Australian musician Amy Shark played an intimate set at S @ Spark Arena earlier this week. She spoke to Lydia Burgham about being vulnerable with her songwriting, her Amy Winehouse obsession and working with Jack Antonoff.
Releasing a debut album is a momentous occasion in the career of any artist, but for Amy Shark the release also comes with sharing the intricacies of her personal life with the public. The 32-year-old Australian is about to release her first album Love Monster, a follow up to her 2017 EP Night Thinker. “All I can do, all I have done is think about this album, listen to it, pull it apart and put it back together again,” she said. “So I think I’m just going to feel like it’s a massive weight off, a huge relief once it’s out I think.”
The pressure is made up of how personal Amy gets with her music. Not one to skip over the details, her crushing lyricism presents her as vulnerable, sad, in love, and moreover – complex. She describes herself as addicted to songwriting. Music was just her therapy once, before Adore gained international recognition. Now she has people ready and waiting to pick apart her lyrics, discerningly analyse the pieces and paint their own picture of her life for her. However, Shark said she is rarely compelled to edit her truth. Her song ‘Weekends’ opens with the line “you ban me from sleeping pills and codeine”, which she was going to change, but the more she sat with it, the more she realised it was an authentic line. “I’ve got to be okay with talking about all of these songs, and I definitely think twice, but I don’t ever want to change because the reason people like my stuff is because I’m like that.”
Her debut LP, which is set to be released on 13 July, also includes songs that have been in her repertoire for a number of years. Her collaborative efforts on the record gave these older songs room to evolve. The list of names almost read as envy-inducing name dropping: Joel Little, Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and Jack Antonoff. Shark follows in the footsteps of Lorde by working with Little and Antonoff, who Ella Yelich-O’Connor collaborated with on Pure Heroine and Melodrama respectively. The international success of breakout single ‘Adore’ got Shark in rooms with the best producing minds in the business.
At her showcase for Spark customers at the intimate S @ Spark Arena, she played two new songs for a room of eager fans. The Little produced track ‘Never Coming Back’ featured minimal production and a thumping chorus, familiar motifs which are strung throughout his work on Pure Heroine. She confessed she jumped at the chance to work with Little, and was a fan of his work since his days in local punk band Goodnight Nurse.
Straying from her usual solo production efforts wasn’t easy. In conversation with broadcaster Cam Mansel, she brushed off a question about whether she was keen to collaborate with other artists in the future with a firm “No, I don’t think so.” She said she was riddled with nerves working with Jack Antonoff, despite touring with his band Bleachers and befriending his then-girlfriend Lena Dunham. Antonoff observed her anxieties and left her alone for periods of time, with audio on repeat for Shark to fill in the blanks.
The two days the pair worked together resulted in ‘All Loved Up’, a gushing song almost as cheesy as the title suggests. It’s a new emotion on the spectrum of Shark’s work, even ‘Adore’ has the undertone of unrequited love. It’s easily identified as an Antonoff song, with the hook “one-way ticket to a heart attack” an identical percussion tempo to Taylor Swift’s ‘Getaway Car’.
Shark followed the debut of the two songs with an acoustic set, performing five previously heard songs on the album. The minimalism of her voice with the guitar meant the emotions of the songs shone through, which is one of the reasons her fans resonate with her. Amy’s followers are easily identified by their Adidas attire, replicating her unintentional, non-sponsored performance uniform, and sit somewhere in between the demographics of Taylor Swift and Adele fans. No matter their age, it is the honesty of Shark’s music that will keep fans listening.
“I’ve never been one to create characters or anything, everything’s autobiographical, it’s a big part of who I am, and what I wanted to be as an artist,” she said.
In the pop music world, she draws inspiration from another Amy – Winehouse. It’s not that much of a stretch either, I Said Hi sounds eerily similar in tone to Amy Winehouse’s no holds back approach to songwriting. The song is a middle finger to the industry professionals who didn’t support Shark during her early career, and Shark has a hilarious story to tell about that one. The person whom she wrote the song about happened to congratulate her on the song’s success at an industry showcase.
Beyond the confessional tales of her own life, Shark said the songs will serve a greater purpose upon their release because listeners will be able to relate their own experiences to the lyrics. And that she said, makes being so open worth the potential criticism.
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