SXSW Live Shot: Strawberry Guy forges impressionist soundscapes at first American showcase

Angela Lim, Life & Arts Reporter

After ear-shattering performances by previous acts, the first notes of Debussy’s “Arabesque 1” suddenly began floating around Cedar Street Courtyard. Strawberry Guy made his presence known, painting serene, impressionist scenery with his keyboard. From his antics during soundcheck alone — adding improvised chord progressions to romantic and classical composers’ work — the audience could get a sense of his artistry before he even opened his mouth to sing.

Liverpool-based artist Strawberry Guy, also known as Alex Stephens, presented his first-ever American show at SXSW on March 14.

After playing the moving interlude in “When Morning Comes” early on in his showcase, the artist started to tear up.

“I’m just so happy to be in America,” he told the British Music Embassy crowd.

Stephens’ performance elements added flare to his songs’ studio versions. The instrumental of “Stay In This Moment” transformed into a jazzy, upbeat jam, with the artist enhancing his mountainous chord progressions. Accompanied by a band, Strawberry Guy conducted them as they smoothly decrescendoed out of the dreamlike state in “Company.” The artist played a quiet piano solo for “As We Bloom” before bursting in with a fuller-sounding “Sun Outside My Window,” which had livelier dynamics and percussion.

Notably, Stephens also sang his hit single, “Mrs Magic.” Completely immersed into the music, his voice lingered with emotion as he whistled into wonderland.

Within his 40 minute set, Strawberry Guy cast a spell of wanderlust, making listeners fall in love with his lush sound and travel to the nearest meadow.