Melbourne singer songwriter Kate Alexa was just 16 years old when she released her debut single. ‘Always There’ was the first in a string of top 30 chart successes for the starlet across the mid 2000s. A debut album and a cover of Womack And Womack’s ‘Teardrops’ (2008) followed, and then nothing. Nothing, that is, until last year when she released the single ‘Infatuation’ – the first taste and title track of her brand new album.
On the eve of said album’s release, we caught up for a cup of Kate and find she can’t quite believe it’s eight long years since her debut.
“Is it eight? Okay, you’re making me feel super old. I keep thinking it’s five or six, but there was that gap between ‘Always There’ and my first album, so yeah, I was 16 and I’m 24 now. It IS eight years,” she says, almost in disbelief.
“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been around doing this for eight years, but then at the same time it does. I think I’ve changed so much since then, so it’s a bit bizarre. I love ‘Always There’ though.”
In many respects, Kate’s had to grow up in the public eye, transforming from a fresh-faced 16 year old into a young woman. She reveals, however, that she’s felt fully supported every step of the way.
“I was writing my own songs and when I was younger, all I wanted to do was perform, so when I said ‘this is what I want to do’, mum and dad were very sceptical. But they were really supportive and I think I’m lucky to have grown up around people who are as passionate about music as I am. And they understand and support me, which is… well I’m really lucky.
“I started working with a couple of guys in Melbourne when I was 14 or 15. So once I really got into that and figured out that I loved writing and wanted to keep doing it, it just sort of stemmed from there.”
It’s widely known in the industry that Kate is the daughter of Australian music legend Michael Gudinski – the founder of the iconic Mushroom Records and head of Frontier Touring. But Kate reveals that while having a dad who has so much pull in the business can have its benefits, it can also have its downsides.
“I was saying before, the pros are that I can get incredible advice,” she admits. “He’s worked in this industry for such a long time and is so respected and he’ll always be brutally honest with me. The fact that he’s passionate and, I guess, knows music. Cons? People like to be nasty. People like to pass comment. But do you know what? At the end of the day, this industry’s hard for anyone.”
There have been many highlights in the singer’s eight year musical journey, including a top ten placing with her 2006 single ‘All I Hear’, but Kate tells us that there’s one highlight in particular that stands out from the rest.
“Probably when I toured with Cyndi Lauper. That was incredible. She’s so inspiring. She’s such an amazing woman and someone I grew up loving and listening to. Then getting to tour with her. She got me up to sing with her, so that is definitely one of the highlights,” she says, adding that Cyndi was just one of many inspirations for the new album.
“Well I love Robyn. I’m a huge Robyn fan,” she admits. “I love everything about her, but in terms of the way she inspires me, I love the way that she writes her lyrics. I just love her music. And I’m a massive Gwen fan. So I guess in a lot of respects, Cyndi Lauper kind of fits in with that – pop with a bit of an edge.”
That’s certainly not to say that Kate has merely mimicked her idols on this new record. She’s spent the past six years carefully crafting it, honing her writing skills, working with different producers and taking her time to make sure that the songs that appear on it are just right.
“After the first one where I was quite young – it was rushed,” she admits. “I did do other stuff in between, but I really wanted to have the time to experiment and make it what I really wanted it to be. And there was no pressure to do that. I was lucky in that I went overseas and wrote with people. I wrote something like 80 tracks for it. Some I’ll never play anyone, others I love.”
‘Infatuation’ was produced by Britain’s Tom Nichols, who’s previously lent his talents to projects by Kylie Minogue, All Saints, Sugababes, Atomic Kitten and Jamelia. He was one of the last people that Kate worked with on the project, but also one with whom she gelled artistically.
“He was one of the first people who I felt actually got where I wanted to go and what I wanted to achieve with the album. Someone had recommended that we worked together. I was over in London and it was really a last minute thing! I only had one day with him.
“We did this one song, then we realised that we had the same vision and ideas. He came out here, we did some more writing and I then went back to the UK and the album just came. It’s very pop, but it’s an eclectic mix. We took all these different elements and blended them into one.”
