Reston native Alden Robinson grew up listening to iconic musical acts like The Smiths, Radiohead, and, in more recent years, Skrillex.
Now, the 21-year-old, who goes by the stage name ALDN and is represented by Geffen Records, has relocated to New York City, a move prompted by the success of his breakout hit “glittr.”
The remastered track has accrued nearly six million plays on Spotify, but like many of the artists he grew up idolizing, Robinson found success by way of an unorthodox route.
Robinson was just 11 years old when he taught himself how to use an Ableton launchpad and imitate lo-fi beats. Once he started high school, he began producing rap and lo-fi beats for friends, preferring life in the background over the limelight — at least until his pubescent voice matured.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with music, but I never thought I’d be doing shows and singing live,” he says, adding that “the extent of music-related things in school that I did was the orchestra.”
And while cello may have been his instrument of choice then, Robinson has since been writing, producing, and performing his own material. He just never anticipated music becoming his full-time job.
That all changed during the pandemic, when, with everyone tucked away inside their homes during its worst stages, the artist known for his production skills began adding his voice to the beats he was fine-tuning, occasionally uploading them to SoundCloud from his quarantined makeshift studio at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I also recorded a few friends here and there through the years,” he says. “I decided I’d try it, too.”
Singing live, however, is another story.
“Running around stage, I get out of breath pretty easily,” he says, noting that he hopes to sign up for voice lessons in the near future.
Robinson credits legendary 1990s bands like Radiohead and The Cure with influencing the style of his music. And rightfully so — the sounds and visuals these groups produced influenced generations.
“I also think the fact that I didn’t grow up during that time, it seems cooler,” he says.
That inspiration showed last year, when ALDN dropped the greenhouse EP featuring collaborations with artists such as Glaive, Midwxst, and Renforshort.
Naysayers categorized Robinson as the “predictable sadboy trope” and undeserving of the platform. Instead of firing back, Robinson used the comments to fuel the creation of the title track to his Predictable EP, one that captures the angst of being young and isolated during an ongoing pandemic.
“Keep making music no matter how it’s received, make it how you want it and regardless, people will come and listen to it,” Robinson recalls a friend telling him.
That advice has further motivated his push into the Big Apple, but Robinson admits to getting homesick and thinking often of his childhood in Virginia, working at the now-closed restaurant Singh Thai, enjoying coffee at the Lake Anne Coffee House, and hanging out with friends near Reston’s Lake Thoreau.
“We’d take the Metro into DC and had a lot of freedom,” he says. “Our parents would send us out to do what we wanted during the day.”
Robinson’s friends are happy for his success, he says, though he admits to going “so deep into music stuff” lately that he’s grown apart from many of them.
ALDN will join Glaive’s tour this fall, with a stop in Richmond on September 24.