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Alex the Astronaut

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Olly Hodgson

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They make Alex Lynn play soccer in the snow. "Outside on the astroturf," she says. "When you run around, your tears and sweat freeze."

The 21-year old from Sydney plays soccer in New York, on a scholarship at Long Island University. It's there she studies Maths and Physics. It's also there she's been turning a streak of bold new life experiences into songs under the name, Alex the Astronaut.

Lynn writes folk-influenced pop tunes, slyly tailored to sound incidental. Anchored by wide-eyed, train-of-thought narratives laced with wry personal insights, Alex the Astronaut scans as both naive and worldly; off-the-cuff and honed. "And there's billionaires for presidents / And parking fines at hospitals," she sings on elegant opener, 'Already Home,' as it unfurls from loping acoustic jam to grandiose string-laden groove."I'm not the only one that knows / I brush the crumbs on off my clothes. And I hope, you'll be already home."

"I don't know if it's confidence," says Lynn of her worldly achievements. "My parents say I have an obsessive personality, that I find things I want to do and just keep on trying to do them. I'll learn the harmonica or piano or Spanish or something random and they'll be like, 'Yep, OK. Here she goes again.'"

Growing up in Chatswood, NSW, Lynn...

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remembers hearing Coldplay, Cat Stevens and David Bowie's Space Oddity around the house. But she was more interested in sports -- her mum was a tennis player and sports teacher, her dad into athletics -- and by the time she was four she was already playing soccer. She'd fooled around on her grandmother's piano a little, but it wasn't until her family moved to London for three years that the idea of making her own music took root.

"While I was there my friend started learning guitar," says Lynn. "I think I wanted to copy him so I started learning too and I really enjoyed it." When her family returned to Australia, she continued playing through high-school, even as her involvement in competitive sports got more fierce. "That was when I started listening to my own sort of music and got a bit obsessed with it all," she says. "I don't think I knew then I could write songs, or that I would. But I thought it would be a good thing to do, and I wanted to be good enough to do it."

Lynn's confidence carried her to New York, after she won a soccer scholarship to Long Island University. She was 19. "It's a good place to live for the first time away from home," she says. "It's so different from where I grew up. It's the first place I've had to work out everything for myself. It's also a great place to write about because there's so much going on. You get everything at once."

Holed away in her dorm room, Lynn wrote songs inspired by the rapid accumulation of scenes around her, testing them out at open mic nights and small venues around Manhattan. On a whim, she sent some of her ideas to Melbourne producer Ben McCarthy, after hearing his work with Gordi and Thelma Plum. McCarthy wrote back intrigued, and when Lynn returned to Australia between semesters in New York, together the pair set about crafting a vivid sonic world to match the rich vignettes of daily life Lynn was detailing in her songs.

Another Australian helped Lynn stitch her songs together, if only by influence: Paul Kelly. "I listen to a lot of Paul Kelly when I'm trying to write," admits Lynn. "I like that he's really clear when he phrases things, especially how he describes people. He doesn't have a long descriptive thing on their hair or anything, he'll just do one line and then that person is done."

You can hear that approach in the tumbling lyrical snatches of 'Rock Star City,' where Lynn's innocent streetscape discoveries unite behind a giddy chorus that has her telling her mum back home she'd be proud of her daughter's distant exploits; in the small lives coming undone in 'Holes In The Story' (which may borrow a chord progression or two from Kelly's 'To Her Door,'); and in the plainspoken declaration of 'I Believe in Music' that closes the EP: "I don't need no winged friends / Just my guitar and some paper and pens / That's right my friends / I believe in music."

It's the work of someone wise beyond their years. A busy report from someone acclimatising to life in a new city; studying the motion and behaviour of matter through space and time; learning to play soccer through frozen tears; and slowing down just long enough to write songs about it all.

"I don't want to call it growing up," says Lynn of the EP's thematic glue. "I think it's learning about the world. I was 19 and moved to the biggest city in the world and met a bunch of people. It's about trying to tell that experience and what I saw. I think that's good for anyone to learn. People do amazing stuff and you should give it a go."

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