Interview: Alex Day Talks YouTube, Lady Godiva & Staying Independent

Alex Day has had an odd, if very good, few months. It's highly unlikely that anyone who uploads videos onto YouTube of themselves talking into their webcams expects to one day have two high-charting singles internationally, yet that is what 23-year-old Alex has achieved after his latest single 'Lady Godiva' reached #15 in the UK charts.

All of this was accomplished thanks to the support from many of his 500,000+ subscribers on his YouTube channel 'nerimon' and his remarkable knack for self-promotion. After his latest single 'Lady Godiva' reached #15 in the UK charts last Sunday (April 8), we talked with Alex about YouTube, his celebrity support and asked him how on Earth he bloody managed it…


CRAVE ONLINE: For those who are unaware of your YouTube channel, how would you describe it?
ALEX DAY: It's a place for fun and silliness and music and really whatever I feel like, at least once a week!
How have you managed to maintain such a loyal online fanbase?
I really don't know. I make videos regularly, I chat to people, I care about what my audience is interested in and I'm fortunate that enough people are still interested in what I do. I think it's more about what I don't do – I don't use annotations or really long pre-video ads that you have to sit through without skipping and I make an effort not to talk about my music all the time.
Since the high chart placing of 'Forever Yours' internationally (it reached #4 in the UK Charts last Christmas) do you now see yourself as more of an independent musician than a YouTuber?
Yes, I definitely feel I'm a musician first and a YouTuber second. YouTube is essential to my music career but – even before Forever Yours – making music is the thing I most love to do, and if I had to pick I'd always pick music first. Fortunately I don't have to pick and continue to enjoy both things!
What was the response you received from those within the music industry after you reached #4? 
Ha – confusion. Ignorance. Nobody seemed to understand what I was doing, and they all dismissed it because it was only in the charts for one week. But that's alright. I wasn't trying to get a record deal anyway, so I don't mind.
Have you encountered many problems with having to essentially do all of the promotion for your music by yourself?
No, any problems are outweighed by positives I think. It's harder to get in print and on radio when you're an unsigned artist, but it means I care more about it because I'm doing it myself and not just taking those things for granted. I send hand-written postcards to anyone who plays my song on the radio to say thank-you: I can't imagine Nicki Minaj doing that.
Could you ever see yourself signing to a label in the future?
I'm not against it at all, so long as they're happy to continue allowing me the freedom I'm used to in terms of choosing my own songs, producing and performing myself, figuring out my own release dates and campaigns, and just plugging me with money to make me better at doing all that. But in terms of record deals that's a pretty unreasonable ask, so it's not one I'm expecting any time soon, and I'll continue working under the assumption that they're not interested.
What kind of team do you work with in order to get your music out there?
My cousin Danny is acting as my manager, helping deal with stuff like invoices and going through contracts for me. My good friend Jonathan acts as a mentor of mine and we'll always sit around listening to songs I've recorded, deciding together which we think are strongest for the next single release as I tend to trust his judgment. Then I pay for a small PR team to help get the word out to press, run by a woman called Sue who's just lovely, and a radio plugger called Jo who gets the song to radio stations and keeps them updated on developments with the song. Other than that it's all me, making videos and sending emails and postcards and emailing journalists and plugging away, fighting the good fight. And then there's the biggest part of the team, my audience, without which I wouldn't get anywhere because nobody would have any interest in me at all.
What made you choose to cover Peter and Gordon's 'Lady Godiva'?
With each single release I think "what's the best thing I can do right now?" – I hadn't written any songs since Forever Yours that I thought were strong enough to be released as a single, so I decided to take the opportunity to refresh an older song and introduce it to my audience who were mostly unfamiliar with it.
As your demographic largely appears to be teenage girls, have you had any unlikely candidates join the 'Nermie Army' (Alex's 'pet name' for his fanbase)? Any famous names?
I wouldn't say they're in the Nermie Army, but I've had tweets of encouragement from Stephen Fry, Felicia Day, Arthur Darvill, Scott Mills, Kevin Smith and most recently Tom Fletcher.
Have you received any criticism from fans regarding your pursuit of a successful career in music?
Yeah, sure, but you can't please everyone! I'm doing what makes me happy and if they're not into it, they don't have to be.
YouTubers are known for networking and promoting each other in their videos – have many other YouTubers contributed in the promotion of Lady Godiva?
I asked some of my friends on YouTube to provide remixes of the song, which is nice for me because buying a remix also helps towards the UK charts, but also allows me to showcase musicians my audience might not be familiar with. Carrie Hope Fletcher gave me one this time around, as well as Michael Aranda, Eddplant and Alex Carpenter – all great musicians with stuff out on iTunes.
Lastly, how much did you pay the girl in the video to get naked on a horse?
That was Carrie, and she kindly volunteered her time for free!
Watch the aforementioned naked girl on a horse in the video for 'Lady Godiva' right here:
And download it right here.
Photo: Digital Spy