Image: Supplied/ Max Doyle

Amy Shark: “So Much Has Happened In The Last Three Years And It Definitely Hasn’t All Been Popping Champagne Bottles”

After several months of build-up and speculation, Amy Shark has confirmed details of her second album. Titled Cry Forever, the new album is due in April 2021, just shy of three years after Shark’s debut long player, Love Monster.

Born Amy Billings and previously operating as Amy Cushway, the Gold Coast pop songwriter has been a constant presence over the past four years. We were introduced to Amy Shark courtesy of the 2016 single ‘Adore’, which later appeared on the Night Thinker EP. This release not only brought Shark to national prominence, but picked up the awards for Best Pop Release and Breakthrough Artist at the 2017 ARIA Awards.

Shark’s momentum hasn’t faltered since. Led by the single ‘I Said Hi’, Love Monster arrived in July 2018. It ended the year as highest selling album by an Australian artist and won Shark four more ARIAs, including the coveted Album of the Year gong. A total of six singles were drawn from Love Monster, with the latest, ‘Mess Her Up’, being launched in March 2019. Shark ended 2019 by conducting a major Australian regional tour and nabbing four more ARIA nominations.

Along with a comprehensive Australian touring schedule, Shark’s warts and all pop music has made inroads into the European and North American markets. She completed multiple tours of both regions across 2017-19, while also appearing at festivals such as Lollapalooza and South By Southwest.

Throughout it all, Shark has been steadily chipping away at the 13-tracks that comprise Cry Forever. The album’s first single ‘Everybody Rise’ landed in June this year; a gleaming pop number that sees Shark building on her fruitful rapport with co-writer and producer Joel Little (Lorde, Jarryd James).

The second teaser single, ‘C’MON’ appeared in October and Shark tested out its anthemic potential with a performance at the NRL Grand Final just days after its release. ‘C’MON’ is notable for the credited inclusion of Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker. Barker’s one of two featured guests on the album, the other being Keith Urban.

Shark will bring Cry Forever to audiences around Australia next June/July in what’s undoubtedly her biggest tour to date. Music Feeds spoke to Shark about the new album, working with Barker and Urban and the latest single, ‘All the Lies About Me’.

MF: In real terms, it hasn’t been that long since Love Monster came out. But from the inside, has it felt like a long process to finally get to this point of announcing your second album?

AS: [Work on Cry Forever] began probably at the beginning of 2019. I built a studio in my house on the Gold Coast, it just feels like so long ago. I think because I started writing for the album straight after I finished Love Monster, really – I was on the Love Monster tour in Europe and coming out with some songs that I thought were strong – and so I’ve been sitting on these songs for so long. They came together really nicely and quite quickly so it just feels like a lifetime.

MF: Love Monster was the highest selling album by an Australian artist for 2018. ‘Adore’ went 5x Platinum and ‘I Said Hi’ went 4x Platinum. You’ve won eight ARIA awards in four years. When you were working on Cry Forever, how conscious were you of these achievements?

AS: The times that I write, I’m not even thinking about that. What I try and do is make sure I have a guitar all the time, whether I’m in a hotel, whether I’m travelling or in a green room. So much has happened in the last three years and it definitely hasn’t all been popping champagne bottles. There’s some really tough times, tough conversations and personalities and relationship breakdowns, and I’ve always had a guitar with me.

It’s like writing in a diary – I just pick up the guitar and just get it out. I did that for so long and I think that what makes this album really special is it’s very current and it’s quite relevant to my life now, whereas Love Monster I sat on a lot of songs for a while and had them up my sleeve ready to go.

I know what a good song sounds like and if I’m not hitting them, I know that. But I fell into some strong songs quite early on, so the pressure for me was like, “I’m good, I know I’ve got some good stuff in the bank.” I never know if it’s going to do what other songs have done, you never do know that, but I don’t ever think about that when I’m writing.

MF: You’d been working on music for several years before the public attention exploded a few years ago. Do you think that’s been helpful, having established a strong work ethic before becoming famous?

