Alex the Astronaut, singer-songwriter
I hoped that people would understand better what it’s like growing up being scared about what your future might look like ...
Alex the Astronaut, aka 22-year-old talent Alex Lynn, has come a long way from sitting in her New York university dorm room penning songs that she hoped would one day see the light. The Sydney-sider is now commanding stages across the country, bringing her refreshingly relatable narratives and considered songwriting to life with her deeply infectious indi-pop sound. Alex is on the Gold Coast to take the stage at Shakafest on Saturday November 24 and took five to chat to us about Einstein, team sports and travelling to outer space.
Let’s start at the beginning – what’s your earliest memory of music?
I remember my friend Charlie and I were about five and she had a CD player and we’d listen to ‘Remember The Days of The Old Schoolyard’ by Cat Stevens over and over again. Even though I don’t think we’d started school yet it was our favourite. We also did dances to Mambo no 5, both the Lou Bega and the Bob the Builder versions of the song.
One of the tracks on your second EP, the five-song See You Soon, was ‘Not Worth Hiding’. It soon became somewhat of an anthem for the younger LGBTIQ+ community. When you first penned the song, unaware of its eventual popularity, what was it that you hoped listeners would take from it?
I hoped that people would hear a human story, a kind of story one of their friends might tell them one day. I hoped that people would understand better what it’s like growing up being scared about what your future might look like. For people struggling with who they are I hoped they would hear a story of hope.
You unveiled ‘Waste of Time’ earlier this year. Tell us a little about how that track came together?
I was a bit stuck. I was really worried about writing a good song and maybe about living up to the expectations I was feeling. I went to London on a writing camp with APRA and brought the verses of the song into a session with Jonathan Quarmby and we pretty much finished it in a day. I think it’s my under pressure song. I want to be able to write and live life without feeling like I’ve got to go a hundred and fifty miles an hour all the time. I’m still working on that part and I think I’ll get there eventually.
You’re certainly the sporty type and were on a soccer scholarship in the States for some time – was sport a big part of your life growing up? Are you still playing now?
Yeah I remember my first soccer game and running race when I was small. It was an addictive adrenaline rush so I kept playing. I hated netball and I wanted to play rugby, soccer and cricket and I was eventually allowed by my school to play for the boys cricket team. I love team sports, when you play your part well and you feel like you’ve contributed to a collective goal. I broke my ankle when I was finishing up with soccer last year and I’ve had a few little complications with that but I’ll be back soon! I tried AFL but I don’t think it’s for me, I was too scared of the tackling.
Not only are you a gun on the soccer field, you’re also rather talented when it comes to maths and physics. Can you explain to us (aka the ones that didn’t exactly pass maths with flying colours in school) what it is that you’re studying?
I finished my bachelor’s degree in maths and physics in May last year. I studied lots of different things but my favourite was modern physics. I love learning about quantum physics and Einstein and how much we’ve learned and how much we have to know. I hated physics in school so I think it was just that in college I had really good professors. There’s hope for everyone I think. Physics is just great.
What are some of your biggest musical influences?
I’ve just read Lily Allen’s book and I realise that her first songs came out when I was about ten and they’ve really stuck with me. I’d never heard a woman tell stories like she did. When I started writing songs I think her writing style stuck in my subconscious. Some of the things she said in her songs were so outrageous to me and as a little ten year old I started hearing about the big wide world that’s out there and how to talk about it from her. She writes what she sees and I think it’s really powerful.
We hear you’ve interviewed (for a science magazine) a real-life astronaut … named Alex … how was that moment?
It was terrifying. I was so nervous, I’d never interviewed anyone before. Dr Alexander Gerst, who I interviewed, is known as the Neil Armstrong of Germany, he’s the first commander of a mission to space and he’s doing experiments on the International Space Station as we speak. He was really thoughtful and insanely smart. He told me about the medical significance of the science they were doing, how they can work on making more efficient engines and about Mars. He spoke of the importance of preserving our planet and it was such a humbling experience. I think it’ll be something I’ll remember for a really really long time.
You’re on the Gold Coast for Shakafest on November 24. Who are you looking forward to seeing, when you’re not on stage yourself?
Good Doogs and Bec Sandridge are too that I’m excited to see. I really like their music and I’d love to see how it is performed live.
Finally, do you think you’ll ever go to space?
Definitely. I think in our lifetime commercial space travel will be a thing and I couldn’t welcome it more. I love the feeling of being in a plane above the clouds when the moons out and it looks like a strange cloud world, I feel like the view from space would be ten levels up from that.