Interviews

Azure Ryder leads us up a spellbinding ‘Ladder To The Moon’

Azure Ryder talks about the power that came with standing on her own and how taking risks propelled her artistic development in upcoming EP Ladder To The Moon.

Australian singer-songwriter Azure Ryder has left us spellbound by her upcoming EP Ladder To The Moon. This body of work sees a mesmerising fusion of commanding and feminine forces along with glimmering melodies and vocal harmonies.

Azure mentioned how she wrote most of the songs in this EP while living in London before COVID. In a surreal turn of events, the meaning within the songs became more relevant to her now than when she first wrote them.

We spoke with Azure about the impact this has had on her songwriting, the importance of embracing our wild sides and being crowned Spotify Australia and New Zealand’s Equal artist for October.

HAPPY: How are you, Azure?

AZURE: I’m doing very well, thank you. How are you?

HAPPY: I’m doing great. It’s a nice day today, so I’m happy.

AZURE: It is. I feel like it’s been getting that summer feeling.

HAPPY: Yes, the warm breeze.

AZURE: Yes, it’s such a beautiful thing to feel. So I think it’s definitely coming at the right time when we’re hopefully starting to get out of this lockdown and everything. So everything is looking brighter.

HAPPY: I know, it’s looking peachy, it’s looking summery, it’s getting me excited. I love when you can feel that change in the air.

AZURE: Me too.

HAPPY: I just want to say congratulations on being chosen as Spotify Australia and New Zealand’s Equal artist for October. That’s incredible.

AZURE: Thank you so much. Yeah, I was super excited to be chosen for this. It definitely is such an honour and something I’m so grateful to be a part of.

HAPPY: Oh, I could only imagine. So how did you find out? Did they call you or what was the process?

AZURE: I got an email basically forwarded through from my label and my beautiful friend and team member Maddie, who works with Spotify at my label. She kind of really… I’m really grateful because I think she really pushed for me to get this. It just means so much to me. Obviously, for women.

HAPPY: Oh, of course. And your music is so feminine, but it’s powerful. So I feel like you’re the perfect candidate for it. So congratulations!

AZURE: Thank you. Yeah, I definitely… I have always believed that we, as women especially, are born with this wildness, and I think as we grow honestly from birth, we kind of start to gradually lose that more and more because of I guess how society has formed around us. So I want to do my part as much as possible to remind people of that wild that they have in their heart, and to not be afraid of it and to not be afraid of their voices. Yeah, I’m super excited to see how this unfolds.

HAPPY: I wanted to talk about your recent release, Ladder to the Moon. The title track for your upcoming third EP. It’s so uplifting and it’s such a feel-good song for something that came out, especially during COVID. How did you found this sound?

AZURE: I literally had just gotten back from London at the beginning of this COVID thing, and obviously at that point, everything was just starting to happen. It was such a weird feeling to obviously be locked up inside. I think it was definitely a hard thing for the majority of the world to deal with because, you know, we’re so used to being on the go and being outside in the world and the thought of sitting still and being in one space seemed very limiting. That was definitely something that I needed to express for myself and I also thought it would provide some light and hope to other people. I’ve always believed that our minds are such powerful things, even if we’re physically stuck somewhere, it doesn’t mean our mind has to be there as well. We can escape outside those four walls if we let ourselves, and we can take our minds and our hearts to other places as well.

AZURE: I think it also gives you hope that you – I likened it to dreaming with your eyes open – don’t have to be asleep to escape these walls. That’s exactly what I was doing when I was thinking about the song. I was looking out my window and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, if I look up at the sky I could be there too if I like’ you know, put my mind to it. So, yeah, I’m really happy with this song and how it was created and the feeling that you get from it. It definitely feels like a reachable dream, or that dreams are reachable if we really believe it.

HAPPY: The power is in the mind. I feel like that comes across in the title as well, Ladder to the Moon – reaching those heights that people would normally deem impossible.

AZURE: Definitely. So the title of the song was inspired by the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, she has this incredible book of all her artworks. I was flipping through it and I came across this artwork, and it was called Ladder to the Moon. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful.’ It’s literally a ladder to the moon in the sky. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I was feeling’. It was the kind of thing I wanted to focus on and create within this track.

HAPPY: Was that before you named it?

AZURE: That was before I named it. I’d had the idea for the song and I was just trying to figure out what the core thing was, and I was flipping through this book. I usually always carry it with me when I’m going into sessions and things, either some sort of poetry book or an art book or just anything I can look to for some sort of spark. So that’s what I had with me at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is it. Yeah, this is what it is.’ I also knew from that point I was like, ‘OK, this is the name of this song and this also has to be the name of whatever this project is because it just encapsulates all of it.’

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m looking at the artwork now, and it’s so cute. I love it.

AZURE: Yeah, yeah.

HAPPY: But it’s also really peaceful to look at. It’s a really nice piece.

AZURE: Yeah, that’s what I thought as well! That’s the thing I hope people can feel in listening to the song – that overarching sense of actually, in this moment, I am okay and I can reach this ladder or I can… it’s basically the journey to that as well. Like any step is a step in that direction. It’s all about the journey to the moon.

HAPPY: Yeah, definitely. With this upcoming EP, it is coming out on October 29. So could you give me a brief overview of any other things that inspired this EP?

AZURE: Yeah, definitely. Well, I actually wrote the majority of the songs over two years ago when I was in London. It was actually a very incredibly important process to me because I kind of found that as I did go back into the songs, they began to have an even more intense and wider meaning to me now than even when I’d first written them.

HAPPY: Wow.

AZURE: And yeah, it was such a weird experience because I honestly thought, ‘Wow, I feel like I subconsciously wrote these for my future self.’ So, at the time, I was experiencing things, but I wasn’t ready to face those things. So now in coming back to them, I definitely feel like I gained and grew a lot more from the process, and I really feel like that is depicted throughout the whole EP. I think with my past two EPs, which I’m so proud of, but… I feel like it was a lot of wandering and searching.

Then through this EP, I finally feel for the first time that I’m kind of landing confidently in who I am. The process of that has been really amazing. It feels very commanding and wild, like a woman, which makes this Spotify equal campaign even more beautiful, and it kind of aligns with what I feel like I’m putting out right now – standing strongly in that unapologetically, basically.

HAPPY: I can’t even imagine how insane that would be to feel all those things and then reflecting on these songs over the past two years as a subconscious message to your future self. That’s crazy, and then getting this huge title. How have you processed that?

AZURE: Oh gosh. A lot of crying.

HAPPY: Happy tears, hopefully.

AZURE: Definitely happy tears. The happiest of tears. A lot of jumping around and dancing as much as I can do in my home. I’m just so, so grateful. I have always been such a believer in not just reaching for the big things but having a focus on the little things that happen, and all those little things that lead up to those big moments. They just make it all the more special and sweeter. So I just feel like everything that I’ve done on this journey so far has led me to these things. I just… I’m so ready to keep pushing through that and keep doing this with everyone that wants to listen and join along with me and yeah, it’s definitely a beautiful moment to be present in.

HAPPY: Oh, of course. It’s a wonderful achievement, especially as an artist right now during the pandemic! I also wanted to talk about your fourth song on the EP, Wild Nights. So it was from a live performance you did at the Wolf Cabin.

AZURE: Yes.

HAPPY: What made you decide to use a live version of this song on the final EP?

AZURE: This is definitely a process for me that I really went back and forth on. Originally when I was writing the song, it was quite an intense time and what you hear on this demo is purely that – I couldn’t hide the imperfections and everything that this song is. Originally, I was really scared of that and so I did try a few times to rerecord it. I tried to do it when I felt like I had control over my voice and control over everything to make it kind of perfect and in doing those things, me and my team both realised that that kind of magic of that moment and that feeling was lost when I tried to make it perfect. I really came to the realisation that – I talk so much about giving as much love to the darkness that you do the light and things like that – so I was like, ‘If I don’t release this song how it is, then I’m not walking my talk.’

