Amy Shark: humble and happy

Amy’s running late when we speak on the phone the day before her Brisbane show. She’s half way through a national tour with sold out shows all over the place so the interviews today have been back-to-back. Despite national and international TV appearances and covers of fancy magazines and national tabloids, Amy’s still got time for local grassroots media and I’m pretty stoked she found 15 minutes for a quick chat.

“Oh man, it’s pretty brutal. It’s full on,” she says about the media schedule. “But, like I’m talking about my music. It’s the easiest topic and my favourite topic. I cannot complain.”

It’s not even been three years since ‘Adore’ was released independently by Shark, but Amy has toured relentlessly since the track was so widely acclaimed by fans and industry alike. This national tour seems a little different though. For a start, it’s already much bigger than her ‘Love Monster’ tour. Amy is playing venues she only ever dreamed about. Last tour she played The Tivoli and The Forum, this tour it’s Riverstage and Margaret Court Arena.

“These venues, they’re just so much bigger than I ever expected,” Amy said. “The other night when we were at Margaret Court [Arena], I’m at soundcheck and people are setting up. There’s a crew of like I don’t know how many people. And Brad [Hosking] said to me, ‘it’s crazy, when you think about it, all these people here working for you’, there’s catering and there’s this and that. I feel a bit ridiculous.”

“I still have that kind of feeling in my body that I’m not that person. Everyone’s fussing over me but I’m not that kind of person.”

Last time I caught up with Amy it was for a photoshoot overlooking the Gold Coast skyline from Burleigh Hill and she joked then that she had to ride this wave for as long as she could. That got me wondering whether she had ever thought about what might happen if that wave ever petered out. If the shine wore off? I posed the question and Amy said that was actually what kept her motivated.

“That’s sort of what drives me,” she said. “I know there’s going to be heaps of young guns and my goal is to get in a position where I’m not threatened.”

“I have my own fans and my music speaks for itself and if someone comes along and they’re the next Amy Shark then they deserve it… or maybe at that point my songs are shit and I’m a washed-up old woman,” she laughed.

“I’m confident with the new stuff and confident with the old stuff and I have a great team around me. I’m actually excited when I hear good songs on the radio from new artists. That inspires me. It makes you want to work harder and stay in the game.”

And that work ethic is paying off and then some. Amy’s accolades are racking up in a serious way.

APRA Awards, ARIA Awards, Queensland Music Awards and Gold Coast Music Awards all take pride of place in Amy’s living room – in an “old and crusty” trophy cabinet she bought after her first win –a 2016 Queensland Music Award for Pop Song of the Year for  ‘Golden Fleece’. At this year’s Gold Coast Music Awards, Amy took out three categories and as a result of winning Artist of the Year for three years running, Amy will also be inducted into a new Gold Coast music hall of fame.

“That was the biggest week,” Amy said. “There were just so many people writing to me. Everyone I’d ever known reached out that week. People I went to high school with and old teachers.

Gold Coast is such a beaut hub of support for me. And I just felt like, one day I’ll be this old lady with grandkids and I get to know that I was the first [to be inducted into the hall of fame]. It’s very special to me.

One of the categories Amy won at this year’s Gold Coast Music Award was Live Act of the Year. The footage from Amy’s tour has been nothing short of amazing – huge crowds, massive sing-alongs with an impressive stage show, and production. I tell Amy I’m excited about seeing the show in Brisbane tomorrow – the last time I saw Amy was at elsewhere, which has a capacity of about 150.

“It’s such a good show, Sam and I’m not just saying that because it’s my show and I’m biased.”

“Every song when I look down at the set list, I’m like ‘wow, this is going to be fun’. I’ve got the best people in music running this. The sound is incredible, my band is incredible.”

Amy’s not sure people understand how aware artists are of the crowd when they’re on stage. She tells me she was looking out at a recent show and saw a group of girls having a night out, another man holding his six year old girl up on his shoulders and “dudes” celebrating the end of the working week. The only challenge for Amy is making sure her show hits all of the sweet spots for everyone.

“It’s such a range of people in the crowd,” Amy said. “I have to watch language ‘cos there’s young kids, but there are songs with a little bit of swearing and girls on a night out need to hear those. I need to find perfect balance and I’ve taken advice from the team on that.”

Amy doesn’t get to celebrate her hometown arena show though, because at 5.00am the next morning she’s off to Darwin for Bass in the Grass, and then has a show in Adelaide before returning to Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne. And then there’s more festival sets in Kununurra, Mooloolaba and Mackay. It’s a hectic schedule, but Amy says all those “soul destroying” gigs in the early days have helped prepare her.

“I’m a really strong singer now, and a strong guitar player. I can play for hours and I feel like it’s because I played four to five hour gigs and sometimes would back it up and do double gigs. I wanted to make money, so I had to.”

“But I had a feeling of accomplishment after playing those gigs. They weren’t playing Margaret Court or Tivoli or the River Stage, but I still finished my gig and people said they enjoyed it and I made some money to be able to afford some of my solo stuff,” Amy said.

And of course there are other fond memories.

“I had a little gig at The Loft and it sold out and I was all mixed up,” she said. “I had so many different things going on and I remember that being an exciting time.

“I’d written ‘Spits on Girls’ and ‘Golden Fleece’ and finally had some people playing beats and some synth stuff. And I was slowly figuring out my sound. It got a couple of spins on triple j and people were coming to shows and I remember the guy from The Loft saying ‘we can’t fit any more people here, we’re at capacity’.”

And so naturally, the conversation moves onto new music and Amy says it’s all very different to ‘Love Monster’.

“I’m challenging myself to not go back and dig in archives,” she said. “I want fresh stuff because I think I’m capable of that and I love that.”

And she’s adamant she needs to be the biggest fan of her music before anybody else.

That’s what’s authentic and comes across – I’m better off just being like, OK, every spare hour I have, or I’ll block out a few days and just be myself and be around my house and write songs like I always have.

“That’s where you’re going to write good stuff – writing about things that have happened, whether in the past or something that’s going on now. I’ve had heaps of stuff going on after ‘Adore’ life that there’s so much for me to write about. I feel like I’m in the right mind frame to write fresh stuff but talk about old topics as well.”

Amy has a way of making the people around her feel very special, which is a rare talent for a star that’s risen so rapidly. When we sign off she says “I’ll see you tomorrow, Sam.” And I’m like yeah, me and 5000 other fans, Amy.

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Amy Shark hits Brisbane Riverstage Friday 17 May and there’s just a handful of tickets available.

Feature image by NJA Photography.

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