“You ever been in that closet, or the balcony outside [Lyons] 409 if you climb out the window? We thought it’d be sick to do a video out there.”
A few weekends ago, singer-songwriter Alex Navarro, CSOM ’15, was performing in Boston’s Quincy Market when something special happened. It was the time of night when the rushed hustle of the day begins to slow down, and tourists looking for something to do are more inclined to stop and listen. A large congregation of about 100 onlookers gathered around Navarro and his acoustic guitar.
Suddenly, just before the last song, Navarro’s battery-powered speaker system died, leaving him volume-less, powerless, and forced to improvise. Instead of calling it a night, Navarro walked up to the crowd with guitar in hand and played his last song unplugged, singing without the aid of a microphone, as the congregation excitedly welcomed him by gathering closely around. “Everybody loved it,” Navarro said. “For me, that was like one of my highlights.”
Being able to engage people with your music under any possible circumstances is the mark of an experienced performer, and with the amount of time Navarro has dedicated to his musical career, there is no doubt that it is a mark he possesses.
“It’s become pretty routine at this point,” he says of his frequent performances at Quincy Market. “Routine” is putting it lightly. Over this past summer, Navarro performed at the popular tourist spot about five days a week. Navarro plays acoustic music, influenced heavily by singer-songwriters like James Taylor and folk musicians like Bob Dylan. Accompanied by his guitar and a seasoned voice, raspy beyond its years, he would fill two or three hour time slots with covers and original songs, handing out free CDs to anyone who would stop and listen.
With the start of the semester, he has dialed back his Quincy performances to about twice a week, but that doesn’t mean that he has dialed back his musical workload.
If one eats at Lower or Hillside, there is a good chance he or she has seen Navarro there, doing the same thing he does at Quincy Market. He has been slated to play every other Thursday in Hillside and Tuesdays in Lower. In addition, you might see him playing at big events with his band, Free Alley. Just recently, the group played at Alumni Stadium’s Superfan Zone for a game day tailgate performance.
You might also see him playing around campus, filming another edition of his “BC Campus Sessions.” This series of videos features Navarro playing popular covers with other BC musicians in various scenic locations on campus. Just recently, he filmed a few covers with fellow BC musicians John Guzzi and Lisa Bai overlooking Alumni Stadium, but has also ventured to more creative places.
“You ever been in that closet, or the balcony outside [Lyons] 409 if you climb out the window?” he asked, with a slight grin. “We thought it’d be sick to do a video out there.” Sure enough, he and Guzzi filmed a few covers, such as the popular “Pumped Up Kicks,” on the balcony of Lyons with the brightly lit Gasson in the background.
Navarro has done videos outside of BC as well, as part of a separate but related series he calls the “City Sessions.” These feature him singing in various locations around Boston, varying from a moving car to the World War II memorial. Through his “Sessions” videos, Navarro uses the backdrops of his life to showcase the music that he loves so much. The project was born out of a desire to be “approaching music in a different way.” With each video, Navarro does just that, allowing his music to evolve and adapt with his changing environment.
Already busy with ongoing projects and performances, Navarro is also hard at work on his first-ever, full-length album. The album will consist of entirely original songs and is being recorded back in his home of Connecticut. Whenever he has a chance to go home, he works with a producer who plays many of the instruments on the album.
Navarro considers himself a singer-songwriter before a musician. “I’m pretty self-conscious about my instrumental ability,” said Navarro. “My voice is the only thing I’m really comfortable with.”
Inspired by classic singer-songwriters like his all-time favorite, Jackson Browne, Navarro hopes to create an album that captures his musical personality, especially as a singer and as a songwriter.
When it comes to the future, Navarro only dreams of music. “If I felt like I developed a following and I could get a chance to go on tour after graduating, that’s what I’d want to do,” he said. “Obviously, that’s a long shot for everybody.”
There is some truth to that, of course. The music industry is not friendly to everybody. Even at BC, many talented student musicians operate just below the consciousness of campus culture, struggling to get exposure and attention.
Yet if one thing is certain about Navarro, it’s that he is doing everything he can to live the life of a musician. He is completely engrossed in his art, seeking out every opportunity possible.
As for his Quincy Market shows, the response to his unplugged performance a few weeks ago has encouraged him to try the same thing again. In the video of a purposefully “unplugged” performance, a small group of people stands around Navarro in a tight semi-circle, waving cell phones in the air to stand in for lighters while he croons the lyrics to the Avett Brothers’ song, “Laundry Room.”
Navarro is constantly moving to new spaces, modifying his style to fit into the unconventional environments of his “Sessions” series. Just like his sound, Navarro, as a performer, has learned to adapt.
Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor