Amy Shark Talks Her Upcoming Tour & How American Audiences Differ From Australian Ones

Photo: Don Arnold/WireImage.
If you haven't heard of Amy Shark yet, get ready for that to change. The Australian singer-songwriter has already gone on tour with Vance Joy, and she's currently touring with Bleachers.
Plus, Apple Music has announced Shark as one of its Up Next artists, and the partnership includes a documentary about her music, as well as a live session and a Beats 1 interview. (Some of Apple Music's previous Up Next artists include Khalid and Billie Ellish, so she's in good company.) The documentary is available to stream on Apple Music starting today, and Shark will appear on The Late Late Show with James Corden tonight, too. Like we said, you'll be hearing a lot more about her soon.
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"Up Next this month is Amy Shark, one of our favorite artists to have emerged this year in 2017," Beats 1's Zane Lowe said in a statement. "As soon as we heard 'Adore,' we fell in love with it — it’s one of those classic songs. We're excited about Amy's upcoming album. 2018 is going to be an amazing year for her."
Here at Refinery29, we're excited about Shark's future, too. Check out an exclusive clip from Apple Music's documentary about her below, and read on for our interview with Shark about her experience in the industry and her musical inspirations.
Refinery29: Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?
"No, not really. It was kind of just something I did in secret. I was more interested in acting when I was at school and stuff. So, no, I didn't think I was good enough. But, yeah, I was always addicted to writing songs, and it kind of snuck up on me as a career."
There was a time before 'Adore' became popular that you had almost wanted to leave the industry, right?
"Yeah, I'd really just made peace with myself that I was just going to not try anymore, because it was kind of soul-destroying. I'd done it for so long and hadn't really had anyone give me a proper go. I was always going to continue to write songs, but I was just going to put it out for my friends and do it as I've always done it, which is just, sort of like a therapy session. When you do something for so long, and you don't get anything in return, it's very hard to keep motivated."
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But then everything changed! You're about to be an Apple Music Up Next artist. What was it like filming the documentary about your work?
"It was sort of like my whole life flashing before my eyes. It was such a great thing to do. And I didn't know how amazing that would feel, talking about just how hard it was. Because since things have happened, everything's just been 'go, go, go.' And I think shooting that, and answering all the questions, and just really discussing everything that's happened and how I'm handling it, was awesome. It was really emotional talking about it, because I got a chance to remember how hard it was, and how upsetting it was. And just talking about it, and letting it all out, and knowing how far I've come in such a short amount of time, was really overwhelming. And then, watching it back was even more so. Because it's been, like, 10 years since I started writing music, and just seeing all that flash in front of you — it was unreal, and I never thought I'd be able to create something like that."
How would you describe your musical sound?
"I've been calling it 'gritty pop.' Just because, I see it as pop, but I also see it as not as polished as some people's version of pop. I think pop's changed a lot in the past few years, with Lorde and other artists really testing the boundaries. It motivated me, that people might understand me now. Because I feel like there's a new wave of songwriting, and you can be really personal, you can be really deep."
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"I don't really know if I can compare myself to someone at the moment. And I'm proud of that, because it took me a while to find a sound that incorporated guitar, and acoustic guitar, and beats, and synth drops. And having it all make sense is a really hard sound to balance. I guess it's just an Amy Shark sound! I’m really confident with what my sound is now."
You mentioned Lorde — do you consider her a musical influence? Are there other artists you've been inspired by over the years?
"I was pretty lucky, because my parents had a really great library of music. So I was listening to The Cure, and Crash Test Dummies, and 4 Non Blondes, and Guns N' Roses, really early on. I was listening to very lyric-heavy, beautiful-sounding voices at a young age. But I think, it wasn't until Lorde came about... I'd always written similar to that and had gotten nowhere. But then, when her record came out, I was like, 'This is very similar to how I write.' It was such an amazing album, and it took a 16-year-old to have the guts to do it, that I was like, 'I can do this. People are understanding it now.' I feel like I had to wait out all this bullshit and all this really weak, watered-down music that everyone was being absorbed in. And now, people are wanting more, wanting deep, clever songs. But, definitely, she's an inspiration. She's a freak. I don't know how else to put it."
