Such Great Heights
Local folk musician’s new video chronicles an intense yearlong journey
Photograph by Erin Marie Miller
In his video “Bag of Bones,” Alexander Vlachos sings the same song every day for a year, starting in December 2012. The video highlights the physical and emotional changes he endured throughout those 12 months — including shaving his head, losing weight, becoming physically fit, and letting go of old bad habits.
This quest to become a greater version of himself is the essence of Vlachos’ folk project, Greater Alexander.
Heavily influenced by Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, and Bon Iver, Vlachos is slated to release the first single, “Bag of Bones,” off his album Let Love In this month. “Bag of Bones” is an eerie tune with the theme that life is moving much faster than anyone realizes.
Vlachos will release the album Let Love In when the video for “Bag of Bones,” which chronicles that yearlong journey of emotional changes, has received a million views on YouTube — a goal he says the video’s creators think is doable based on their experience. Michigan Motion Buds, a local production group whose clients have included H&R Block and Ford’s Mustang brand, created the video.
“The inspiration behind [the album] is how to really let love in — how to come in tune with the body that you have, and a lot of the songs kind of resonate toward the idea of ... a metamorphosis,” says the 34-year-old, who was born in New York but moved to Detroit when he was young.
While at Wayne State University, where he studied music and international studies, Vlachos started a solo project called Ambient Alexander. He changed the name to Greater Alexander to reflect his endless quest to reach “a greater part of myself.” And with his recent successes, he continues on his journey.
Greater Alexander’s folky sound harkens back to the late ’60s/early ’70s., Vlachos is gathering funding for distribution through Patreon, preferring to use the crowd-funding website instead of going through the traditional commercial route.
Deeply inspired by Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound, Vlachos says he prefers to layer sounds in their natural environments; he recorded the album in various locations throughout Michigan, including his condo in Southfield and in several cottages in Port Austin where people invited him into their homes to record his stark, soulful melodies.
Vlachos has been slowly building a name for himself locally and nationally. Last year, his debut album, Positive Love, self-released in 2012, led to his involvement with the Acoustic Guitar Project, a worldwide movement founded by a Detroit native that aims to reconnect musicians with the moment that inspired them to make music.
The project’s premise is one guitar, one week, one song. Cities that have been included are Helsinki, Bogota, Port-au-Prince, New York City, Miami, and Detroit, among others. When the project came to Detroit, Greater Alexander was one of only 12 musicians selected to participate.
Musicians get an acoustic guitar and a handheld recorder and record an original song using only the equipment provided. The musician then signs the guitar and passes it along to the next artist. Eventually, the guitar is retired after it reaches a certain number of musicians and a concert is held; locally, the concert was held late last year in Troy.
In the past year, Marmoset Music, a music publishing company based in Portland, Ore., discovered Vlachos’ music and contacted him about licensing for soundtracks. Vlachos’ music has been used in a documentary by the popular digital film company VSCO, spotlighting a San Francisco-based food photographer named Katie Newburn. He also performed at the annual Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, Calif., which drew more than 6,000 people.
Vlachos is planning to do an East Coast tour after the release of the video for “Bag of Bones” to generate interest and more video views, and more support for the release of the album.
The tour will include a stop at Maryland’s Minor Bird Musical Instruments, where the custom guitar inspired by “The Symphony of This City,” a haunting ode to Detroit that he penned for the Acoustic Guitar Project last year, will be waiting for him.
Check out Vlachos’ music at greateralexander.com.