A gentle push, that’s all most of us need. “I’m like a paper plane,” Hoseah Partsch sings on his exquisitely airborne debut single. “I never sailed so high…” Listen here
The gentle push, in the 18-year-old Samoan singer’s case, was more like a golden touch. It came from his mentor, Boy George, on the Australian Voice.
Hoseah came second in the top-rating show’s grand final in July 2017, pushing Paper Planes straight to #3 on the Australian iTunes chart. From his adopted hometown of Melbourne, the song is now making waves in the UK with BBC Radio 2 selecting it as their Record of the week.
“For someone like Boy George, an international music icon, to have faith in a kid from Auckland, that meant everything to me,” Hoseah says of that fateful April night, when the Culture Club legend was first to turn his chair in awe (fellow judges Kelly Rowland, Seal and Delta Goodrem were not far behind).
Accompanied by his own plaintive piano, Hoseah’s impassioned reading of Ariana Grande’s Almost Is Never Enough raised the roof. Through knockout rounds to semi-finals, his takes on Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley told of a young man born to sing soul.
“Musically, I grew up in church,” he explains of his first 16 years in New Zealand. “I definitely had a lot of soul music and gospel music near me. I have a few uncles that are in a pretty big band in New Zealand called Cydel. Music just runs in our bloodstream, I guess.
As a child, “piano was my best friend,” he says. “I started playing just by watching YouTube and it really connected. When I’m given a song, I like to play it, to put all my heart into it. It’s something you’ve got to be really passionate about, because people can feel that.”
Hoseah was raised, the oldest of four kids, by a single mum in the large, tight-knit Samoan community of Otara in Auckland. “We moved to Australia in 2011, right after the Rugby World Cup,” he says, “and I’m loving it.”
Remarkably, it wasn’t until the end of 2016 that he sang in public for the first time: an impromptu performance at a choral event at Melbourne’s Dandenong High School. In a foreshadowing of things to come, his solo performance of Jireh’s, Draw Me Nearer, stilled the room.
“Growing up, I used to be so shy. I could never open my mouth and talk, let alone sing,” he says. “Boy George told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to share your talent. When you’re on stage, picture yourself in an empty room, just singing your song’. He told me to believe in myself, and that got me through.”
Paper Planes was written by songwriters Dennis Dowlut and Maxwell Bistrup. “It’s a song that was written about the journey to reaching your full potential and finding one’s purpose,” Dennis explains. “I felt a connection with Hoseah’s story and shared it with Max. The song came together very quickly.”
“I fell in love with it straightaway, when I first heard it,” Hoseah says. “It feels like something that I would have written myself. It talks about my life and things that I’m going through today. I’ve been blessed, and I feel like I’m flying. I’m extremely excited about everything that’s coming up. I can’t wait.”
First among them, following a personal invitation from Boy George, is the looming Culture Club arena tour of Australia. “He’s not only a wonderfully talented artist, he’s a fabulous guy with a big heart and I’m backing him,” George announced. “I’m delighted to welcome him to the Culture Club tour.”
“I’m incredibly nervous, but mostly I’m just excited,” Hoseah says. “This is Culture Club! And I’m the support act for them! It’s a huge thing for me and honestly, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to smash it. I can’t wait to play a show that people will remember me by.”