To say it has been a successful year for critically acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Amy Billings, better known as Amy Shark, is an understatement. Her 2016 breakout single Adore has surpassed 24 million streams on Spotify, hit #2 on Triple J’s illustrious Hot 100 Countdown, peaked at #3 on the ARIA singles charts and been shortlisted for APRA Song Of The Year ~ A fast growing list of accolades she has worked relentlessly to achieve and clearly not let dampen her light-hearted and down to earth attitude, at the same time.
Now back in New Zealand, the country she refers to as her “second home,” for two shows in Wellington and Auckland this week, we were lucky enough to catch up with Amy, over ice cream (long story) while we talked all things songwriting, touring and important shark facts..🍦💕 💃
“This music thing has been such a journey for me, to the point where I had given up on even trying to get to the moments that I’m experiencing now,” she confesses. “As an Australian artist, Splendour is a massive festival that I have always been into, so getting to play that was incredible and obviously coming 2nd in the Hot 100 was also huge.. To me it’s a win and I’ll probably never beat that, you know. Everything just worked this time around and it has been a real dream for me!”
As for the early writing stages of Adore, she admits that getting the grant to work with M-Phazes gave her one ‘last little puff.’ “I thought I’d just do this song and it’d be great for me to know that I’ve worked with him. When you haven’t had a hit, whatever that is classed as, you just never know. There’s been so many songs I’ve written and absolutely loved, but after a while you just give up caring what anyone else thinks. As long as I was happy with it, I didn’t really care, but I definitely didn’t expect this to be the turning point of my whole life.”
Thanks to her parents great music library, a young Billings gravitated towards sad, lyric-heavy songs, the type that you would perhaps imagine to derive from poetry. “It sounds so corny, but it’s true.. I used to write poems!” she cracked, letting out a laugh. However, it was theatre and acting that was her first love, admitting she never sang or saw herself as a singer until she finished high school (Queue the confidence, thanks to a boyfriend booking her first show).
“It’s a big rush of emotion,” Amy explains when asked about her songwriting process. “I’ll usually find a chord progression or picking pattern that I like on guitar, then when it comes to the lyrics I try to completely black out. The fun part for me is working out what I am saying or what the song is even about because that’s when it gets exciting. But then if it doesn’t that’s when I get frustrated and stop. I don’t try to push it because I don’t like working on songs for too long.. if it works, it works, it doesn’t, it doesn’t!”
“It’s all very autobiographical for me,” she continues on the topic of songwriting. “I find it really hard to write about anyone else except myself, which is why I’ve always struggled when people say let’s write a song together. If I wrote about political issues or world problems then maybe that’d work, but everything is so much more about my past, future and who I am as a person, I would feel very exposed if I did that. It took a 15 year old Lorde for me to realise that we can write about this stuff and it can be as simple as we want it to be!”
A big fan of Aussie hip hop and long time fan of Allday, Amy gushes on his input throughout Worst Girl. “He just has a very smooth sound to his rap, it almost sounds American.. So I reached out to him and he came into the studio and did his thing, it was amazing! Every song of mine is literally such a small, scraping of the surface of what’s happened in my life,” she continues. “So Worst Girl is kind of similar to Drive You Mad in the sense that it’s a real ‘look at yourself’ moment where I’m admitting that – yes, I was a bitch, I can be the worst and I’m sorry.”
On the other side of Amy’s songwriting talents lies her passion for film and abundance of skills in editing, directing and producing. “I probably take on too much, but I love coming up with the entire concept for videos, it’s really fun,” she says.
“I often have a very strong image in my head of the video for a lot of songs from the second I finish recording the acoustic demo. Ask anyone in my entire management team and they will tell you that I knew exactly how I wanted the video for Drive You Mad to be from start to finish, from the very beginning, she confesses with a laugh.
“I could see that scene from Karate Kid with the skeletons, so knew that they were going to be the demons that follow you around and fuck with your head all day,” she explains.
“Usually you see a video and it just doesn’t quite hit the mark as to how you saw it in your head, but you did it and it’s fine. But with Drive You Mad I knew everything from the costumes to the make up had to be right and that’s why I love it so much, because the video turned out exactly how I saw it, frame by frame. It’s creepy as hell, it’s like a scary movie,” she chuckles.
Since last in New Zealand in April, Billings has continued to to tick a large number of firsts off her bucket list, including performing on the same stage as Amy Winehouse. “San Fran was really cool, because I’m a big Amy Winehouse and that was the only venue she played in America before getting kicked out for drugs, so to play in that venue on that same stage as she once did was very special,” she speaks of the highlight from her recent US tour.
With a three month tour supporting Vance Joy and Bleachers still ahead of her before the year is out, she admits that the world of touring is still so new, exciting and fun to her. “We treat it like one big holiday really!” she happily chimes. “I’ve been to Zurich and Munich which are both places I never thought I would ever go, let alone play shows there, it’s still very exciting to me.”
As for homesickness.. “I do miss my house and just knowing where I am,” she laughs. “But I think the key thing is having the right people around you. Everyday everyone tells you how amazing you are and it’s important to have someone on that level, who just doesn’t. Not that I have it in me to ever get a big head, because I’m already set in my ways, but it’s important to make sure you’ve got a good support team around you because it can get lonely.”
Being crowned the one to watch by an array of media outlets worldwide [we agree], there’s no denying that Amy Shark is the prime champion of proving that hard work (and lots of it) pays off and we for one can’t wait to see her flourish into even more of a super star than she is now.
🌸 ADVICE CORNER WITH AMY SHARK 🌸
THE BEST ADVICE I’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN..
Remember that you are in control and it’s okay. A lot of people give away everything which isn’t the best thing to do. So be very aware that this is your style, it’s going to represent you forever so you have to be very proud with everything that you put out, because it’s your name that goes with it..
THE BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE..
Just focus on writing a really great song more than anything! Don’t worry about your website, merch or anything else, that shit can come later. Get in there with a quality producer who can make you shine. I spent so much of my time doing it all DIY and trying to book shitty shows that didn’t matter. When I think back now, I would have been far better off staying at home and really concentrating on putting a song together, because that is what is going to resonate with everyone. No one gives a shit about you unless you have a song..
🌊 SHARK FACTS W/ AMY SHARK 🌊
[Insert Jaws music here]
🦈 They still don’t know how Sharks mate!
They’ve visited so many islands and places to find out but it’s still unknown.
🦈🦈 New Zealand currently has the biggest shark ever spotted.
🦈🦈🦈 Most sharks species will drown if they stop moving as they don’t have the muscles they need to pump water through their mouth and over their gills.