Australian electro-soul artist Airling has faced many of life’s toughest challenges on the road to creating her debut album, Hard To Sleep, Easy To Dream. Exploring concepts of fear, pain and death, through the album’s 14 tracks, Airline finds a way to not just survive through those trials, but to thrive because of them.
“These songs and stories have been a big part and a product of me getting to know life, death and myself – while at the same time expressing myself to others,” she says of the album. “Aligning my thoughts and emotions with songs and words. Trying to live life free of fear while still acknowledging its existence and exploring its pain. Learning to love myself so I can explore my ability to love others and my potential to create.
“I am insanely proud of this record.”
Produced by Tom Iansek of Big Scary and featuring collaborations with the likes of Iansek, Emma Louise and Fractures, Hard To Sleep, Easy To Dream is a beautiful and honest representation of the Brisbane-based artist’s young life and, today, Airling is allowing us a glimpse into her process and inspiration, by taking us through the album, track by track.
Listen: Airling – ‘Hard To Sleep, Easy To Dream’
1. //Introduction, //Always Returning and //There Will Be Good Days
There are three spoken word interludes on this album. These feature the voice of the amazing Peter McMahon from Hypnotherapy QLD. During the creation of the album, Peter was helping me with hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. There is something so beautiful about his sessions and his guided meditations into trance. Music is also a kind of therapy. It can be so healing, so it seemed right incorporating this as an additional reminder to let go, to let love in and to be yourself.
2. I Am Just A Body
I wrote this song after listening to a lot to the Sufjan Stevens album Carrie & Lowell. Never before have I listened to an album so many times. I’ve dealt with a far bit of loss in my life and I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote this one, so it was a massive release for me to get out. It’s got the title of the album in the lyrics: “So hard to sleep but so easy to dream, so hard to fall asleep but so easy to fall for your dreams.”
There’s something powerful to me about embracing sadness and being able to take a dark moment and create something beautiful from it. It feels like a release and it can be fulfilling and so healing, hopefully for others as well as for myself.
3. Take Care Of You
I’ve been in some crazy relationships and I’ve also been the crazy one in relationships. Sometimes our minds are our own worst enemies. But ultimately, I just love to look after people and taking care of the ones I love. So this is a funky take on all that.
4. Move Me
I wrote ‘Move Me’ after a night of dancing and partying with my girlfriends. There’s a sensuality to it, but essentially it’s the notion of borrowing someone’s body on the dance floor and seeing how it fits with your own. This one always made us want to groove in the studio and that’s a vibe to me, ’cause if you can’t stop your body from moving, you know a song feels good. You can pick apart a melody, structure or a chord progression but sometimes it’s better to just feel it and let things unfold that way. We stripped ‘Move Me’ back to its bones, as a melody and beat with me vibing out at home, and just let it just be that expression without over-complicating things or the sentiment.
5. Not A Fighter
This song started as a bit of a joke, and I sent it around to the Pieater and Big Scary fam after mucking around at home. Turned out it wasn’t such a joke after all. It still has most the original parts I played the day I wrote the song. I looped some beats and played a bass synth and another synth while singing to record it on my iPhone. I felt a bit like an octopus but it turned out that this original vibe couldn’t be re-created. I think that Tom Iansek especially is a big believer in keeping that initial and instinctual ‘vibe’ of a song. Why change what feels good and comes naturally?
Thematically, it’s a song about loving someone who loves to fight and lives on drama. The struggle between feeling as if you can breathe with this person while also being scared by how much time they spend outside of the comfort zone.
6. Give Me All You Got
I think you should surround yourself with people who inspire you. Graham Ritchie and Tom Iansek, my producers and main collaborators are constantly inspiring me. ‘Give Me All You Got’ was probably the most fun of all the songs to record and possibly the quickest as well, as the parts seemed to almost write themselves. Graham and I smashed a demo of this out in half a day and we all instantly fell in love with it. I guess it’s a reminder that love will often let you down and make you fall, but not to let that stop you from loving as hard as you can.
7. Far Away
Emma Louise started writing this song and sent me a recording saying she had me in mind. I haven’t ever had anyone write a song for me so it felt like the most amazing gift a friend could dream up for me. We finished writing it together and she ended up singing harmonies on the track as well. I played in Em’s band for a few years and we haven’t sung together for a while, but there’s this beauty and ease when we’re together. We always say that each other’s voices are like a warm blanket for the other ones.
8. A Day In the Park
‘A Day In the Park’ is a beautiful song which I wrote with Tom after I walked in on him playing this piano riff in the studio one day. It’s a duet and creates a poignant and peaceful moment in the middle of the album. I feel like it’s a reminder for us to take time out to be peaceful, to fill ourselves up with love and the hope we have for others to be filled up with this love as well. This song is reflective of the trust and friendship Tom and I have.
Graham Ritchie spoke about the instrumentation in this track as ‘our voices’. It’s minimal and features the three of us speaking through our instruments to capture this song’s beauty.
This was one of my first actually successful co-writing experiences. I’d never met Fractures (Mark Zito) before our writing day and he picked me up from the city in Melbourne and we went back to his place to work on music. We immediately clicked and had so much fun writing this, probably because we can both be clowns. For example, the original working title for this song was ‘Touch Yo Butt (Gurl)’. He’s a legend and I think our colours work really well together.
10. Bloodshot Blue
This song was an oldie that has been through a few arrangement transformations over the last couple of years. It was almost forgotten about, but Tom randomly got it back up and running one day in the studio. I’m glad it made its way onto the final track listing where a bunch of other songs didn’t. I was holding my mum when she passed away and she had the most beautiful blue eyes.
11. Shut The Light Out
‘Shut the Light Out’ is probably one of my favourite tracks on the album. I started writing it in New York when I spent a month and a half living in Brooklyn with my brother. I learnt a lot about myself during this time. After creating some chaos around me, hurting someone that I love and managing to lose my wallet and passport, I turned the lights off and locked myself away in my room trying to make sense of everything. I finished writing the song with one of my best friends Greg Chiapello. This song brought me closer to understanding guilt and forgiveness.
12. Roma Rose
This song seemed like the perfect exit for the album. It was one of the last songs I wrote for the album and it’s basically an ode to my mum. She was born in Roma in Queensland and she’s the Roma Rose who this whole album is for.