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Have you experienced pressure from people in the music industry who wanted your music to be "watered-down," as you put it?
"Yeah, in the early days. I was flown to a record label and was told a whole heap of crap, and nothing ever really came of it. They were telling me, 'Write like this, and make your hooks like this, and the chorus needs to be like this.' And I was starting to write stuff just to please them. And they're like, 'Yeah, yeah, this is sounding good.' And I felt like such a dick, because it wasn't me. It was just so rhyme-y, and it was just so glittery and crap. And obviously, nothing happened with it, because I wasn't being true to myself..."
Could you take us through your songwriting process? Is there anything in particular that inspires you, or do you just sit down to write?
"Usually, I'm always playing my guitar everywhere, so I'll just stumble across a chord progression. A lot of the time, I don't try to be really tricky with my guitar. I just find something that sounds nice to my ears, and then I'll mumble something in a melody that I like in those chords. And if it's just an on day, if I'm on fire, it'll come out straightaway, and I can have the song done in a matter of minutes. But sometimes I get the guitar chords sounding great, and I'll have the melody, and I'm like, 'Okay, I just need the right words. What do I want to talk about?' And I think that's why I'm addicted to it. Because when words come out, I don't even know what's in my subconscious. So I'm learning about myself all the time. And it's great when things come out — I'm like, 'Yeah. Yeah, that's what I want to talk about.' And it's such a cool feeling when it all comes out so easily."
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How long do you typically spend perfecting each song?
"It's different with every song. The last EP that I did was a very quick process. 'Adore' and 'Weekends' and 'Drive You Mad' were all done in 10, 15 minutes... I always relate this to football, but when the team's winning, they keep winning, because their confidence is high. So when I wrote 'Adore,' I was so happy, I was like, 'Oh my God.' I felt like I was back... It's just like a confidence thing, you know? But then there are some songs, like, I'm writing my album now, and it's pretty much done, but I've got these songs that I've been playing around in the greenroom before I play while I'm on tour. And I'll get the guitar down — because I don't want to say anything while my band's around — so I'll have the guitar and then I'm like, 'I can't wait till I get back to my hotel, and then I'll write some stuff.' And because I can't do it there and then, it's taking me a little longer to get the right words. So it's not always 10 minutes. I'm not acting like I'm this legend. Sometimes it does take longer."
You're on tour with Bleachers, and it seems from your tweets like you have been a fan of Jack Antonoff's for a while. What was it like when you first learned he was a fan of your music?
"That was a big day. I definitely celebrated when I got — I think it was a Twitter message from Lena saying, 'Jack just showed me 'Weekends,' and I'm obsessed with it.' And then we sort of started this big conversation. And I'm a massive fan of her as well, as a director, as an actress, everything. So those two were just like, you know, I felt them pretty high up for a while. So when the chance came to support Bleachers, it was a no brainer. It was a very exciting day. I saw my first Bleachers show last night, and I'm still on a high. I learned so much just by watching him. He's a brilliant songwriter and musician, and just a flawless showman."
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Is there an artist you'd particularly love to collaborate with in the future?
"I've been listening a lot to a lot of Post Malone. I love his voice, and I love how he's got a lot of acoustic guitar in his songs. And he makes it all work. I love his whole album. So I think that would be very interesting, to work with him one day. Or Pharrell Williams. I mean, there's so many."
If you could go on tour with any artist or group, who would you choose?
"I’m already doing one of them! I'm going on tour with Sia — that's kind of a dream for me, which I ticked off already, so that's cool. I'm a big fan of Adele. I think Adele is, like, insane. I like a lot of hip hop, so I like Lil Uzi Vert, and Eminem. And then I like a lot of punk, too. I could be here all day, listing people I could go on tour with."
Is there anything that's been surprising to you about American audiences, compared to performing in Australia?
"America really does their research. I feel like American audiences really, when they go to a show, it's like, 'Okay, who's playing, who's supporting?' Because even when I was on the Vance Joy tour, there were people there who knew a few songs. Whereas Australians, we see it as a night out. Like, 'Let's go and have a drink and treat it as a big night out.' Not so much, 'Let's listen to the music, let's investigate the EP, research artists.' I feel like America does that really well. They're really passionate about music in general."
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This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.
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