Interview: Alex Hosking on “Fake Friends”, writing for other artists and her solo project

Adelaide-born Alex Hosking is a name you might not have heard, but you’ll know her songs. As a songwriter with credits alongside Vera Blue, The Preatures, The McClymonts, M-Phazes and Jess & Matt, she’s now dishing out more tracks from her solo project.

Having amassed impressive international airplay and charting success with her feature on PS1’s tune “Fake Friends” (19M+ streams on Spotify), Alex is following it up with her recent single, “Playing Up”. It’s pure pop empowerment with shimmery production over big bop beats that’ll have you wishing dancefloors were open.

We caught up with Alex from her base in London to find out what her solo project holds for the future.

How are you, Alex? Where are you right now?

I’m good, thanks. I’m in London. So I flew in from Adelaide a bit over a month now. It’s been great. It’s been super sunny.

You would have had to quarantine when you got there, right?

I did quarantine for two weeks and everything was all fine. I have a little back garden, so I’ve just been hanging out there.

That’s lucky that you got a little back garden space. Why did you decide to go back to London?

Well, I’ve been working over here for quite a while and then off the back of the success of my song “Fake Friends” with PS1, it just sort of made the most sense. It’s such a weird thing. Like the world sort of stopped but the music hasn’t stopped. And so it was kind of crazy to see everything’s still going. I mean, yeah, we can’t perform live or anything, but we can still listen to it and we can still make it. And “Fake Friends” just kept on climbing up the charts over here. So it sort of just made the most sense to be in the UK.

Do you have a little spot over there or do you just stay with friends or?

I normally just Airbnb or at the moment I’ve got a place because I’m going to stay here for a little bit longer just because it’s a lot harder to travel.

Congrats on “Fake Friends”! It’s doing phenomenally well in the UK. That must be so surreal, particularly being an Aussie. Is it strange having such a buzz over there?

Yeah, it’s so weird. I was hopping in my Uber on the way to my place after flying over, and the first song that came on the radio was “Fake Friends”, believe it or not. I actually filmed it and put it on my Instagram. It’s so weird. And then to have people sort of come up and be like, ‘You sang “Fake Friends”. That’s your song,’ and sing it back. I think that is so cool. Like having your friends send you videos of them hearing the song randomly, I think that’s the best feeling of a … I don’t know, you can’t really beat that.

That’s got to be a sign being like you’re making the right decision to travel at this point, because I’d be pretty nervous about that.

Yeah, 100 per cent. It was definitely a massive decision. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to go to the UK.’ Obviously you have to tick a lot of boxes to be able to leave the country, which is the right thing. And I did everything correctly and safely and I’m healthy, so thankful for that. But yeah, it was definitely that sort of tick of like, ‘Okay, cool. I’m definitely doing the right thing.’

Also congrats in your other recent single, “Playing Up”, from your solo project. That came out on Friday. How’s that reception been over the weekend?

It’s been awesome. It’s so great to be able to start putting out my own music. I’ve been working really hard through the pandemic. I isolated in Adelaide and just started writing and this was one of those songs that came out of that. And it takes a process to get things out, and I think also having the pandemic, I sort of was able to focus in a lot more and be a little bit more particular with the sounds and everything. It’s a great thing, but also slows the process down too when you’re kind of making a quick rush decision. So I really sort of, lack of a better word, slaved over making the song and really caring about every creative process. So I was really proud to put it out and I know a lot of other creatives are in the same sort of boat. Like they’re really getting into the creative space when you can’t perform live. All you’ve got now is just creating and that’s kind of how we all started, I guess. So, yeah, I’ve loved it.

So this track really is like your baby in that sense – that you’ve put much more sweat and tears into it.

Yeah, I think so. I mean, every song is like that, but when you’re traveling around and living out of a suitcase, and popping all over the place, it doesn’t sort of allow for you to necessarily get back into the studio and rework things. But when it’s just you sitting there and going over and over the words and over the melodies, and you have a lot more time because you’re not having to travel anywhere else, I think it sort of allows you to maybe just go that extra 10 per cent. There’s pros and cons to both, but it’s definitely been a different process through a pandemic.

That must be like a silver lining, a luxury of having unbroken time just to put your head down. I also did a bit of a stalk and you seem like you have a really creative family as well. That would have been an excellent atmosphere to be around! I saw one of your sisters is an amazing painter and your dad jamming on the piano with you. Tell me about your family. What do they all do?

So my sister, she’s one of those freaks of nature that can sing, act, paint, takes all of my photos, does videography. She’s just one of those types of people. And in particular, I’ve just been getting her to do all of my artwork and just photos and everything. Everything goes through her. She’s got such a creative eye. And then my mum and dad both can sing, so I grew up with them always singing. I think my dad still thinks that he’s a … It was never a professional thing, but I’m sure he would love to … If I gave him the opportunity to sing a duet, he would 100 per cent do it. And if I gave mum the opportunity to write the lyrics … I mean, she still claims that she writes all my lyrics anyways. And then my poor brother is tone-deaf. I can’t forget him. I always forget to mention him, but he just isn’t creative whatsoever, like poor thing.

