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Violist Alex Guy Had To Leave Seattle To Love Seattle

Alex Guy stands in the kitchen of her South Lake Union apartment, one of the last affordable apartments in the neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
Alex Guy, of the band Led To Sea

Seattle can be a frustrating place to live. There’s the rising rents, and the constant noise from construction sites and traffic. Despite all that, we choose to live here.

Alex Guy is a musician with the band Led To Sea. One of the things that keeps her here is the vibrant music scene.

Alex Guy’s viola is like an extension of herself. "It’s really close to my heart," she says, "and the vibrations  of the viola are in my body as well as in the body of the viola, and when I’m singing that’s resonating, and so ... it’s all very connected."

Guy grew up in Seattle. She loved to ride through the city on her bicycle. Then a close friend came down with cancer, and her grandma died, and someone she loved broke her heart.

"I’m usually pretty resilient," Guy said, "but it just knocked me down so hard that I went into this kind of like … deep feeling of depression that I couldn’t get out of."

One day, Guy was riding her bike from her Central District apartment over the top of North Beacon Hill, toward Columbia City, where she worked in a bike shop. It had always been one of her favorite rides.

"You can see Lake Washington, and sometimes the Cascades if it’s nice," she said. "And there’s like a beautiful garden there, a P-Patch. I would be riding my bike thinking like: 'It’s so beautiful. And I feel awful.'" For Guy, everything had disappeared. "Everything that was meaningful to me," she said.

A friend called to tell her about a circus in Santa Fe that was looking for a violinist-slash-composer. "And I literally like hung up the phone and … I think I bought a ticket like that day," Guy said. "Just like, BAM, I’m going."

In Santa Fe, Guy was happy for the first time in a long time. She worked on music. She hung out with circus performers. She hiked in the desert.

"Something about things condensing down to this small world helped me," she said. "It’s like you got put in a washing machine and tumbled all around and you come out and suddenly you feel really clear."

That clarity helped Guy understand who she was: a musician. "This is what I’m meant to do," she said. And she felt that to succeed as a musician she needed to get out of Santa Fe. "In Santa Fe, there’s some great musicians. But it’s a really small town, and there wouldn’t be as many opportunities for me." 

"That’s a great thing about Seattle," said Alex. "There’s all these really small places where people work for zero money to have a performance space. And then I’ve always found every place to be really welcoming." Here, she had many more musicians to play with: young up-and-comers and gnarly old veterans.

Guy returned to Seattle. "In the moment when I first got back from the airport, I think I was afraid I was gonna be in that state again," she said.

Guy settled into one of the last remaining affordable apartments in the South Lake Union neighborhood. She loved to sit and look out the window. "I think the weather here for sure influences my music. I think part of it is the moody cloudy feeling that exists here a lot."

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "116700", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201504/led_to_sea_2015_04_10_11x17_page_001.jpg", "attribution": ""}]]She fell in love with some cherry trees across the street. "Big trunks that are all like craggy," she said, "and full branches that are just like full of amazing blossoms every year."

One day, a developer cut them all down. But Guy didn’t fall into depression. She chose to draw inspiration from the change all around her -- even the noise of the construction site across the street.

"Even things that are annoying or frustrating or painful … you can use that to create something," she says.

Guy pulls out her viola and her electronic looping equipment. She opens the window ... and she serenades the construction workers below.

Alex Guy celebrates the release of Led To Sea's new album on Friday, April 10, at the Columbia City Theater. Doors open at 8 PM.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Led to Sea's new album", "fid": "116769", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201504/led_to_sea.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Led to Sea"}]]