Alex the Astronaut on the Australian Music Scene and Honesty
To conclude her time as Rising Artist of the Week, Australian singer-songwriter Alex the Astronaut talks about what is on the horizon for her, in addition to the sometimes difficult journey to finding comfort in herself as a performer.
With how quickly things have come together and how natural it has all been, how have you felt a relationship with your fans grow?
It’s been a little insane. I think it’s one of the things I love the most about what has been going on. Kids have come up and told me they listened to my music and wrote their first song, or something to that effect. I find it very humbling, because I remember being that age and seeing artists and aspiring to be like them or write something like them. It’s been an incredible feeling to be someone who makes people feel good.
What is it about your music that you feel fosters that sort of connection?
I try to write simple stories. I like to write things that start from a place I know about or has a reference point to something I feel confident enough to talk about. From there, I see what ways I can realistically get the message across and feel comfortable about it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think there is something to the simplicity that resonates.
How did you balance pursuing this creative passion while keeping your commitment to soccer, which provided you with a college scholarship?
Well, my coach at the time was pretty accommodating, but at some point they couldn’t just halt practice or make time for this Australian kid who wanted to sing. It was a little High School Musical-like. He understood, but also put me in check and would remind me that that’s why I was there at the school. So, it was just a constantly evolving process, and I learned how to make it work gradually.
We usually played and practiced on the weekends and then it’d be difficult taking meetings during the week, when I’d have class. There is no structure to it, and no one really holding you accountable, so it never was a plan. It just had to get worked out, and my managers really helped me. I was lucky to have managers on board who are really, really good while it was early on. I think we started working together about a year into college.
What was it like having your first shows you’ve played be in New York City at places like The Bitter End, which tests artist’s ability to perform to a tough crowd?
It was entirely helpful to do that with normally difficult places to play at first and then come back home to play shows and have some confidence. I was so bad, at first. I couldn’t speak on stage, I didn’t know what songs to play, I didn’t know what to wear. I’d ask my parents what to wear and wear stuff I’d never wear in my day to day. Trying to get people on the shows, familiarizing myself with the process of performing, even walking on and off the stage.
I was playing shows where I needed 20 people to come out and no one has money. We’re coming from Long Island, so it’s like a $30 train ride. I sometimes had to pay for friends to get to the show and had friends just miss the show and it being no one’s fault. I’d be with the booking agent apologizing. It taught me that I can just keep going and that if it’s not going to get worse than that, then it’s going pretty good. I was lucky to have that as a learning experience.
I think it gives you some sort of resiliency, I wasn’t used to having some random person yell at me. I was 19 and had just started college. It matures you pretty quickly by being thrown in conflict like that.
Do you think the same part of you that has an interest in math and physics is closely tied to the part of you that loves to create music?
I think the stubbornness that it takes to figure out math and science is the same stubbornness it takes to make music. In music, you can end up in a corner and you just have to force yourself out of it with random words and phrases that sound good. With math, it’s been all been done before, it’s all solvable, so there is a weird sort of stubbornness in both that stems from passion.
Was it difficult to write songs that had contained sensitive, personal anecdotes when you were younger?
I had written love songs when I was 14. I didn’t really show them to people, but towards the end of school, one of my music teachers made me share a song and people really liked it. It was a song that was quite exposing. I don’t think I’m like that in my normal life. That approval gave me a freedom to write from a vulnerable place.
How does it feel being a part of the fruitful Australian music scene and coming home as one of the primary emerging artists?
When I first got home, it was a bit overwhelming. I was trying to take everything slowly because of this rapid, surreal shift into being a professional musician. I was pretty in the moment all the time. After a year and a half of being home, I can just sit with it a little more and engage in this great time and scene. I love working with my friends on music. People don’t step away from them if they write something that isn’t entirely loved; everyone is very encouraging. Of course, you want to put forth your best work and effort, but it’s not a place where you’re afraid to fail. It’s a really communal place and I’m in this spot where I am happy to be a part of it.
How do you move forward with having people now hold expectations for what your creative output can be?
When you have a community of people around you encouraging you to write good music, you write good music. I think have a confidence surrounding my music, given that people are excited to hear it. There is a certain pressure, but I remember playing at The Bitter End and feel a little more confident saying what I want to say. I’m excited for it so that is what I hopes come through.
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