Art Alexakis sent Santa Claus a letter asking for a guitar, an organ and drums when he was 4 years old.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to be a musician,” Alexakis said.
That explains a lot. Alexakis for all intents and purposes is Everclear, which will perform Thursday at the Mahaffey Theater tour when its “Summerland” tour touches down with fellow ‘90s alt-rockers Live, Filter and Sponge.
The vocalist-guitarist-songwriter lords over every detail and why shouldn’t he? He’s on the road with his fourth supporting cast since the band hit the Billboard charts 17-years ago.
No matter what happens, the singer-songwriter continues to release material under Everclear.
“It’s kind of like Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins,” Alexakis said. “There’s a guy in each of those bands, who is the leader of the band, who sings and writes the songs and could easily be leading a band, which possesses his name only. It’s the same situation for me. But I think we, in this society, are used to doing things as a collective.”
Alexakis, 51, is back in a songwriting groove with “Invisible Stars,” the latest Everclear album, which was released in June 2012. It’s a return to the group’s mid-’90s hey day when Alexakis was at his peak penning catchy, meaningful songs drawn from his dark, tortured childhood and adolescence.
The topics are different but the new tunes, such as “I Am Better Without You” and “Falling in a Good Way” are once again about things that matter, relationships and aging gracefully.
“This is what I came up with now that I can write again,” Alexakis said. “I hit rock bottom in 2004 and couldn’t write.”
The Southern California native indeed hit his nadir nine years ago. His life was beyond soap opera. He was suffering through a divorce, was dropped from his label, went through bankruptcy and foreclosure and then his mother revealed she was stricken with terminal lung cancer.
“That all happened during a two-week period,” Alexakis said. “I couldn’t write. I was a mess.”
But Alexakis fought back. He remarried and moved from cloudy Portland, Oregon to sunny Pasadena. “I also work out and I’m in great shape for (51),” Alexakis said.
It’s not surprising since Alexakis, who was a teen when his older brother died of a drug overdose and came of age without his father, who left his family behind when Alexakis was a young child.
“That stayed with me and fueled me,” Alexakis said. “Things are much different now but what remains the same is that I have that fire in my belly again. I’m writing new songs every day.”
Expect to hear some new material plus such hits as “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “Wonderful” at the Mahaffey.
“I’m at a great place in my life right now,” Alexakis said. “I’m enjoying things professionally and personally. I’m on a creative streak and I’m having fun.”
That was evident during a recent Everclear show in Asbury Park. Alexakis engaged the crowd throughout the set. He joked, told stories and even invited a member of the audience to join his band for a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll.”
“That kind of stuff is a blast,” Alexakis said. “It’s fun to just live in the moment up there onstage. I love it. You can see how much fun I’m having.”
With Everclear, Live, Sponge and Filter
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg
Tickets: $33, $43.75 and $54.50; (727) 892-5767 and www.themahaffey.com