AS: I’ve been in gnarly training playing four-hour gigs, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So I know my guitar playing benefited from that, my voice benefited from that, I think my banter and just being able to deal with random people [benefited]. Everything came into play and I work all the time, I work really hard, and it’s funny because when people are like, “you know, this artist, they work really hard,” but I look at it and I’m like, “no, I work so much harder than you.”

But you kind of have to these days. It’s not what it used to be – you have to be always working and always on. Music’s being consumed so quick, so you’ve just got to have that extreme work ethic to shine through.

MF: Travis Barker features on ‘C’MON’ and ‘Love Songs Ain’t For Us’ features Keith Urban. That is a contrast in featured guests. Does that indicate the broad spectrum of tastes that are fused in your music?

AS: Everyone was quite scared when [the Keith Urban collaboration] was my idea, but I see it as ballin’. I think it’s sick, it’s so unexpected. The song honestly is so much better for it. It’s such a timelessly classy song and it needed someone like Keith, and Keith did exactly what I wanted.

It’s not like a duet or anything, he just added these beautiful flavours to it and he knew exactly what to do. He knew how to make it all class and not overcook it, not do too much, but it’s still got that Keith kind of country lick on it and I love it.

MF: It’s unusual for a pop song to have a credited feature from a drummer. That might be more common in jazz, for example, but it’s a testament to the reputation and distinction of Travis Barker.

AS: He’s Travis Barker, he’s worked on that brand and he’s such a creative drummer and he does bring a lot more than just the drums to a song, I believe. He’s just got these different accents that come out and he deserves the credit for that.

MF: You obviously wanted the expression of his unique abilities on ‘C’MON’, but you’d also want those to be in harmony with your intentions for the song. How’d you achieve that?

AS: We actually had some clashes in the team. The first thing he sent back was this really fast breakbeat and it sounded like a Prodigy song or something. It was wild and I kind of liked it, but then I was going a bit kooky because I’d been in the studio for a while. So I’m thinking it’s really amazing and then everyone’s like, “let’s try and get him to do a half time as well and we can make a hybrid sort of thing.”

Travis was super accommodating and sent us a bunch of ideas and all of them worked, but we had to honour the pop situation that I’m in and I wanted it to be a perfect balance. I needed that Amy Shark flavour to come through, but I think we got there in the end.

MF: ‘All The Lies About Me’ is the new single. You’ve said this song is you at your most “confused, broken and lonely” and was written in response to “hearing things about yourself that simply aren’t true”. Can you give me a bit more context?

AS: It’s not easy juggling this life, especially when you’ve had such a long time in another life. It’s not like I was 16 and this has been my life forever. I’ve been thrown into the mix of so many different personalities and people’s expectations and it’s just really hard sometimes. I think ‘All the Lies’ is a perfect introduction to some other heavy songs that I’ve got on the album.

I released ‘Everybody Rise’, which is such a slick, amazing pop song. ‘C’MON’ was sort of edging into some deeper waters and then ‘All the Lies’ is like, okay, just when you think you know what I’m doing on this album, you actually have no idea. It’s super stripped back, it’s a very strong storytelling folk song almost, but it ended up being one of my favourites and I think that’s because it’s so real and I really break it down in this one.

‘Cry Forever’ is out on April 30, 2021. Amy Shark will play seven shows around the country in June and July 2021, with stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. See tour details below.

Amy Shark ‘Cry Forever’ Tour 2021

Tickets on sale next Friday, 11th December at 10am local time.

Saturday, 12th June

Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

Tickets: Official website

Friday, 18th June

Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne

Tickets: Official website

Saturday, 19th June

Wrest Point Lawns, Hobart

Tickets: Official website

Friday, 25th June

HOTA, Gold Coast

Tickets: Official website

Saturday, 26th June

Riverstage, Brisbane

Tickets: Official website

Thursday, 1st July

AEC Theatre, Adelaide

Tickets: Official website

Saturday, 3rd July

RAC Arena, Perth

Tickets: Official website

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