TikTok sensation turned country music mainstay Alexandra Kay has a love-hate relationship with airplanes. Kay’s social recognition has transformed into an adoring live fanbase. The breakout star, best known for her angelic vocals and coffee covers on TikTok, has been teasing “I Hate Airplanes” on her critically acclaimed headlining tour. Concert-goers received a taste of what’s to come, as the single serves as a preview to her forthcoming debut record—a collection country fans have been longing for.
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Within the guitar-soaked melody, Kay finds herself reflecting on a long-distance relationship that has left her heartbroken time and time again. The introspective lyrics within “I Hate Airplanes” embodies Kay’s storytelling soul and prove she’s far from a surface-level writer.
Alexandra Kay sat down with American Songwriter to discuss her latest release, and how it marks the beginning of a new era—one where she turns tribulations into triumphs and perseveres forward as an innovative independent artist.
American Songwriter: What was the inspiration behind your latest single, “I Hate Airplanes”?
Alexandra Kay: Probably from 2009 to 2011, I dated a guy in the Air Force. Almost our entire relationship was long-distance. We started dating, and then weeks later, he left basic training camp. So, our relationship dove straight into us writing letters while he was at Basic. He eventually got stationed somewhere, and our entire relationship was over Skype or just through phone calls.
Then I started flying out there to see him once a month or once every couple of months. Anytime I pick anyone up from the American Airlines terminal or Southwest gate, it takes me right back to that time when I would wait for him there like once a month. It was one of the most exciting times of my life. Same with when I get on an airplane. Every once in a while, I’ll flashback to that time of having to say goodbye to him every month and get that sinking feeling back.
AS: Can you walk us through the songwriting process for “I Hate Airplanes”? Would you say it was challenging to reflect on the past and write?
AK: One day, I was sitting on an airplane and heard them say, ‘Welcome to Boeing 737.’ I was like, ‘I really want to put ‘Boeing 737’ in a song.’ So, that was the whole thought. I walked into a write with Jason Duke and Jason Massey and told them I wanted to put Boeing 737 in a song. I have this idea for this song, where I have to say goodbye every month to the person that I love. I didn’t want my hurt and pain to be blamed on them [her partner]. Instead, the blame is on the airplane. We wrote it extremely quickly. They are both prominent songwriters, so I knew they would encapsulate the feeling. I think they did just that.
AS: How would you like listeners to feel when listening to “I Hate Airplanes” for the first time?
AK: I want everybody to relate to their own experience in their lives. That’s something Taylor Swift did for me in every record. She was a massive inspiration of mine and always has been as a songwriter. She always made me feel like she was talking about my situation. She made it specific enough that we would have those moments where you go, ‘How does she know that?’ She made it vague enough that we all felt that.
So, I really want people to relate to their long-distance best friend that they have to say goodbye to. Maybe someone’s child is going to college, and they have to say goodbye every time. I wanted to give everybody a song for when they get back in their car at the airport and just feel like they need to let it out and cry. This is the song they can turn on.
AS: You strongly believed in “I Hate Airplanes.” How did you advocate for your idea in the male-dominated songwriting room?
AK: When I first came to town, I wasn’t super confident in my writing, and I think that was just because I had just come off of a Netflix original series. I was shooting a T.V. show for two years in L.A. Writing had to take the backseat during that time because we were so busy. I was a little out of practice. If you don’t use those muscles, you’re not exercising that part of your brain. I just had to sit down and write a lot by myself. When you say something in a room full of songwriters, everybody’s expecting you to spit out a better line. So, I think that comes with practice, and it comes with confidence. It took me a while to have that. People who write with me a lot know I want to write a great song, not just a good song.
It’s easier for me to write about tumultuous times in my life. I’m a very open person. I overshare a lot—that’s just part of my personality. To be completely honest, I have to feel comfortable with whoever my co-writers are in the room.
AS: “I Hate Airplanes” serves as the lead single from your upcoming debut album. Do you believe this track represents who you are as an artist? What can fans expect from the LP?
AK: This is what I want people to think about when they think of me as a songwriter. I want people to think of me as a storyteller. I’ve been praised a lot over the last couple of years for my voice. Many listeners gravitated to me and my music because of my classic country sound. With this song, people are really starting to see me as a songwriter, which is leading up to the most vulnerable and personal diary–esque album that I’ve ever released. I think it’s perfect.
We hit the nail on the head by choosing “I Hate Airplanes” as the first single. I think it’s setting it up for everybody to really be excited for what’s to come with the best of the record. We’re going to name the album, Backroad Therapy.
AS: When could fans expect the full-length album, and how many tracks will live on Backroad Therapy?
AK: We’re shooting for ten songs on the record. All new songs, which I’m so excited about. We would include a couple of my hits from the past years, but then my life shifted. I started writing about where I currently am, and then we changed the entire concept. I wanted the record to live in the now in my life. So, it’s all brand new. You guys are going to get three singles ahead of time. The full record will be out in October.
I’ve opened my life up to everyone on social media for probably eight years, starting with Facebook. So, I’m very familiar with sharing every aspect of my life. It’s become a very comfortable space and place where I feel the most supported. My fans are incredible. When everybody hears this album, the last year of my life will make much more sense. There have been a lot of questions on social media about certain aspects of my life and changes that people have seen that I haven’t fully healed to talk about. This will be a healing journey we can go through together.
AS: You started as a signed R&B artist and became independent when you transitioned to country music. What has this journey been like for you? Do you find it challenging or freeing to have creative control?
AK: I’ve grown up in front of everybody’s eyes. I started going viral on social media in 2014. We’re coming up on ten years since my first viral video happened. I had to get used to the fact that I was still trying to figure out who I was, and people were watching. I just had to ignore that and try different things. I signed an R&B record deal, then realized I wanted to write country. I shifted gears, and I think my drive and my fire overweighed everything. I was never going to stay in a box. Eventually, I found myself. I’m really happy where I’m now.
There are a lot of times in this industry, because I’m independent, that I do feel like I’m boxed out. Sometimes in Nashville, I’m not allowed to sit with the cool kids at the lunch table, because I’m different. I have to be okay with not worrying about what other people think. I love the people that are sitting at my table, and they love me. They work really hard for me.