Monster maker’s moment
After early career setbacks, pop girl Amy Shark believes her hugely popular album is worth every ARIA nomination, she tells James Wigney
AMY Shark’s top-ten, double-platinum hit I Said Hi is famously a big, old “screw you” to all the people in the music industry who ignored or rejected her early in her career, when she was struggling to get her music heard.
And there is a good chance that more than a few of those very same people will be in the room at tonight’s ARIA Awards in Sydney, where I Said Hi is nominated for Song Of the Year.
“I get to sing it to all of them too,” says Shark with a mischievous smile. “I was considering going off the stage and finding certain people.”
Shark is up for six awards at tonight’s annual celebration of the best of Australian music, including Best Female Artist, Best Pop Release and the coveted Album Of the Year for her No. 1 debut album, Love Monster.
The Gold Coast pop star is excited for the big night — “I like scrubbing up when I get the opportunity” — and is making the most of her place in the sun after toiling away for years in obscurity and playing covers to ambivalent crowds to fund her deeply personal, original recordings. She’s proud too — particularly to be nominated alongside Courtney Barnett, Gurrumul, Pnau and Troye Sivan for the Album Of the Year — and has worked too damn hard for false modesty.
“This album means the world to me — I have been waiting for so long to make an album like Love Monster and I think it’s worth all these nominations,” she says of the pop gem that was nominated for a further three artisan ARIAs, winning producer of the year for M. Phazes and Dann Hume.
“I truly believe it’s the best thing I have ever done and I am so proud of it. Whether it wins or not I am so proud that it got to the level of the Courtney Barnetts and everyone who is in this elite category.”
In fact she’s so enjoying her moment — having just announced her biggest home tour yet — that she’s even forgiven those people who inspired I Said Hi.
“That was me being really hard on myself and really bitter and kind of being a sore loser,” she says. “I wasn’t on their radar because my songs weren’t at the level that they probably should have been. And I wouldn’t be sitting here with all these amazing nominations if I had maybe worked with one of those people. It all worked the way it should have gone and I am grateful for that.”
It’s been a banner year for the 32-year-old Shark. She picked up Best Pop Release and Newcomer Of the Year for her EP Night Thinker at last year’s ARIAs but has taken her career to another level in Australia and around the world, with appearances on US talk shows and at some of the biggest festivals in the world.
One of the people who helped her get there is Zane Lowe, who presents Apple Music’s influential Beats 1 radio show/ podcast. This time last year the influential Kiwi DJ made Shark Australia’s first artist to feature on the Up Next series, which has also helped the boost the careers of artists such as Billy Eilish.
Sitting next to Shark after the pair recorded an episode of
Beats 1 that will be available to the tech giant’s 50 million subscribers in 115 countries around the world from this morning, Lowe says he’s watched with satisfaction as her career has gone from strength to strength and gratification that he was able to help her tell her story and bring her music to the wider world.
“When you hear someone like Amy’s music and then see how it has resonated and is finding its audience, you realise there is such a bright future there,” he says.
“I know Amy’s story. I know there were desperate times as an artist where she thought people weren’t paying her enough attention and weren’t listening to the songs. So for Beats or Apple or any of us to play a small part knowing that she’s healthy and she’s recording and she has a career and she is moving into arenas — she has probably bought a f---king house — then that’s a great thing isn’t it?”
Lowe has been in Sydney this week to present masterclasses, reconnect with local talent, present an award tonight and is hosting shows with Gang Of Youths (tomorrow) and Dean Lewis (Friday). He has also put together a playlist called The New Australia, featuring local hip-hop artists including Briggs, Kwame and Sampa the Great — and also namechecks Aussie acts such as Rufus Du Sol, Troye Sivan and Flume as evidence that the music coming up from Down Under right now is as strong and diverse as it’s ever been.
“WHEN YOU HEAR SOMEONE LIKE AMY’S MUSIC ... YOU REALISE THERE IS SUCH A BRIGHT FUTURE”
“I TRULY BELIEVE IT’S THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE AND I AM SO PROUD OF IT”
DJ ZANE LOWE AND SINGER AMY SHARK AFTER RECORDING THEIR EPISODE FOR BEATS 1