It was nerve-wracking because things are so easily filtered today. For instance, autotune is real and imperfections aren’t. Also artists that obviously use auto-tune, that is their personal choice, and it’s even become a stylistic thing now, which is awesome. But for me, I’ve never been someone to use it. So using this live demo for this EP was a relief and I hope that other people who hear it know that they don’t need to be perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. It’s not a thing, and I want that darkness to be shown because it’s something that we all go through and I want people to feel proud of those imperfections – they are of the things that they feel are perfect.

HAPPY: Yeah and that comes back to what you were saying about our wild sides and really embracing that as well, and not feeling like it should be refined because it isn’t natural and it’s not us being our most raw and honest selves. So it’s really nice to hear that you were challenging yourself in trying not to perfect that song and just keep it as it is.

AZURE: Yeah, thank you. I definitely think we know how easy it is to show people only the best sides of ourselves and it’s so much harder to be like, ‘actually, I have really bad days too. Yeah, my voice isn’t always perfect. It cracks’, and all this. So, yeah, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to release this imperfectly and hope that it still finds places in people’s hearts.’

HAPPY: Well, it’s beautiful, and I think it worked. So…

AZURE: Thank you so much. That’s really kind of you.

HAPPY: I also want to talk about the music video for Some Kind Of Love. It’s so ethereal and it’s feminine and it’s powerful, and I feel like it really connects to the song in this way. Can you tell me a bit about your thought process behind its production, and I guess why you chose to stylistically reflect the song in this way?

AZURE: Yeah, definitely. So, it’s no secret that one of my biggest connections is to nature, and therefore everything I’ve put out so far has been me being amongst some form of outdoor and natural setting. So the original idea for this was that same thing. I really wanted to be in the mountains, like out in the open. But certain restrictions and kind of limitations came on board so I really had to rethink that. So me and my beautiful director friend Simon Lekias really got to talking about it.

It’s interesting because it was similar to the thing I talked about with Ladder to the Moon in that, just because you have these four walls doesn’t mean that you are any less connected to the outside, or it doesn’t mean that you can’t create something beautiful. So I really wanted to bring the elements indoors and act as if those four walls didn’t exist. So we kind of played with light and materials and things to reflect the seasons and the elements indoors. It was a really beautiful process because within having the limitations, it was like there were none, which is too crazy. I feel like sometimes limitations can really force you to push beyond those and create something really beautiful.

AZURE: I’m so proud of everything we did as a team to create that feeling. This was also a challenging moment for me, because it’d never really just been me in front of the camera. I always had a natural backdrop to hold me and support me and this was the first time where Simon was like, ‘We’re going to have you standing there on your own, holding your own’. It was a wild process, but it was something I knew I needed to do, and I’m so happy that I was pushed to do it because it depicts everything the song and the whole EP is about. It finally feels like I’m arriving as myself and not going anywhere.

HAPPY: Yeah, and it’s really drawing the focus on you and your ability to hold that attention and when I was watching it I felt that. You know sometimes you can sort of drift off when you’re watching a music video or a film, but you had such a commanding presence!

AZURE: Thank you. Yeah, that’s what I’d hoped would happen, and it definitely exceeded everything I dreamt of in that moment. It added another kind of growth moment for me where I was like, ‘Wow, I am capable of doing this. I am capable of holding my own and not needing anything around me, whether I love it or not.’ For me, I’m always going to come back to nature, but I don’t want it to become something that I solely rely on. So if I want my music to be present within anyone’s lives, no matter where they are, I have to do the same.

HAPPY: That’s beautiful. Everything you said today is so nice to hear. It’s been lovely to hear your thoughts on your own work and your process behind Ladder To The Moon. So thank you, I appreciate your time.

AZURE: Thank you so much, it’s been so lovely to talk. I very much thoroughly enjoyed this conversation.

HAPPY: Oh, same goes for me too.

Ladder To The Moon will be available on all streaming services from October 29!

Interview by Alex Stefanovic.

Photos supplied.