was nominated for a Grammy.
It was a good showing for the group, a relief for Alexakis, who co-produced the album.
"I had big success with the album before," he recalls. "I was coming from a place of trying to maintain that. A lot of people were putting pressure on me and I was feeling that, though I wouldn't admit it."
Despite the fame achieved in '97, Alexakis wasn't sure where he would be in 20 years.
"Life just takes you where it wants to take you," the 55-year-old says. "I was very fortunate and very grateful that I got to experience the dream I had when I was 4 years old, playing rock 'n' roll for a living. That's all I ever wanted to do. After seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when I was 4, that's all I ever wanted to do."
Despite that fond memory, his childhood was far from ideal. His father abandoned the family when Alexakis was a child, and his older brother died of a drug overdose in the 1970s.
His father's abandonment was the inspiration for "Father of Mine" and the lyrics, "Father of mine/ Tell me how do you sleep/ With the children you abandoned/ And the wife I saw you beat."
"I never really had much relationship with my dad," Alexakis says when asked what his relationship with his father is like now. "He was a ghost. He wasn't there."
Instead, Art was raised by his mother and older sister.
"I learned how to be a man and a father from a single mom. How about that?" he says.
He would occasionally talk to his father, but was reluctant to allow his own children to meet their paternal grandfather.
Eleven years ago, as his mother was dying of lung cancer, his father reached out to his son again to repair their relationship. Alexakis told him to start by calling the wife he left and hadn't talked to in more than 30 years.
"You call her and you listen to her, you let her talk and admit to everything and just be a mensch," Art recalls telling his father. "You've got nothing to lose. She's old and dying, and she's not going to hurt you. Dig down deep, find it in yourself. Embrace the truth and let her die happy. You do that, I'm in. I will buy tickets the next day and bring my children out to meet you."
His father never made the call.
In early January 2010, his father, ailing from kidney failure, called again and this time Art put his young daughter on the phone to talk. Two days later the father he hardly knew died.
"I don't have bad feelings," the singer says. "The ironic thing is that he died three days before David Bowie and I've got to tell you, I was a lot more racked up about David Bowie dying than I was my dad. David Bowie gave me a lot more than my dad did as a man."
If you go
What: Everclear, Vertical Horizon and Fastball
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 17
Where: Bluestem Center for the Arts, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead
Info: Tickets range from $20.50 to $40.50, plus fees. Tickets available at the door, Tickets300 Box Office at 306 N. University Drive, Fargo, jadepresents.com and (866) 300-8300.