Born Stephanie Alexandra Murat in the small country town of Armidale in NSW Australia, she realised early on that the only thing that would ever truly fulfil her was music, which confirmed the pull she had always felt towards pursuing songwriting and singing professionally. “I fell into modelling early on while still at high school” she says. “I had the chance to go to castings and was told I could be modelling in Paris and Milan by the end of the year, but it never felt right to me. I always felt the pull back towards focusing all of my efforts on music”. She had felt this way ever since her fifth birthday when she was given a small note book and began writing short songs. Then, when given a guitar and keyboard for her thirteenth birthday, she kept developing her skills as a singer/songwriter.
Surprisingly however, during her childhood, many of the family and friends closest to Cleo were often unaware of the full extent of her musical talents as she was often shy, and at times even secretive, about her desire to write and perform. Cleo explains, “I only sang on my own in front of a particular group of friends at school and at home I would often end up singing and writing songs in my parents walk-in closet, as it was the most secluded place in the house and I felt like no one could hear me”. One of her earliest memories of music was when she would listen to old cassette tapes her Mum would give her to keep her entertained on the long drives along the Australian coast her family would take every summer. She still credits her Mum’s record collection and the tape mixes her older sister would give her for introducing her to the artists she is still inspired by today. “I’ll never forget when I was introduced to bands like AC/DC and INXS or strong female rock singers like Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith and Janis Joplin. The impact they had on me was massive”. Other artist’s Cleo admires include Joan Jett, Black Sabbath, Lady Gaga, Kurt Cobain, and old blues artists such as Leadbelly, Billie Holiday, and Robert Johnson
(A SMALL COLLECTION OF SOME OF CLEO'S ARTWORK. CREATING ART OFTEN PROVIDES CLEO INSPIRATION FOR HER MUSIC)
“It’s not easy to find something out of the ordinary, a music that makes you feel something to make you stop what you are currently doing. Cleo Alexandra may appear to be this rare exception, this “extra thing” that music lovers of all genres are always searching for”. (Evigshed Magazine)
Cleo Alexandra has already made a strong impression on the Australian and international independent music scene, capturing the attention of not only world-class professionals in the field, but audiences and critics alike with her smokey vocal tone and impressive songwriting skills. Working alongside six-time Grammy winning American producer Keith Olsen and being accompanied on her debut EP by rock legend Rick Springfield for a cover song of the Australian classic ‘Who Can It Be Now’, she has no plans of slowing down.
With the release of her self-titled debut EP Indie Goddess Cleo has been noted as a “buzz worthy musical force”, with her EP being described as the first step in an impressive direction”. (modernmysteryblog) As ‘Paste Magazine’ states it’s her “thoughtful lyricism which makes her endeavour even more impressive and interesting as she is “one of the few new artists who imbue more than enough to hold their own with the multitude of talent that exists”. (Vents Magazine)
During her debut into the independent music scene many have been standing up and taking notice, as ‘LA Splash’ Magazine explains “she delivers the sound music fans (and the press) are practically starving for”. “She is unique, she is refreshing” (midtnmusic.com) and her vocal delivery adds to the allure, with her vocals not only being described as “soulful, direct, opulent and honest” (indiepulsemusic.com) but “confident”, as she understands her “range and power”. (indiepulsemusic.com)
Looking ahead, ‘Blastingnews.com' wrote of how it is easy to see how this brand of music and this style has the potential to appeal to audiences and listeners on a massive scale as she "incorporates enough of her own style and musical identity to make her brand unique” stating Cleo is “definitely an artist to watch”.
"Everything simply works from her undeniably strong vocals to the thoughtful lyricism.
Cleo finally felt like she was heading in the right direction towards her gutsy ambition to be a singer/songwriter, after her home demo of ‘Criminal’ was picked up by English producer Stuart Epps in England. His production of the song was well received online, however it was when Keith Olsen fell in love with the track and worked his magic on it that Cleo’s true sound started to form.
Including 'Criminal' the EP features five other original songs written. Written and recorded over a period described by Cleo as ‘brutally eye-opening' and 'unforgivingly raw’, Cleo can’t deny these songs were her saving grace; she explains, “The lyrics for theses songs were taken from my personal note books where I write down what I call my ‘mind mess’. It’s where I write down all my unfiltered thoughts, draw images that relate to my music and sometimes also write poetry. I’ve always been inspired by poets like Sappho and Charles Bukowski or writers like Clarissa Pinkola Estes. When I was diagnosed with both an auto-immune disease and depression, getting everything out of me through these songs was very powerful in starting to overcome what was going on.
Cleo specifically points to the song ‘I’ll Explain Later’ to best describe what she was feeling at the time. “This song reflects the confusion and pressure I felt during that period in my life. She says “ writing these songs truly helped me to understand emotions I needed to sift through in order to mature and grow. When you're dealing with some kind of struggle, I know how much of an escape music can be and to know these songs could be a few minutes of escape for someone else in which they can feel like they are not alone in what they are feeling or thinking, well to me, that is everything. That is why I write music".
Cleo Alexandra’s sound features heavily energetic influences of rock, but creating a unique sound. ‘It’s not subtle”, say’s Cleo, “The songs grab you and take you for a ride. My producers Keith and JJ really understood how to capture the emotion of what I was writing about and it’s that extra oomph which really helps drive home the emotion”. I've begun to realise how much beauty and power there is in imperfection. This is why, particularly on tracks “Taken By Desire” or “Unravel”, I like how my vocals do not always sound ‘perfect’ or ‘pretty’. It’s those uncontrollable bursts of emotion that escape and reveal themselves through the vocals that I love. It’s like when your voice cracks and shakes when you’re crying because the emotion is pouring out of you. When singing about the particular emotions in these songs my voice would do the same thing and I love capturing those moments.”
Cleo’s cover of the classic 80’s hit ‘Who Can It Be Now’ features vocals from fellow Australian Rick Springfield, who also makes a cameo in the accompanying music video. With the song originally written and performed by another fellow Australian Colin Hay from the legendary Aussie band ‘Men At Work’, Cleo explained the Aussies ties were one of the initial reasons she felt drawn to the song. “When rummaging through old records I re-discovered ‘Who Can It Be Now’. I remembered it being played around the house when I was younger and always loved knowing it was performed by an Australian band. When listening to the song again, the lyrics really struck me. I never noticed how dark and haunting they are. I knew straight away doing a cover of the song to emphasise the eeriness of the lyrics would be really cool, and with Ricks vocals adding another dimension to the track, it's turned out perfectly."
A cover of another 80’s hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” (Tears For Fears) also makes an appearance on Cleo’s EP. When asked about her choice to cover the song, Cleo revealed the cover was initially arranged and recorded for a movie trailer. When the trailer went in a different direction Cleo jumped at the chance to include it on the EP stating, “I always loved how dramatic and powerful the cover was plus the lyrics resonated with something in me, particularly the line “welcome to your life, there’s no turning back” , there’s something so ominous about it. I felt attached to it just as if it was a song I had written myself”.
Thought-provoking and not subtle in its nature, there is no denying Cleo Alexandra’s music has an edge and element of risk which she would love to continue to explore as her music career takes flight.