Alex Hope is a twenty year old songwriter whose ambition in music is a great deal more interesting than most. Unlike many musicians and artists her age Alex is quiet and circumspect, uninspired to pursue fame as a front person. Instead, she idolises successful pop songwriters – the brains and production talent behind the stars.
Happy’s newest contributor Jake Stone had a chat to one of Australia’s most successful young people in music – Alex Hope, who is writing some million dollar songs.
Since her professional writing career started about two years ago, she’s written for mainstream pop acts like Taylor Henderson, Tina Arena, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Timomatic, and also a bit with my band.
She’s written a number one single for Taylor Henderson (‘Borrow My Heart‘), and a number six single for Jai Waetford in ‘Your Eyes‘. She co-wrote about half of the current Tina Arena record ‘Reset‘, and received positive feedback from enormous songwriters like Linda Perry and Toby Gad (who wrote If I Were A Boy for Beyonce). Even if you hate X Factor, that’s huge for a twenty year old who has only really just started to work.
Inspired to write by her novelist father Michael Robotham, whose successful crime fiction novels allowed Alex’s family to grow up between London, Zimbabwe and Sydney, Hope always had her eye on a creative career.
“I always had a fear of of being ordinary, as all I’d seen was a creative lifestyle.” Says Alex.
“I mean, my dad writes stories and we got to travel the world. I grew up writing and was a competitive tennis player. My dad is very competitive, and I’ve always been ambitious. I’m a kid in some ways, but I think I have an adult’s drive. I always had to be the best at things.”
At 13 Alex picked up the guitar and discovered her talent for prose combined nicely with composition. She decided to work toward a career as a professional songwriter after travelling through Europe and living in Africa.
“We moved to Zimbabwe when i was six, and I was one of the only white kids at school there. It was interesting that my first experience with bullying was also my first encounter with racism.
It was a priceless experience for a young girl from the Northern Beaches. When you are six, you think that everyone just lives like you do.”
Alex was changed by travel, and energised by the possibilities it suggested.
“I realised I loved having those experiences. I think it’s the best education. I’ve missed a couple of years of school but I don’t regret it.”
An intensely emotive approach to balladry distinguishes Hope’s style. Although she’s cool and considered in conversation, there’s occasionally a hint of the nerve and anxiety that might inspire that kind of writing.
“I sort of had a nervous breakdown when I was 16, and was bed-ridden for 6 months. I’ve basically been dealing with anxiety issues since then meaning performance is currently out of the question. I also found I got more of a buzz from writing a song in my room than I did from performing live, so I stuck to that idea…”
After discovering that her own emotional and mental pressures were alleviated by songwriting, Hope extended that idea to writing for a friend who was going through a serious bout of depression.
“It seemed to help her, and I’ve always liked the healing process in music. I wanted to help, but initially I was that annoying 13 year old with a false sense of entitlement, singing about wars I hadn’t been to.”
Taylor Henderson, for whom Alex wrote the hit single Borrow My Heart. You can listen to the single here.
Without any real connection to the music business, Alex had to hustle family contacts to move toward her place in the industry*.
“To not be disappointed, you have to think it’s going to be hard. You can’t think it’s just going to happen, like many people do. I wanted to work hard, so if I failed I would know that I’d given it a good go”
She sent demos to enormously successful American writers like Toby Gad (‘If ‘I Were A Boy – Beyonce) and Linda Perry, further motivated by their positive feedback on Twitter.
“I sent something to Toby Gad, and I sent Linda Perry a song called Mary Jane. He said ‘come to LA!‘ and Linda said ‘this is cool!’ Just the fact that someone that big had listened was inspiring enough…”
A family friend connected her to producer Rob Conley, who was working with Brian McFadden at the time. Both McFadden and Conley were impressed with Hope’s demo, and invited her to write with them.
A whirlwind of opportunities followed, and Hope came out the other side signed to a publishing deal with internationally influential label Sony ATV.
“We’d been writing for Tina Arena’s new record, and Rob was going to produce some tracks in Paris. He said ‘Well, you can play guitar and bass and stuff, why don’t you come and work with me?’. We’d written two of the songs already with Tina, and I thought she was really cool. Next thing, we’re doing the record in Paris!”
Despite progressing along in a pop career already, Hope doesn’t want to put all her eggs in one basket.
“I still want to be working at the highest level, with the Sia‘s of the world. But I think it’s also healthy to have a bit of a balance. Not all my goals are in pop, because it may not satisfy me for my entire life. Creatively, I like challenging myself.”
Right now, that means setting her sights on getting over to London. Having always admired the UK music scene, Hope is inspired by England’s progressive attitude to pop.
“Over there, commercial radio isn’t afraid to play ballads, or alternative styles of pop music. Commercial radio in Australia… there’s a cultural cringe here. I think the bar is raised by a well-written song in the UK; they appreciate the songwriters as well as the artists, and take big risks. Artists like Rudimental, Maverick Sabre. Ed Sheeran and Adele are all from the UK.
I want to be the songwriter in the room, writing for Sam Smith and Adele. I wish I could’ve written with Amy Winehouse. People seem to forget that those people have songwriters too.
That’s the kind of songwriter I’ve always wanted to be…”
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*A classic Northern Beaches move.