We met up with singer-songwriter Amy Shark at a JB Hi-Fi store, and talked vocal layering, collaborating with Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, and how the Queenslander came up with the title of her debut album – Love Monster.
Over what sort of timeline have you been writing this debut LP?
I started writing Love Monster, like, the second I finished Night Thinker [EP, 2015]. It’s not like I finished Night Thinker and thought ‘I don’t have to write now for a while’ – I’m always writing.
Especially in the first three tracks, there’s a definite recurring theme of love being just out of reach, but not in a pessimistic way – it’s in a super hopeful way, even if it’s hurting. Are you a person who rarely gives up (or conversely, doesn’t let go when she probably should!)?
Good question. There’s been so many scenarios in my life where I feel like it could happen, but then I feel like, ‘I need to let this go.’ So I draw on both of those scenarios a lot through the record. It’s a nice balance, I think, because it’s not always going to end in your favour, and sometimes it does.
Your drum beats are either very electronic (All Loved Up) or much more analogue, like sampled real drums (Adore, I Said Hi). What makes you decide one or the other fits a certain song?
I obviously worked with different producers. When you work with someone like say, Jack Antinoff who produced All Loved Up, I’m working with him because I love his sound. He’s got a very ‘hymn’ sound – you know it’s a Jack Antinoff production the second you hear those beats. Also, you need to make sure the beat is highlighting the song. It goes from these big hip hop beats, to some kind of little track beats in the background, to that Jack Antinoff, really poly-toned [sound]. I think that’s what gives the album colour and flavour – otherwise it starts to sound quite repetitive.
Across the album, you often layer your voice with a whole octave in between. It kind of gives the melody two meanings or approaches (high = very emotional, low = calm and considering). Why do you like the effect?
Yeah, almost every song I do is triple tracked. It’s purely just to get that exact sort of layering effect. It’s pop, you know; I’m alternative pop, but I’m still pop, which means your vocals are very up front, right down the centre. But by doing the triple track, you can sort of pan them and then … [it’s] almost like the most passionate take goes straight down the middle, and it [sounds] really full and really warm.
Psycho is, essentially, a love song. Did you write it specifically for [Blink-182’s] Mark Hoppus? How did it happen?
Mark came out of nowhere. He just wrote to me on Twitter and said, “I really like what you’re doing. Next time you’re in LA we should have a coffee.” I was actually heading to LA, so we had a coffee and he just asked me what I was doing, how far along the record was and how deep I was into it, and then the next second we were in the studio. I sent him the demo of Psycho. He really liked it. Then he was involved and now we have a song together. It’s great. It’s amazing. It kind of made sense: as soon as Mark came on the scene, I was like ‘This is where this song needs to go – it needs to end with that punk flavour.’ He loved it that much that he ended up writing his verse for the song.
The honesty in your songs comes from you often admitting that you’ll do anything for someone you love. Does that mean that your admission in The Slow Song, about being super obvious when it comes to showing someone you like them, is true too?
Yeah. I think as a person, I’ve never been the type to fall in love with everyone really quickly. I don’t do that often, so when it happens it’s for a special reason – I like you for a reason. [So] when it happens, it’s like, ‘Well I’m in deep. You’re who I want to hang around all the time. So, you’re going to have to get used to me.” Or “You’re just going to hit me with it and I’ll try my best to carry on,” like a real desperate human being.
Considering the lyrics of You Think I Think I Sound Like God: At what point in your songwriting career did you come to accept that your opinions and experiences deserved the microphone?
Okay, wow! This is really deep and we’re doing it in a shop! So, You Think I Think I Sound Like God was one of the first songs I ever wrote, and I was also learning how to play guitar at the time. That was my first experience of writing music for therapy. I wasn’t looking at hooks, I wasn’t looking for a bridge, I don’t care about verses, don’t care about a chorus – I don’t think it has one! It was such as moment for me, that song. That’s why it needed to be on the album.
The whole microphone line… when I wrote that, I was kind of the only one really doing [music], at the time, in my little friend group, and it was really intimidating to be the person behind a microphone and doing these little demos. That was so personal. And then letting people hear it. [The lyric] “I’ve got the microphone and you don’t” [is] like, ‘[When] you have a microphone you can do it, but right now this is how I feel, and I’ve got a microphone, and you don’t. So there!’
How did you choose the album’s title?
The main thing I knew was I wanted it to be big and bold, because that’s what I feel like Amy Shark is: big and bold. Also, this album is […] a really safe, healthy balance of love and passion and lust and romance, and then there’s lies and jealousy and all this other stuff – no-one’s perfect. It just felt right.
Love Monster is out July 13 via Sony.
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