“You Can Only Do Something For So Long With No Recognition”: A Very Candid Chat With Amy Shark

Amy Shark was about to give up music. Then 'Adore' happened.

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“Wait, when is my album coming out?”

Amy Shark is sitting in a crowded cafe in Surry Hills, and she’s trying hard to remember the release date of her highly anticipated debut record, Love Monster. 

After a few seconds of brow furrowing, she throws the question to her publicist, who kindly informs her the drop day is July 13.

“Oh really?” Amy laughs. “Alright then, July. Nice.”

It’s not surprising that some small details have slipped from Amy Shark’s brain, as the Gold Coast singer has been a smidge busy lately. Since the release of breakout hit ‘Adore’ at the end of 2016, Shark has been in a whirlwind of touring, recording, and award-winning,

It’s ramped up in the last few months, as Shark has been frantically putting the finishing touches on Love Monster, with help from pop genius Jack Antonoff and gun local producer Dann Hume.

So before the album lands and the madness truly sets in, Music Junkee caught up with Shark to see just what it’s like to watch your life change.

There’s a saying that it takes a long time to be an overnight success, and I feel like that’s pretty spot on for you — because you spent years honing your craft and playing around the Gold Coast before ‘Adore’ hit. Was it strange to hear people refer to you as an ‘overnight success’? 

Yeah it was, but also it’s not like I had heaps on songs on radio before ‘Adore’. It’s not like triple j were playing me a lot and then I wrote ‘Adore’ and suddenly I was commercial. I really did come from nowhere, unless you were from the Gold Coast and knew me from there.

If you lived on the Gold Coast you would know that I’ve been playing so many gigs and writing so much music and putting it out online for years, but I can understand for some people it like I’ve just come out of nowhere.

And you were ready to basically walk away from music when ‘Adore’ came out, is that right? 

Yeah, I had just been doing it for so long. You can only do something for so long with no recognition. I was putting in so much money into something that wasn’t giving anything back. Not that I wanted money back, I just wanted anything back.

And nothing was really coming back so I just thought, “I’m not gonna put as much effort in anymore. I’ll still write music because I love writing songs but I’m not gonna force it on people anymore.”

So when ‘Adore’ came out, did you just wake up to an inbox full of emails from record companies? What was that first wave of reaction like? 

I got an email saying that they were actually going to premier it on triple j, so I was like “sweet”. It was going to be on Good Nights with Linda Marigliano. It was actually on the same night as my friend’s birthday, I remember we were all at this Mexican restaurant listening to it, it was super cool. And I was happy with that, I was just like, “if that’s all I get, I’m made, it’s great”.

Having such a massive first single right off the bat can be pretty daunting for a lot of artists. Did you have any thoughts of ‘Oh shit, what if I never top this?’ Was there a fear about that?

Not really, maybe for other people, maybe for my managers and label and stuff [laughs]. But I’ve lived in a space of no fear and not caring because I was just trusting my gut and writing the way I’ve always wanted to write, really raw and honest.

If there’s one thing I’ve always been confident in, it’s my songwriting. I wasn’t really nervous and you know what, I hadn’t had any sort of success so I was like, “Well look if I don’t write another one, who gives a shit? I’ve written ‘Adore'”.

Did ‘Adore’ change your approach to songwriting? 

It did a little. The way I wrote ‘Adore’ was I really let myself just drift off and let the song take me to where I think it should go — which is different for me.

“You can only do something for so long with no recognition. I was putting in so much money into something that wasn’t giving anything back.”

I listen to a lot of punk so I have been brought up on Blink-182 and New Found Glory and there a lot of two big verses and a bridge and a couple of choruses and I guess that’s what I slide into, rather than having the big extravagant long songs.

I like ’em short and punchy.

Do you ever get sick about talking about that one song? 

No. I’m never gonna be one of those artists. ‘Adore’ isn’t ever a song that I’ll ever be embarrassed about, it’s really timeless and beautiful and I’m so proud of it and it’s the reason I’m here with you and it’s the reason I’m doing music full time.

I think you’d have to be a real brat, a real douche to be like, “Don’t ask me about this song.” And I know it happens all the time.