Is he sporty?

He’s really sporty. He’s super sporty and he’s super good with numbers and finance and stuff. You need one of those people in the family, especially with all these creatives, but I will say, he wins all the karaoke competitions. He puts on a great performance. When it comes to karaoke, I don’t know what it is, I fail so hardcore, but he, that’s his moment, he shines. So I’ll give him that.

That’s awesome. The key to karaoke is to be not good at karaoke. I think that’s how you win at it. Also the confidence.

Is it true you’ve clocked over 1000 songs in the past four years? Are those all writing credits?

Yeah. I haven’t had them released, but I’ve written over 1000 songs, yeah.

Can you imagine if you had released 1000 songs? That would be insane.

Yeah, I know. No, I definitely haven’t. There’s that artist called Russ who was releasing every week for I think four years or whatever, I think that’s super impressive. But no, just over the last four years … I mean, I’ve been writing since I can remember. So I have trunks full of lyrics and bits of paper and stuff from just every night coming home from school, which I realised is not that normal to have a day and then be like, ‘I need to write about it,’ and sit there and turn it into a song. I just thought every kid did that. But yeah, over the last four years, I’ve just been progressively writing and just honing in on my craft and it’s created a few songs.

And obviously, that’s what’s landed you this global publishing deal with Sony, right?

Yeah, and they’ve been awesome. “Fake Friends”, I actually wrote that song three years ago, which is when I signed my deal with Sony. That was the first song they heard and it was in a completely different shape. And they said like, ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen with this song, but we know that it’s going to do well. So we’re going to sign this song and then all the songs to come after,’ and they weren’t wrong. We’ve sort of had a bit of a joke about it because three years ago I was like, ‘Really? Okay. I’ve written all these …’ You know? And they’re like, ‘No, this is a great song,’ and it’s funny that this is my first song to sort of pop off and launch me into being able to really flare and stuff. So yeah, it’s crazy. It’s super cool.

That’s crazy they were able to pick it back then as well. What songs have you written for other artists that you wish you had released solo, that you wish you could steal back and just have as your own?

I don’t know… To be honest with you, I think when I’m in the room writing a song, it’s my song and I’m super sensitive about it and I’ll fight to get my way. I’m a bit of a control freak like that and really obsessive and I want everything to be perfect. And then as soon as I walk out of the room, it’s no longer my song. So, as soon as the artist starts to cut their vocals on the song, it’s just no longer my song.

Was that hard to come to terms with at the beginning? Were you like, ‘Ooh, that hurts a little,’ or were you always pretty fine with letting your songs go to other people? Surely that’s another sort of ‘killing your baby’ sort of moment.

I don’t know. I mean, okay, because I guess my background is being a writer, so I sort of love the idea of getting to wear a different hat and have the artist like, they put their spin on it, which I can’t do. That’s their thing. And I think I love being able to portray someone else’s story and make it come alive. So I don’t know. I’m really proud of all of the songs because I wouldn’t have been able to do it the way that they’ve done it, I guess. So I think to date, there isn’t any. I think maybe sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that song is so good,’ but no. I think if it’s meant to be, I’ll have sung it, and if it’s not, it’s meant to be on someone else’s voice. And if I get upset about it, I’ll just write another song. You know what I mean?

Yeah, literally. That’s material right there, right? Speaking of your own material, you’re working towards a debut EP at the moment, Sad Boy Anthems.

Yeah. So I’ve been working on that. That’s been one of the projects that I’ve been working on through Corona, and just been making that all happen. So we’re getting close to finishing that off, which is really cool. And then I’ve also just been working on a whole lot of more dance music. What I’ve just really loved, I think there’s a nice blend between the two of my more pop music versus dance music or whatever. And I think ultimately I’ve sort of just found like, and especially through 2020, I love to just make people feel good and feel happy. And the music that I keep on wanting to put out is music that you can dance to and you can have in the background when you’re hanging out with your friends, and that’s the sort of music that I want to make. I want to make Saturday night music and Friday night music. And I guess this is me talking now just missing live venues. But I think that’s just become super obvious for me. So that’s been my main focus at the moment, which is great.

That’s so exciting. Do you have a timeline for either of those projects?

Nothing 100 per cent. I think with 2020, things are up in the air a little bit. Everything sort of got pushed back. So I wouldn’t give any specific date or anything like that, but yeah, hopefully soon. I just want to keep putting music out. Those will be songs sitting around, so they need to be out.

Well, I can’t wait. That would be such a fun lockdown with you. If you go back under, you’re just making dance music every night.

That’s it. I know. I’ve got my LED lights and my smoke machines. Just like I’m ready for raving out in my bedroom.

That’s some great content. Alex, thank you so much for chatting with me today. Congrats again on “Playing Up”, and I can’t wait for the rest of your music to come out.

“Playing Up” by Alex Hosking is OUT NOW.

Check out where to stream her single here.

Tait McGregor