Portrait of the Artist: Alexandra Blair

“Portrait of the Artist” is a new series by Claudine Williams, a photographer specializing in portraits for personal and business use. The Q&As are with people in the arts and culture industry—actors, musicians, painters, writers, etc.—with photos to suit each artist.

“I also like to be heard and I think that’s why music is so important to me,” says Alexandra Blair, a singer and songwriter in the band The Silk War. “I really care to be somebody that absorbs knowledge as much as possible so that I can then relay what I’ve learned to other people and hopefully help others.” Follow the band on Instagram, Facebook, and SoundCloud.

Tell me about yourself.
I’m a musician and I also love fashion. I’m an avid reader. I’m eclectic, for sure—a little idiosyncratic. I like to spend a lot of time alone. I don’t have a problem with it and I think that’s why I love New York City so much. It gives me the opportunity to feel lonely even when I’m surrounded by so many people—but when I am surrounded by people, I gain energy from them.

Tell me about the Silk War and how did it come about?
I had just gotten out of NYU, where I received my Bachelor of Music degree. I loved to rock and roll and I also loved singing standards, but you can’t really go to school for doing that sort of thing. So I was kind of lost when I left school. I met James Mullen, my producer and guitarist, through a keyboardist I knew. She and I had written the worst song possible before we went to go meet him in Connecticut at his studio. I had no idea who he was at the time. I didn’t check anything, I just kind of rolled with it. We showed him the song and he was unimpressed because it was terrible. We wrote it at 6 a.m. that day. So, when I was there I saw all these gold records on his wall from Nine Inch Nails and I freaked out. I thought, Okay, I’m not working with this girl again. She brought me into this incredible place and didn’t tell me anything about it. At that very moment I decided that he and I were going to be something together. We then wrote a song almost as soon as I walked back in and we’ve been writing together ever since. The Silk War became something, it sprouted from frustration from the music that I was hearing on the radio and also just out in New York as well. It’s very cinematic. I love to write lyrics. I’m a poet and I love to be a little bit esoteric, but we wanted to write something that was sad but still had flickers of hope and something that could help people that needed it. Our songs could be like a safe haven, but with a little bit of anger as well.

How did you come up with the name the Silk War?
I had always wanted to incorporate “silk” somehow into our band name because it was such a constant in Sylvia Plath’s diary excerpts and later poetry. I wanted to marry that word with something that could play almost as an oxymoron, which is how we decided on the Silk War. The Silk Wars were fought during the Roman Empire over the ownership of the silk routes and the subsequent exportation of silk. I had found that these wars were casually referred to as “wars fought for the luxuries of women,” obviously then referring to silk as just a fabric. To me, this “silk,” these “luxuries of women” today, refer to our freedom to choose and to fully experience equality in both mind and body. These should not be treated as luxuries, but are still considered as such because they are not easily accessible everywhere in the world. The Silk War is happening all around us; it is wild and it is dark with sensation, but it is within reach, and thus worthy of war.

Any new albums or shows coming up?
We just played an amazing show at the Bowery Electric. We opened up for Des Rocs. There were about 200 people there. It was our best show yet. We haven’t released our EP yet, but it’s called Come Evening and it’s going to be out in the spring of 2019. We’re going to play at Mercury Lounge the week after Thanksgiving. For me personally, I’m singing at a memorial concert for Elda Stiletto at the Bowery Electric on December 9. She was in a band called the Stilettos, which was actually Debbie Harry’s first band before she joined Blondie. I’m singing a song called “Let There Be Pain.” Lenny Kaye is playing, too—it’s going to be really sick, so everybody should go.

How long have you lived in Tribeca and how did you get here?
I moved to Tribeca in February. Previous to that, I lived on Lafayette between Broome and Grand, and at 14th and Sixth, and I’ve also lived in the East Village. I really wanted to move to Tribeca because it fascinated me. I love being different in Tribeca. There are a lot of families, a lot of children, and I kind of like being a little disruptive. [Laughs.] Honestly, though, the biggest disruption I’m responsible for is playing my records too loud at night. I just love the location down here. I need to be downtown. It’s where I’m meant to be. I love being near the water. I love feeling like I’m encapsulated in cast iron, I guess. I love being near the Freedom Tower as well. It truly inspires me. Tribeca feels like old New York to me in certain areas. So it’s a completely different area of inspiration whereas I feel like a lot of other musicians are inspired by the East Village, Union Square, and the Lower East Side. There is so much music out there already so I wanted to go somewhere a little different.

What does your typical weekend look like around here?
I love just walking around. I love to go into this park, it’s actually not a park, it’s just a bunch of benches outside of a building that’s right across from me, but I go over there to read. I love reading outside even when it’s cold. I normally will head up to the Strand or I’ll go to the West Village and get some records and then most likely you’ll find me at 1803. I’m obsessed with that restaurant! They have this spicy artichoke dip and a vegan jambalaya. It’s so good. All of my friends live in Brooklyn or the East Village and they’ve all been coming here recently. So, if you see that surge of derelicts, that’s because of me. I apologize. [Laughs.]

I also love Tiny’s—it’s so cute. I really like the Balloon Saloon. This is so random, but I am a trickster, truly. When I go into that place, I buy so many different things. You can buy this little tube of powder and you put it in your friend’s drink and then it actually becomes gelatin. It’s hilarious! I love doing that kind of stuff. Recently, when I had just gotten paid, I felt like I was on top of the world for a couple of weeks, so I decided to go to Grand Banks on the water. The ceviche was delicious and the place felt very high-end. It’s amazing how you can see the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower, which really does something to me. For the most part I love sitting on benches near the water. I feel like I’m Diane Keaton in a Woody Allen movie.

Any unusual or interesting things you’ve experienced in the area?
The funniest thing to me is how friendly people are when you’re walking down the street. I remember when I was living on Lafayette—this is kind of ridiculous—I couldn’t open a pickle jar, so I went downstairs and asked a bunch of people to help me with it. I brought my dog to humanize myself, yet no one would help me. Everyone thought I was crazy. Around here, though, I believe people would 100 percent help me open a pickle jar.

••• Jair Oliveira



  1. I was on the fence until the pickle jar anecdote. Well done. I look forward to future such features and welcome to the neighborhood, Alexandra!

  2. Welcome to the neighborhood!
    It’s good to have some musicians here.

    And maybe real estate articles which review neighborhoods should include a Pickle Jar Test to measure the friendliness of a neighborhood!