Amy Shark

Amy Shark on tour in Australia last year. Photo via Facebook

You spoke about liking songs short and punchy — which is a pretty good description of your new single ‘I Said Hi’. How did that track come about?

So that track was really special, it’s a very new track to my life. I had a one day left with [producer] Dann Hume and we’d worked on the whole record and we had one day left to fix up a couple of songs before I was going on tour again. The night before I wrote ‘I Said Hi’ and I was so excited about it, it came out very quickly, like in five or 10 minutes. I had the melodies there and I was so happy with it.

I just remember going into Dan the next day and saying, “I’m really sorry, but everything’s changed, I’ve got a new song and I need to do it today.” [Laughs] This poor guy… Dann must be shaking somewhere after working with me for six months. I’m like, “It’s huge Dann, it’s Grammy Award winning. I’m sorry, but we need to do it.”

He said, “This is a gem, now let’s put a filthy beat on it.”

The lyrics are pretty in your face. There’s this great line: “I’ve heard the whole world thought that I was going to give up or would have given up.” Where did that come from?

I had so many friends and family over the years that were like “Oh, are you still doing your music. Come on Amy, get a real job.” So it’s a real passive aggressive song, like “oh, tell them I said hi.”

I started saying that all the time. My manager would say ‘I’ve got a meeting with such and such today’ and it would be someone who was a dick to me, or whatever, and I’d say “tell them I said hi.” I was saying it so often I think that’s why it came out on the night I was writing.

A year ago Jack Antonoff fired off a tweet saying he loved your music — and you’re now working together. How did that relationship start?

Well it started right there. We were with the same label and he contacted the label and said he wanted me to support Bleachers. So I went on tour with him, and we just formed this really great friendship. I was trying so hard to not be that guy, like “Oh my god can we write music together or can we do stuff and can we be friends??” I tried to be chill.

We hung out and got along really well and started talking about music and we have a lot of things in common that we like in music. So he plays a role in my record and it’s super exciting. I still can’t believe I have this massive producer in my phone — I was just texting him today.

Did you go to Brooklyn and record in his studio?

We did some work in Conway Studios in LA.

Was that the first time you’ve collaborated? Before songwriting for you was quite an insular experience. What was that change like? 

With Jack it was so easy because he picked up on how I work straight away. He built a beat and this synth part and then I came out with a melody idea. But then we’re both sort of sitting there and he kind of knew I was awkward and weird so he just said, “Okay, I’m going to put this on repeat and I’ll come back in a second.”

Which was so lovely of him to do and I came out with some great stuff and he came back and just tweaked a couple of words. We just came out with some really great stuff that I’m so excited for the world to hear.

Amy Shark and Jack Antonoff. Photo via Twitter

You’ve also been working with [former Blink-182 frontman] Tom DeLonge?

Tom and I speak all the time now, he’s the busiest guy — just so into his films and aliens. Even just emailing there’s like an encrypted code that I have to put in before we speak because he’s got government stuff going on.

Kind of loopy but intelligent and I’m sitting there in front of him and I’m like, “This guy has soundtracked my life.”

He gave me some great advice, and he still does — he still checks in all the time.  I feel like, if I send him some demos from the album, he’s like this song’s great but you need to go with this one. He’s just a good dude.

I have to ask — what’s the deal with all the Adidas gear? Are you sponsored? 

I’m not. But it’s a nice thing because it’s like a uniform. I love Adidas, always have — was always a fan of like, Oasis and Korn and they always wore Adidas. I felt really comfortable on stage wearing it.

They obviously send me a lot of stuff. I could have been sponsored but that would have come with a lot of annoying tags and people would have been like, “She’s a sell out, I’m not following her anymore.” Also I wouldn’t have been able to wear any Nike, Converse, Puma and I like all kinds of stuff, so I don’t wanna be restricted.

There are some musicians that go pretty hard on, this is what I’m driving, this is what I’m wearing, this is that, this is this and there’s just something not cool about it. To me anyway. [Laughs] They’re probably rolling in it, they’re the ones laughing. I’m the poor guy in a Sprinter van travelling around Europe with 10 guys.

I’m an idiot, basically.

Amy Shark’s debut album Love Monster is out now. 

Jules LeFevre is Junkee’s Music Writer. She is on Twitter

Photo Credit: Steven Wyper/Supplied