MUSIC

Amy Shark learning to tread the fine line between playing pop hit-maker and being real

HONEST: Amy Shark opened up to explore her relationship with her husband, father and the music industry on her second album Cry Forever.

HONEST: Amy Shark opened up to explore her relationship with her husband, father and the music industry on her second album Cry Forever.

THE first time Amy Shark wrote an album she could only dream that someone beyond her husband and manager Shane Billings would ever hear it.

Of course, songs like Adore and I Said Hi possessed hooky choruses, but when you've spent a decade strumming Aussie pop and rock covers in Gold Coast pubs, while competing with the footy and horse racing, having your originals actually listened to is a challenge.

However, the world of Shark, real name Amy Billings, has changed immensely since Adore caught fire to place No.2 in the triple j Hottest 100 of 2016.

The 34-year-old has become one of Australia's biggest pop stars, winning eight ARIA Awards, topping the album charts with her debut Love Monster and working with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Keith Urban and Blink-182's Travis Barker.

When Shark was writing and recording her second album Cry Forever, she knew people would be listening. And she admits her fame affected the final product.

"It is a part of it now," Shark says. "I definitely do think about that. I do try not to think about it much when I'm writing, and thankfully I'm not completely poisoned in that it doesn't really affect me while I'm writing.

I hate being that person, but you can't help it because that's what the industry does to you and I still want to be a successful artist and I know how to do that.

Amy Shark

"It does affect me sometimes in the production phase in the studio.

"Sometimes I'll look at a song and think, 'oh I don't get to the chorus before a minute, that might be a problem' or 'it goes a little long this song, it's over 3:15 minutes, what can I do?'

"I hate being that person, but you can't help it because that's what the industry does to you and I still want to be a successful artist and I know how to do that.

"So I have to find this horrendous balance of being raw and vulnerable and putting it into clever melodies and still singing good and have interesting production and also worry about my time limits of songs.

"It's quite exhausting. But I feel like I'm getting a healthy balance of it now and I can still enjoy songwriting."

Success and fame may have placed more pressure on Shark, but there's been significant advantages.

Cry Forever was written and produced in studios in the US, UK and New Zealand and at Shark's home on the Gold Coast and was co-produced by proven hit-makers in Dann Hume (Matt Corby), M-Phazes (Ruel, Eminem), Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift), Jamie Hartman (Lewis Capaldi), Dan Wilson (Adele, Leon Bridges) and Sammy Witte (Harry Styles).

But when it comes to pinch-yourself moments they didn't come any bigger than co-writing the single Love Songs Ain't For Us with English pop megastar Ed Sheeran.

"He goes about songwriting a little different to me," Shark says. "He really doesn't waste any time.

"He has a way of drawing out stories from artists very quickly to make you feel like you've been best mates for years, which is a great skill to have.

"There was no ego in the room. I've been in rooms with way less famous superstars, which have massive egos, and the fact he had none of it was so refreshing and put me at ease straight away."

Sheeran's main contribution was enticing Shark to openly write a love song for her husband. When Shark explained that "love songs" weren't for them, Sheeran was adamant.

For Shark, expressing such deeply personal stories without the protection of vague metaphors was nerve-racking.

"I still have a lot to learn about opening up and being OK with someone being in the room," she says. "I'm still quite weird about it.

LIVE: Amy Shark on stage at Newcastle's Wests NEX in 2019. Picture: Paul Dear

LIVE: Amy Shark on stage at Newcastle's Wests NEX in 2019. Picture: Paul Dear

"I still get really awkward and there's a lingering imposter syndrome that happens when I'm in the room writing with someone.

"Ed is obviously one of those people who says, 'Amy, cut the shit and just write a good song and prove to this guy that you're meant to be here'. All defenses were down and I learned a lot from Ed."

Shark lowers her defenses elsewhere on Cry Forever. Perhaps the most raw moment is the closing track Amy Shark where she examines her complicated relationship with her father.

Shark and her father haven't spoken in 15 years, but several years ago after she became famous he attempted to reach out. Shark angrily shut down his advances.

On Amy Shark she addresses the painful subject by singing, "Don't start now, I'm winning/ And finally happy/ Don't start now, I've done all the years of hard work/ Don't start taking over/ And asking for favours/ Please just don't start now that I'm Amy Shark."

"There's definitely topics that I didn't think I was ready to talk about on Love Monster," Shark says.

"It was my debut album so I didn't even know I had fans, little alone know if they were gonna like it. I was just writing an album.

"So I think on this one I know who my fans are and because I've worked out that they're just like me and they like story-telling and the honest truth - I don't have to be scared of that anymore."


This story Reality bites Amy Shark in fame game of second album first appeared on Newcastle Herald.