Connecting Through Music and Melodies - Interview with Rolling Stone’s “Haunting Artist to Watch” Alexandra Petkovski

Jenny Poole
7 min readNov 21, 2022

To Canadian composer Alexandra Petkovski, music has always been the connecting tissue of human experience, allowing people to relate to others whose realities do not always match their own. She has been called “a haunting artist to watch” by Rolling Stone, and has a diverse portfolio that extends from her solo musical contemporary pop project FJØRA to video games, film, television, and commercials, with notable credits for American Horror Story and Pretty Little Liars. Alexandra is celebrating the recent release of an EP for her solo project FJØRA and a first-place award with the 2022 SOCAN Emerging Screen Composers Awards.

Recently, Alexandra composed music for the short film Better at Texting, which had its premier release this October. The LGBTQ, BIPOC film follows two high school girls who are the antithesis of each other, but find common ground through their text message correspondence.

We chatted with Alexandra about her creative process, her job as a composer, and the short film Better at Texting.

You have worked on multiple different genres. Does your creative process change depending on the project you are working on?

This is a good question — I think for me, at the end of the day, no matter the genre of music, if I start from a creative place of wanting to serve the story, the narrative, then the process that unfolds will be better informed. My creative process always almost begins this way; what is the story that I am telling through the music? I like to start developing rough musical sketches and ideas sometimes at my piano, making little voice notes either playing out melodies I’m hearing and/or singing them out myself. I’m trying to record these ideas directly in my DAW these days too — so that instead of having to scroll through voice memos I can have all project ideas organized together in the same session file. I will say that as a music creator of both song and score for Film/TV/audiovisual mediums the process will differentiate a bit when it comes to organization of structure / session lengths. For instance, if I’m creating a song for a movie trailer then I know more or less that the basic structure will follow a verse, pre, chorus, etc sectional method. Musically this means thematic ideas and motifs have to be condensed and concentrated — if there’s only 2–2 1/2 minutes of time to tell the song’s story then everything must be succinct and immediate. With a film score though there is (theoretically) a bit more time to tell the story musically (from a short film to feature). The organization of music is in cues; as the composer there is a more macro, “bigger picture” mode that takes place…how can I tell this story by connecting all these musical ideas together? What is the overarching drive behind this story, behind this score? Above all, like I said, no matter the type of project and/or type of genre my primary goal is to serve the story, to be the musical storyteller.

What is your first step when sitting down to create a soundtrack?

Going along the lines of the previous question, my first step begins from a place of understanding what the story I’m serving and supporting is. Once I’ve gathered these initial foundational thoughts, there are a couple different avenues to explore moving forward. If the director or music supervisor or client (whoever I’m helping tell this project story with, really) wants to work from a more collaborative place — i.e. they have a particular vision already that they’d like the score or soundtrack to emulate — then we would create a playlist of music references together from which I can draw creative inspiration and direction from. Even if the client ultimately doesn’t really know what they’d like sonically, or are very open to what direction I’d recommend, I still personally always like to compile a playlist for the project (even if it’s just a couple music references) so that I have something I can turn to when my own creative “well-source” could use refuelling. After there is a definitive vibe and energy for the music, decisions like instrumentation and production direction are carved out. Things like if there will be live instrumentalists employed or if the project will be more “in the box” (this is largely in part contingent on budget to be honest!) are all determined at this stage for me. At the end of the day it’s all about the collaborative nature of a project — in order to serve the story to the best of my ability I first need to establish the origination of the story in question. Who wants me to tell this story? What does this story represent to them?

“Better at Texting” is all about finding connections in the face of vast differences. Have you ever been in the same situation? How did your experience with that influence your work on this project?

I’ve definitely experienced similar situations when it comes to finding connections amidst vast differences, for sure. I think a huge part of the human experience is searching for connectivity and community while trying to maintain a sense of self and personal meaning. It’s about identity. On a personal level, I have always found this thread of connection through music — it has been (and is) the universal language for me, enabling me to bridge gaps and find commonality with people. In “Better At Texting” the two lead characters come from very distinct, contrasting backgrounds and contexts. This difference in perceived identity causes an initial conflict between the two. However, both characters share feelings of vulnerability, insecurity, and desire to reach outside of their shells. Musically, I definitely drew from my own perception of music “bridging the gap” in crafting the score for the film. This can be heard particularly in the juxtaposing bedroom scenes of the two lead characters. Visually, the audience can see two very separate bedroom aesthetics; one dark, messy, hard-edge bedroom and one light, calm, organized bedroom (both of which clearly reflect the two leads). However, both characters are on their technology, listening to music, evidently thinking about one another. Because of this, I decided to create the same song soundtrack for both scenes, but present said song in two different genre stylizations. The first song version is more punk, gritty, and rebellious, whereas the second version it flips to is a stripped, acoustic, and more ballad style. The overarching lyrical theme for both versions is “I can’t get you out of my head.” I felt that by creating this one song but in distinct styles individualized to the characters’ identities, it was like a little hidden gem for the audience. A sort of subliminal way to bridge the gap. In my own life, I can’t tell you how many times a song has helped bridge the gap and foster relationships. (Come to think of it, that’s how many friendships of mine began…)

Who are your musical inspirations? Have they inspired “Better at Texting” or any other work of yours?

The list of my musical inspirations is long and rambling. Although I keep adding to it all the time, some top people on it include Danny Elfman, Björk, John Williams, Emile Mosseri, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Jonny Greenwood, Nicholas Britell. Labrinth, Aurora, Disasterpeace, K Flay, Marina. The list literally goes on and on. I love absorbing and experiencing other people’s work. And absolutely — I believe all my musical inspirations influence the way I create — inevitably all elements of life affect the work we make.

Do you recall a specific moment in creating “Better at Texting” when you felt the musical pieces were merging into a collective piece of work?

I’m not sure if it was a specific moment necessarily but I definitely recall a point where the score direction really felt succinct, like it felt clear where it was going. I think a big part of this was the virtual reality component — figuring out how I would emulate this element within the score, as well as capturing a certain youthful energy throughout.

The creative and film industry has many different roles and jobs, what is it about composing that draws you in?

To me, composing for the screen is one of the ultimate opportunities as a music creative to help tell stories. I love getting the chance to collaborate with a director and overall team to bring a shared vision to fruition. There’s also such a wide gamut of music styles, directions and worlds that a composer gets the key to unlock, gets the opportunity to explore. It’s a really important responsibility, and I’m grateful each time I’m trusted with the position. There’s honestly nothing quite like it.

You can find Alexandra on social media below:

Instagram: @alexandrapetkovski, @fjoramusic

Facebook: @alexpetkovski, @fjoramusic

Twitter: @alex_petkovski, @fjoramusic

TikTok: @alexandrapetkovski

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Jenny Poole

Film, TV & Music Journalist, Writer & Teacher. Over 10 years covering the entertainment industries, working with major US and Global outlets.