As much as Amy Shark is a fan’s artist, she is a true artist’s artist, a beacon of light and inspiration that could serve as a north star for up-and-comers and seasoned vets alike. That said, Amy’s journey has not been without its challenges, as she weathered 15 years of rejection before achieving the success that would make her a household name in 2016 with her breakout hit “Adore”, putting her on the map as one of Australia’s most captivating musicians, her songs often delving into her deeply personal experiences that her fans can identify with. Her creative process is a multifaceted endeavor, from the early days of creating her own music, and counterpart videos, and even dipping her toes into the waters of acting, to now, tapping on trusted collaborators that are aligned with her vision—one that is her own and without compromise. A vital pillar in her life and career is her partner, Shane, who serves as her manager and co-writer of a beautiful love story still being written. His unwavering belief in Amy is one of the many driving forces behind her success, encouraging her passion and affirming her talent, and even becoming a staunch advocate for her fair treatment in the industry.
Amy Shark greets me at Velvet Underground in Toronto vibrantly, despite the fact she has been on the road, bustling from one location to another, and just wrapped up her soundcheck in preparation for the night’s show. Her presence is confident and grounded and prompts me to insert my affinity for astrology into our conversation, asking if she is a Taurus—it takes one to know one. Though Amy Shark does not necessarily have the same investment in the planets, she affirms my suspicions—“Within an hour, you can pick a Taurus out of a room”—as the practical, creature-comfort nature of her sign unfolds in our time together, adding an additional layer of insight to her profound success and artistry.
As Amy Shark was gearing up for her Toronto show, a week out from debuting her latest single “Can I Shower At Yours”, she candidly chats with me about her pure love for making music, embracing fearlessness and a give-no-f*cks disposition, and why we should reconsider playing it cool in the dating pool.
On her no-quit attitude:
It’s for the pure love of it, for the pure love of making music and writing songs and I did it for so long for nothing, like, nothing was paying me back in any way—not financially and no one sort of giving me any reason to keep going apart from one guy. I must just have been addicted to it. When I was in high school, it was something that I really clung to, no matter what I was going through at home or at school. It was like a fun thing that I got to do [and] just remained that fun thing for so long. When it all started happening, the work didn’t faze me because I couldn’t ask for anything more. I clung to it like a crazy person because this is everything that I’ve ever wanted, I’m going to do everything I can to keep it going. I haven’t really stopped since.
What makes a collaboration right:
Everything I’ve done has come at me at the right time. There were opportunities that you’re never gonna not do. When Ed Sheeran says, “Next time you’re in England, come and do a session,” you get on a plane. That was amazing and I learned so much from him and Keith, I was lucky we both live in Australia and I got to know him over the years. I cherry-pick things to learn from the greats—and they are, you know, they’re fantastic performers, fantastic songwriters. I’ve never really been desperate, it’s all fallen my way and I feel that’s been the best thing to do for me lately—not push anything, just to make music that I wanna make and things kind of happen the right way when that happens.
On navigating vulnerability and protecting your boundaries:
That’s been the hardest thing because I just had to get good at navigating questions because I couldn’t stop being who I am. I think that’s why people like my songs because [they’re] unfiltered and quite urgent and I never wanted to stop doing that. But then I was like, “Shit, now I’m gonna have to talk about it. Am I OK to talk about it? I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Because there was some real relationship stuff [and] these are real characters. I know a lot of artists that write about books and things and movies and a friend of a friend, but mine’s very autobiographical. Everyone knows who I’m talking about in my circle. That’s been the hardest thing, just navigating through that, but I’ve seemed to find a balance and I always just put it down to, “Well, if I’m writing some gnarly shit about you, you’ve done some gnarly shit to me!”
Why chosen family is everything:
Chosen family is everything when your family is pretty cooked. You’ve got to lean on those people.
I’ve found my circle of people and I guess, music takes it to a whole new level. You see even the ugliest sides of people because something happens to people when you’re on TV and the radio, or whatever. It just changes and it’s really gross to watch. It’s taken me a while to find my people who are still normal, to me, and don’t want anything of me, or I’m not going to a barbecue to have a photo with their kids or something. I’ve found the right people. Family is not perfect, and just because they’re your family doesn’t mean you’re going to like them.
I would honestly not be here at all if Shane did not believe in me. For me, to watch him grow as a manager—he’s so in his element. He’s the brains of our business, I just don’t business at all. Even in emails, he’s had to tell me, “Amy, your emails are disgusting, I can’t even look at them.” I think that’s why it works. I think he knows the Amy Shark brand better than I do.
On becoming more confident and adventurous:
I think it’s time. When I first started, it was all very new very quickly. I’m also not in my early twenties, each year I get a little wiser. You kind of just don’t give a fuck anymore. I feel like I’ve proven myself and as much as I’m a workaholic and love making music and I want to make as much as I can, I’m not one of those fiends that needs to be really famous. I do it for the love of the art and that’s what fills me up. So, I really don’t care. Nothing really scares me. Social media comments and that—it just doesn’t bother me anymore, nothing does.
Staying true to herself and rejecting the stereotypes and traps of a female pop artist:
You have to be so strong-minded. You have to have a vision of your own because if you don’t, someone will give you one. You need to offer that much so there’s no room to fill. That’s what I’ve found. I always come to the table with, “Here’s the album, it’s 80% done. Here’s the vision, this is what I want to wear.” I’ve had videos where it doesn’t feel right so I don’t want to put it out and it sucks and you feel bad. There have been photoshoots that I’ve let be released because I was scared at the time, I was new to it and was like, “Okay, yeah sure.” But it takes a few of those, “yeah, sure,” moments to learn that you can’t do that again, because it didn’t look right or look good for my brand, it’s not who I am. You just learn and say it without being a bitch. There’s a way to say it and be in charge and spearhead a project.
On “Can I Shower At Yours”:
It’s a song that I had that was completely different from the one you’ve heard. The only bit that I kept was the bridge which is now the verses, the melody, “If you only knew…”. I kind of put up with the song until I got to the bridge. It was confusing me because I was like, “Fuck, that bit is so good but the rest is kind of meh.” I took it to Dann Hume, a producer I work with a lot and he was like, “Yeah, you’re right, that bit is fire. Why don’t you just open with it?” Yeah! Rewrote the whole thing. It was exciting and I heard him build the production and it was so minimal but sick. The guitaring and the empty production and letting the melody take over. I rewrote it so quickly. I was on the trail of wondering what it would sound like if you were really honest about how you felt about someone instead of playing it cool. What if you just surrendered and sounded pathetic and admitted I just want to waste my time with you? The more I was writing, I realized it actually sounded kind of sexy. Being really honest about how you feel is liberating.
How her environment fosters creativity and a sense of home:
The chill factor of where I’m from—I’ve lived in Sydney for a couple of years and it was just too much and I felt like I couldn’t just disappear. I’m a bit on the spectrum of liking to know where things are and I know where everything is at home. I’ve grown up there and I find comfort in that. I think it’s comfort in where I am. I like writing on the road and I’m inspired to do that but I think the artist I am and who I am is quite laid back and I can fit into any room and the Gold Coast contributed to that.
Her hopes for the future of the music industry:
I just hope the world keeps getting better and artists start finding it easier. There’s so much music right now. Here in Canada, you guys have a great thing with the radio having to play a target of Canadian music, whatever that is called. We don’t have that at home and it’s really tough for artists to break through. I feel I was sort of one of the last ones to build something and build a brand. I see really great artists and bands not being able to get there. I hope it’s time to breathe and people can survive.
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