Interviews

Amy Shark: “Don’t try and make a song cool, it should be raw and authentic”

amy shark

Eight ARIA Awards, sold-out regional tours, and collaborations with some of our industry’s biggest names. Amy Shark is killing it. Ever since her 2014 debut, the Gold Coast native has been adored for her totally honest songwriting; penning lyrics that perfectly capture some of our darkest moments and choruses that will stick in your head for months.

Now, she’s back with a brand new single featuring Blink-182‘s Travis Barker and a new album on the horizon. Fresh off of her performance at the NRL Grand Final and the 2020 ARIAs, we caught up with the songwriter to chat lockdown, her new music, and her plans for the future.

amy shark

HAPPY: Congratulations on the new single. 

AMY: Thank you. Yeah, I feel good about this one. I mean, I feel good about all of them but sometimes you write one where you’re like, “ooh, I don’t really like this.”

HAPPY:  [Laughs] Totally, I caught your performance at the NRL Grand Final actually and it felt so surreal seeing a standing audience. 

AMY: I know, you and me both. I was stoked to even just have a gig, so I was really excited. I loved the show that we all put together and it was fun. 

HAPPY: Could you break down that experience a little bit for us? 

AMY: Yeah, I guess it was a lot of back and forth. It’s such a different world, the football world, and that kind of performing, compared to what I’m used to which is, you know, festivals and such. You’ve kind of got to find a balance with what everyone wants, but at the end of the day, I got to sing my songs and play one of my all-time favourite songs with an all-time favourite band. I feel like I won a lot that day.

HAPPY: That must’ve been the craziest experience. 

AMY: Yeah, I mean Never Tear Us Apart, the whole of INXS, especially that album Kick, my parents played it non-stop. I knew so many of the songs when I was so young. It was quite surreal meeting Andrew and Kirk and they were like, “we love your music,” and I was like, “oh my god, this is so cool.” And they were so accommodating and lovely to me, so it was fun. 

HAPPY: Yeah, cause your last gig of that size would’ve been Fire Fight, if I’m right? 

AMY: Yeah, literally the same spot too. It was really, really fun.

HAPPY: How does it feel having to single out finally? 

AMY: It feels great. It’s just been such a crazy year but, all of a sudden, I feel like I’ve just been so busy. Usually, I’d be so much busier because I remember releasing I Said Hi for the last album, I was just on this crazy promo, single tour type thing and that wasn’t around this year. So I feel like everyone, when you’re a little bit busy, it feels like a lot busier now because we’ve all just been brought back. But I’m getting in the swing of it and I love the fact that I have a song with Travis Barker. I’m still waking up going, wow, that’s so cool. 

HAPPY: How long ago did you guys finish writing and recording it? 

AMY: Well, I wrote it a long time ago now. I wrote it probably two years ago, I guess, and started doing a bit of pre-production. Then we went in, I built a studio in my house, and Dan and I were working on it. So it’s seen a couple of different worlds, this song, you know. I had it in the ballad world for a while and I thought this could be a really beautiful ballad, and I haven’t had a ballad ever, so I was getting a little excited about that. And then when I started recording it, I just kept having this big power come through my voice and I was trying to tone it down and I just couldn’t. And I was like, this isn’t a ballad, this needs a big beat to it because it’s basically me saying, come on, please fucking help me. It just felt good once we started putting some big beats to it and the Travis Barker element, that was a card that I had in my pocket to play at a time that I thought was right. You know, with these big people, you kind of need to really pick your moments and be prepared for them and really not waste them and waste their time. So, I got the song sounding pretty hot and then sent it to him and yeah, it was all on from then. 

HAPPY: Have these international collaborations changed the way that you’ve had to approach your songwriting at all? 

AMY: No, not really, because there’s only one person, and I’m not going to say it just yet, but there’s only one person that I’ve ever really written lyrics with. Everyone else has added so many amazing elements to songs or changed my arrangement or added beautiful music, but usually, I’m left alone to write songs. I’ve definitely been put into rooms with people that I’ve worked with and really been open-minded about it, more so in this album, I guess. Like, going in and working with people I’ve never worked with before, but I usually end up just writing it all myself. And I might have a couple of things from the person in the room, but yeah, it doesn’t happen very often where I’ll actually just write with someone.  

