By Catherine Kane ’26

Kerry Alexander ’12 is the lead singer of the band Bad Bad Hats, which she formed alongside two other Macalester graduates during her time at 1600 Grand Avenue. This spring, she is back teaching “Three Chords and the Truth: Introduction to Songwriting” as a visiting instructor in the English Department. Bad Bad Hats has received critical acclaim from The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and NPR and released their fourth studio album, Bad Bad Hats, in April.

What have you been reading lately?

I accidentally read two books in a row about elderly women assassins: Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn and The Old Woman with the Knife by Gu Byeong-mo. One I bought while I was in Amsterdam, and the other I got as a Christmas gift, because people know I do enjoy older adults and I love a mystery.

What book stands out from your time at Macalester?

As a creative writing major, my honors project was a book of poetry about tragic women in history, so I was reading a lot of mythologies and biographies. I also think about reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and walking around campus, working on my poetry.

Has there been a book that influenced your songwriting?

Six-Word Memoirs, which was a blog where people submitted six-word stories, made a compilation book that I loved when I was at Macalester, and continue to love. Great songwriting is often about “less is more” and figuring out how to express and encapsulate a whole life, a whole human existence into six words. The six-word memoir concept is perfect for that and when it works, it’s really quite beautiful and impactful.

Do you have a favorite music book?

There’s a book called Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley that’s a history of pop music. It’s about the development of what we now think of as popular music, starting from blues and folk music to Elvis to the Beatles to Motown and everything that followed. For me, so much of songwriting is an appreciation for the craft.

What’s something people might not expect you to read?

I do love reading the comments on recipe blogs. There is amazing drama, amazing stories—the human condition is all right there.

May 17 2024

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