I discovered Alex Winston in 2012 because I am obsessed with Fundamentalist Mormonism. In my limited free time I read anything I can find about this sect of Mormonism. When one branch of information runs out, I turn to Google, which led me to Winston’s song “Sister Wife.” (Content Warning: The following video contains blood shooting from the mouth of a stuffed, unharmed, fake cat.)
This video fulfilled a part of my soul that I did not even know was hungry for music. I’m not a “music fan.” When alone, I do not put on music; I listen to podcasts or to silence. In the car I listen to pop radio as white noise, or silence. But here was this song about boundaries between Sister Wives, about who got to sleep with their husband that night. It does not make a joke of Mormonism, it is just within the reality of a polygamous marriage.
I searched out more of her work and was not disappointed. For instance, Velvet Elvis is a quirky, upbeat love song about … well, a Velvet Elvis painting. It’s not just the lyrics that pulled me in though, it’s Winston’s voice. Quite honestly it’s so womanly. And I don’t mean in a soulful, raspy, sexy way. I mean it’s the voice of my high school friends if my high school friends were trained operatic singers like Winston is. She grew up in Detroit, quite close to where one of the last men I ever dated grew up, and then moved to New York to seek her passion straight out of high school. I felt close to her in this way I’d never felt close to music at all. Our lives were not similar, but I could feel the places they touched. She may be able to sing opera, and do it beautifully, but she chooses to make an entirely different kind of music. Haunting.
Recently she had to cancel her tour. I was absolutely heart-broken. I love what she released this year:
But I was more heartbroken about why she cancelled. She has recently been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, a chronic, and sometimes fatal, illness. I’ve never felt closer to her before as I am dealing with my own illness. I listen to her strange, otherworldly songs and I feel like a friend and sharing bits of herself with me. She makes me understand what music fans everywhere have been talking about for years, this closeness to the notes.