Amy Shark: Jack Antonoff ‘Made Me Sing in Falsetto’ on Debut Album (INTERVIEW)
It’s one of the greatest joys of the era of infinite streaming: You’re perusing some random playlist, you stumble upon an artist you’ve never heard of and instantly, you fall in love.
For millions of listeners, Amy Shark has been one of those “Hold on, who is this?” artists, particularly with her breakthrough single, “Adore,” an addictive and dreamy pop track released in 2016. It’s made the impassioned singer something of a household name in her native Australia, and has populated all sorts of “top viral” lists on Spotify.
The singer-songwriter born Ashley Billings, 32, has yet to truly break in the U.S., though that could change on Friday, July 13 with the release of her debut LP, Love Monster — a terrific and dexterous stroll through indie-pop and acoustic rock, and a must-listen for fans of Halsey and Alessia Cara.
As Amy Shark gears up for a release that’s been years in the making, we caught up with the blooming Aussie star to discuss the new album, working with blink-182 icon Mark Hoppus on killer track “Psycho,” and why dropping her debut feels “weird.”
Can we go back before “Adore” and talk about how you first got into songwriting?
Music as a profession kind of crept up on me. I didn’t set out to be a musician at a young age. It wasn’t until I was in a really bad band — I still enjoyed it, but it was pretty horrible — and we broke up, and I started dating this guy and I would play acoustic songs and he’d be obsessed with them, thinking they were better than I thought they were... He started entering me in these little competitions and open mic nights, and I grew to love it. I just got addicted to writing songs.
You’ve been working on Love Monster songs for years. How does it feel for the album to finally be coming out?
It feels really bizarre for me. I feel anxious and nervous and so many feelings. Some days I feel like I have a really short temper and I don’t know why and I’m just like, “It’s taken over my life!” [Laughs] So when it comes out I think I’m going to feel really good and relaxed. There are songs on there that I wrote so long ago and was proud of them then and am happy they have a home now on the album.
Considering how long you’ve been writing songs, does it feel odd that this is technically your “debut album”?
Yeah, it does feel weird. I’ve had to just jump into gear really quickly because when everything was happening with “Adore,” there was no option but to move quick. I’ve been playing and writing for so long that I feel like that was just one big training session. That allowed me to be very ready for when this day came.
Through the process of making Love Monster, what have you learned about yourself as a musician?
That it was really hard to start culling songs, because we’re in a world now where no one has much patience. I easily could have put out a 25-song album. It sucks, because I move quick with songs because I write so often, so when I had to say goodbye to some songs, it was like saying goodbye forever, because I’m not the type to keep them and go back to them if I’m desperate or something. So it was really like saying goodbye to a child that was sitting there, on the hard drive, in the folder marked “Love Monster,” and now it’s gone. But it was important for me to have a strong album to cement Amy Shark into the music industry. I just wanted to give everyone the absolute best of me.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
There is no real process. It’s usually that every time I put some time aside to write music, it won’t happen. It happens at the weirdest times, like when I’m getting ready to go out or doing something else and I end up picking up the guitar and just start. It’s weird when it happens because I’m not really thinking, I’m just fumbling over some chords and then I start talking. And when I’m having a really good day, I’ll start talking in a melody I really like. You just have to have the guitar in your hand all the time, and I have little notes in my phone and little voice recordings, but I never really even go back to them. I kind of just see what comes out of me. You don’t know what’s in your subconscious, and I think that’s why people get addicted to songwriting, because you’re actually figuring yourself out with every song you write.
How did you end up pairing up with blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, and what was he like to work with?
Mark came out of nowhere. I’ve been a big blink fan my whole life and he contacted me over Twitter and was like, “Next time you’re in L.A., let’s have a coffee,” and it just so happened that I was like, three days away from being in L.A. I wrote back, like, “Yes, please, that would make my life complete.” I met him for a coffee and he’s just loves music. We could’ve spoken about music for eight hours straight. And I think he’s got his finger on the pulse, and he was really interested to see what I was doing, and I said I was very close to finishing my album and he said he’d love to be involved. He booked us in Dave Grohl’s personal studio and we were in there within two days of first meeting.I sent him “Psycho” over email so he could get his head around it and he loved it. And that song does have a little bit of a blink vibe to it.
What was your favorite moment during the making of this album? The goosebumps moment?
Well, every time I hear Mark sing on my album I still can’t believe that actually happened, but there’s another song called “All Loved Up” with Jack Antonoff and I’m such a big fan of his. And he made me sing in falsetto and that’s not something I usually do, but he was like,” No, trust me,” and I did and we had such a great time in the studio. It was sort of the first time I got so excited writing a song with someone else in the room. When he played it back he did a little bit of a mix and it sounded so dreamy and lush and big and I just got really excited for the album that day.
How did your home, Australia, make it onto this album?
There’s so many Australian stories, from different words I’ve used, and every now and then I kind of slip into the Australian accent. I’m so Australian when I talk that when I sing I’m pretty self-conscious of it. I really wanted people to be able to connect with the album from all over the world. And I’ve always sung like that, holding things back a little bit, putting a bit of sparkle on my accent.
Is there any difference between U.S. fans and Australian fans?
Yeah, Australian fans kind of have to listen to me no matter what because the songs are played everywhere, and they can’t escape it. But with me in America still making little waves, I feel like the people who come to shows here have done more research and know more about me than any Australian because they have to. I feel like Americans just really research the hell out of you and they really hang on every word. It’s such a different crowd; Australians are more like, “We better buy a ticket and support her, she’s Australian.”