In just three short years, Alex The Astronaut has garnered an impressive reputation as one of Australia’s most endearing songwriters. She can flip between child-like wonder and razor sharp perception in an instant, all while delightfully plucking at her guitar.
She has an affinity to give anthems to the ostracised – whether it be the empowering ‘Not Worth Hiding’ or the heartbreaking ‘I Like To Dance’. But, with ‘I Think You’re Great’, Alex writes her good mate Curtis a love letter with the help of Sam Cromack and Dan
It’s an uplifting and heartwarming slice of sunny pop that shines a much-needed explicit love two friends have for one another. There is nothing even remotely vague about it, and in turn Alex encourages us to be more direct and less afraid to tell our friends how they make us feel.
Music Feeds spoke to Alex about the song, how her friendship with Curtis has survived different continents and how friendship within the music industry has given her strength.
Music Feeds: ‘I Think You’re Great’ was written about a friendship of yours. Did anything happen in particular that inspired you to write the track?
Alex: It’s about my friend, Curtis. We were at uni together in America. We were best friends over there and we’d go on adventures and go touristing. We were happy little college best friends. I graduated two and a half years ago and so did he. I came back to Australia and he stayed for a little bit. For lots of people, especially for people who are living in a place away from their home, when you finish up uni or high school or go through some big change, there can be an adjustment period. When I was writing the song, it was an adjustment for me as well. I was home and I had a new career and I was doing different things than I’d done before with different people around me – Curtis was experiencing that in a different way. He left college and got a job in sales. He wasn’t hanging out with the friends that he had made and was closest to and understood him the most.
I always felt bad that I always wrote songs about people I was interested in romantically. I have this close group of friends that I care about that didn’t get songs written about them. Curtis would be one of those people who’d say “where’s my song?” and I’d say “ahhh, I haven’t written it yet.” ‘I Think You’re Great’ came out of that place.
It’s probably fair to say that most popular songs are written about love between two people in a monogamous relationship – in one way or another. Do you think that there’s not enough songs written about love in all its forms?
Yeah, but I also think the general public would be surprised about how many songs they hear that they think are about a romantic partner perhaps are not. I have a feeling about it – I’ve never known how to test it. Sometimes I’m listening to songs and I get a feeling that it’s not about a love interest, it’s about a friend.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I agree that there should be more songs about the broader spectrum of relationships. There’s more of these other types of relationships – family, friends etc.
I saw this beautiful detailing on your Instagram of what was happening in the studio when ‘I Think You’re Great’ was written with Sam & Dan. It was almost like this meta thing that indirectly showcased what the song was about. Have you always been the type of person to praise or compliment your friends without necessarily feeling obliged or prompted to?
I think so. I went through a little bit of a hard time in school when I was 14. I just got back from overseas. It’s a typical year 8 situation where the new kid doesn’t have a very good time. I moved schools after that and I started having really good friendships. Something about being a kid that has had a bit of a hard time and doesn’t have as many people to reach out to and then having really cool people to reach out to makes you show more gratitude.
You feel the impact of it more.
Exactly. I don’t know, I was always one of the people who wrote letters to people on their birthday and really wanted to show people that I cared about them. But it’s also not with all people, you know? Curtis, for example – we mostly send each other memes. I talk more about serious stuff out of the two of us, and we haven’t had a huge amount of emotional conversations. But me telling Curtis that he’s great in a song was something that I hadn’t really done because we didn’t have that sort of relationship. I think everyone has those people in their lives where even though you haven’t explicitly said it, you hope that they know it.
What’s his response to the song been like?
He’s just like “this is my song! I am the greatest, I am a superstar.” He’s really happy about it.
It’s also refreshing to hear that because sometimes adult friendships can be intimidating because everyone’s lives are going different ways. You’re not confined to high school or uni anymore.
It’s a funny one because he’s in Singapore working and I’m here. We’ve always been great friends in America but I never knew if we would stay friends, but somehow he’s still in my life.
There’s a really strong sense of camaraderie among artists in the Australian music industry, especially between non-male artists who face similar systemic issues. How has that community affected your writing, if at all?
I don’t know if it’s affected my writing but it’s definitely affected my life. I was thinking about it yesterday. You go to these industry parties where there’s plenty of industry people around. There’s free cheese and champagne. There’s lots of people there, but the people I speak to are my team and other artists – those that are similar to me, which usually are younger, non-male artists. We can talk about that – what it’s like to be a public figure, what it’s like to tour etc. Everyone feels that way within their own career, I’m sure. Coming together over shared experiences and shared hardships forms the basis of most friendships.
Does that camaraderie make you feel more comfortable and stable in an industry that is always changing?
Definitely. The movement in the industry is something that has happened with my career – which is relatively short. In the past three years, there’s still been huge shifts. It has worried me and it hasn’t. Throughout my lifetime, the industry has changed hugely so I’ve never known anything but change. I think it’s more shocking for people who are a little bit older, but for artists my age it’s not as pressing to us.