After a recent performance at a Nashville bar, Alexander Ludwig remembers fans coming up to him with one question: "We thought it was you, but what are you doing?"
While he may be known for his acting gigs in The Hunger Games and Vikings, the 30-year-old has been quietly pursing a musical dream away from any cameras for close to three years. Now, he's ready to showcase his singing talents on his debut album Highway 99, out August 26.
"This is kind of my dirty little secret," Alexander exclusively shared with E! News. "I've been playing music my whole life. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada and on the weekends, I drove up to my family's cabin and that's where I learned to write and play. Over the years, just when I was off set or in my trailer, I'd be writing music."
When he had a break from filming Vikings in 2020, Alexander headed to Nashville where he stepped his country boots into unfamiliar territory. And, he was pleasantly surprised at what happened next.
"What I kept saying over and over again is, ‘This is not some Hollywood dude expecting anything other than what it is. I just love writing music,'" he said of putting his head down in the writers' room. "I certainly didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms and honestly, I think that people have given me an easier time than I deserve. It's a long road, but I'm grateful to be on it."
What came next was a collection of songs that show a sense of gratitude and glimpses of a man far different from Cato, the award-winning villain he played in The Hunger Games franchise.
"I'm writing about my life now and I write about my life as it was," he teased. "Hollywood is an incredible place and dreams can happen. You get to be a part of these incredible motion pictures and you're telling stories, but there is also this other aspect to it that you can get roped into. Country music to me has always been one of those reminders of what's really important in life."
Along for the journey is his wife Lauren Ludwig. Together since 2020, the couple surprised fans when they eloped in Utah back in January 2021. More recently, in May, Lauren shared her struggle with infertility after experiencing her third miscarriage.
Through it all, Alexander has been inspired by her love, support and strength as they go through life's highs and lows together.
"I want to be more like her," he said. "She has this poise and confidence about her. I'm enamored by how she carries herself, how she looks at the world and how she's just freely going on this ride with me."
With Alexander's new album weeks away from release, he isn't focused on a huge tour or earning tons of awards. Instead, he hopes old and new fans will discover a man who simply wants to tell more stories on his own terms.
"What's so great is that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I've been given that opportunity and I don't take that for granted," he said. "Success is that people have enjoyed it and I get to continue to do it."