Kate’s latest single is ‘I’m Falling’. The most dance-orientated number on the album, at its heart it’s very pop. She surprises us with her frank response when asked what it’s all about.
“Oh it’s pretty clichéd,” she admits. “It’s about falling in love. It’s about that heart-skipping-a-beat moment, butterflies, that you don’t want to be anywhere else but in that moment. So it’s a very flirty, fun number. And it’s pop – and I love pop.”
It was co-written with two of the best in the business – Stuart Crichton and former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi.
“I know, right? It all came about when I was on the writing trip. I actually went in to work with Stuart for a few days. He’s amazing – great to work with. So Stuart and I were together, but Kara was in the States. It was really random – we’d written this entire song together almost via correspondence. But it was really natural and I think it fits me very well. It’s very much where I was at that point in time.”
The track also comes with a rather flirtatious video in which Kate gets to cavort suggestively with more than a few very hunky men.
“Oh it was such a hard clip,” she says wryly. “We had so much fun shooting it, actually. All the boys are really lovely. A couple of them I already knew as friends.”
Though she admits to being a little nervous getting a little intimate with people she knows so well.
“Ryan (the guy with his top off) was, I think, the second scene of the day. I know Ryan the best out of all the boys, so I thought if I had to get intimate with any of them, it was going to be with him. But they all made me feel comfortable. And if anything, a couple of them were a bit nervous. The rolling around on the floor part was with a guy called Nick. He was tickling me – we were in hysterics.”
There are a few moments on the new LP where lyrically, Kate may just surprise a few people, particularly in album opener ‘Addict’, which is peppered with expletives. But the singer is offering no apologies.
“I remember saying it to one of my friends. I did a show last year and we performed a couple of songs. He was dancing with me and he was shocked by the language. I said to him, ‘Hello!? I’m not FIVE!?’
“I was just writing about what I’d been doing the past few years – things that I’d been experiencing and Tom said to me when I was writing, ‘If you want to write that, then I’m all for it.’ I wasn’t going to sit back and think ‘I’d better not’.”
Kate later admits to us that ‘Addict’ is one of her favourite tracks on the new album. However, don’t try limiting her to just the one.
“Can I have four?” she asks politely. How can we possibly say no!?
“‘Katie’. It’s one of my favourites,” she says, referring to the old-school R&B number that has her name written all over it. “I love ‘I Deny’. I love ‘I’m Falling’. I love ‘Katie’ and I love ‘Addict’ – they’re my favourites. But then I love them all.”
With ‘Infatuation’ due to hit the shops this Friday, Kate is hitting the interview circuit hard. And given traditional avenues such as commercial radio and TV music shows are getting more and more restrictive in their support of local pop, she’s keen to explore others.
“You can’t just rely on radio anymore I don’t think. A lot of it’s viral these days – online. I think online’s a massive thing… Blogs and social networking. There’s not even really any TV anymore – there’s ‘Rage’, but there’s no ‘Video Hits’, so film clips aren’t even big nowadays. MTV – they don’t really play that much music. There’s not many shows that you can go on to perform, so the potential for exposure is getting smaller and smaller.”
Given Kate’s resorting to ‘the online thing’ more and more, it’s probably wise to connect with her on both FACEBOOK and TWITTER. Because there, she’ll soon be revealing details of some upcoming live shows.
“I’ll definitely be doing some live stuff – September and October.”
In the meantime, however, there’s the fluffy fun of ‘I’m Falling’ and the intriguing pop diversity of ‘Infatuation’ to get our ears around. And though she’s cast aside dozens of tracks for the final cut, including songs performed at the Cyndi Lauper shows (“You can’t have an album of 50 songs”, she exclaims), she’s extremely chuffed with the final product.
“There’s a bit of electro, there’s pop, there’s a little bit of reggae/SKA thing underneath a few tracks, there’s a bit of pop/rock, a bit of dance, so it’s a real mix. And now the album’s done, I’m really happy with it.”
Kate’s single ‘I’m Falling’ is available digitally now.
Her brand new album ‘Infatuation’ is released digitally and physically this Friday.