HAPPY: Well, it’s really interesting you say that considering like when I was listening to the song, I was like, yeah, I can see how Travis’ pop-punk influence came in a little bit here. So yeah, it’s really interesting that he didn’t even have that much of an input when it came to the song. 

AMY: No, you know what? You and me both babe because it’s been a thing forever where, in the industry, it’s like, you know, people get these songwriting credits and I’ve only just learnt that and being okay with the fact that they add an element to the song, and that’s where the credit comes in. At the start, you know, I was kind of fiery about it and I was like, “but I wrote everything?” And then the more I look at it now though, there’s so many different ways to look at songs and things that I’m not even interested in learning, to be honest. I just know it exists. But it does add another layer to the song that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And someone like Travis doesn’t work on anything he doesn’t like. He still writes to me even after the song’s been released and is like, “yeah, I love this song.” It’s so nice because there are a lot of things set up in us speaking to other artists where the collaboration is literally just put together by the label and it’s quite stale and we’re doing this… I’ve got my reasons for doing it with you, you’ve got a reason to do it. We’ll put it out and then they, like, never really speak. I’m not like that and maybe I’m just lucky that the people I’ve worked with have been really, genuinely loving the song or whatever we’re working on and want to be around for it and, you know, involved in it a lot. 

Amy Shark

HAPPY: Yeah, totally. Well, like I said before, your sound’s expanding and developing and all these amazing ways. What’s the catalyst for you when choosing a stylistic direction? 

AMY: I kind of just go into a zone where I just let it happen. I know when it’s good, I know it’s bad, and I know what it’s just not good enough. You know, they’ll be solos where, you know, maybe the verse is good or maybe the whole thing needs to be scrapped and started again. Or maybe I could mesh in a couple of things, but I don’t know. I’m a bit of a brat, you know, like I need it to all start coming out quite quick and it’s like when you go in to talk to someone, say you’ve done something really messed up and you’ve got your friend and you’re like, “hey I’ve got to tell you something really quick.” That’s how I write songs. I just *spew sound*, this is what happened. So yeah, it’s just weird, weird each time for me. I don’t have a certain way to write them. It’s just what feels right. 

HAPPY: Yeah. Well it makes for a much more authentic song anyway. 

AMY: I think that and I think people are really smart and can sense when there’s fifteen different writers on a song or when someone’s actually just gone all in and just bared all, you know, and that’s what makes the song cool. I don’t think you should have to try and make a song cool. It should just come in raw and authentic and that’s what makes it good.

HAPPY: Well, what’s next on the agenda for you? I know you’ve got three ARIA nominations this year, which congrats about that. That’s pretty incredible. 

AMY: Thanks. Yeah, considering it’s been a weird year and it was quite a quiet year, I’m very honoured to have three noms. It’s awesome. 

HAPPY: You mentioned the new album, is that on the horizon? 

AMY: Yes. The album is coming, I think it’s safe to say, next year. But yeah, obviously I’m trying to keep people well-fed with singles right now. But I’m always going to be an album artist. I’m never going to just leave you in the lurch with a bunch of singles. I need people to really dive into a body of work, so I’m really looking forward to this one. 

HAPPY: Yeah, totally. Is there a particular direction that the album’s starting to take? 

AMY: Yes, I guess it’s just going back to my roots. It’s very guitar-heavy and there’s a couple more little surprises to come. But, you know, I still want this one to stand on its own two feet and I just made sure the songs are very strong. I guess I went in not relying on production and just wanting to go in with songs that can stand on their own and anything added is just a bonus. You know, like C’MON, I felt like it was so strong and so beautiful when I just played on guitar that I was just like, okay, well once this gets a big old, dirty beat on it and some of that atmospheric sounds, it’s just gonna be a monster. 

HAPPY: Yeah, totally. Thanks so much for the chat. 

AMY: No worries, appreciate it. 

 

C’MON is available on all streaming platforms. Grab your copy here.

Full-width image by Rachel Ann Cauilan