“I’m a big girl, I’ve seen some bad shit, I am not going to break.”– Amy Shark, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 2018
The first decade of Amy Billings’ career was not marked with incredible fortune. Soul-destroying covers gigs were her bread and butter, what seems like half the Australian music industry had turned her down. Conversations with friends and family were all too often punctuated by that same single demoralising question, “When are you going to get a real job?” She was in the wilderness.
As Amy was closing in on 30 few would have suggested her fortune would change. But for Billings, now performing as Amy Shark, music was the only thing that mattered. The Gold Coast local was more than aware that she wasn’t the teen or twenty-something most record company executives were looking for but she was moving closer to making the music she had always wanted to. And by Pete, she was determined to make it happen.
When Amy wrote ‘Adore’ she knew she had finally found that something special. To perfect it, she wanted to work with the best producer within reach, in this case, M Phazes, another Gold Coast local who had worked with Kimbra and Eminem. She couldn’t afford him. As Amy held no special favour he wanted the usual $7,000 fee. Struggling to pay that money out of pocket Amy finally managed to pull it together as a result of an arts grant she succeeded in applying for (the second time around).
‘Adore’ wasn’t released by any record label and nor did it have a whole lot of industry support, none-the-less triple j premiered it and then didn’t stop playing it. It was a fixture on the station’s airwaves for the entirety of 2016. Recognising this the labels came a-knocking, Amy was the subject to a small international bidding war (Sony won). The following year ‘Adore’ jumped to commercial radio and it all went from there. Closing in on three years since the single’s release Amy can now be credited with a string of platinum single, a major record deal, a Vogue cover, a #1 album, six or so ARIAS and if the news reports are to be believed, a luxury $2.25 million-dollar waterfront home.
People like a simple story and when you boil down to it Amy Shark’s is exactly that. Despite the discouragement, misfires and the bad turns of fortune she kept on fighting for what she believed in and won. Let’s take a look at a 10 of Amy Shark’s absolute best.
Considering that Amy burst onto the scene aged 30 a curious fan might be forgiven for asking what she was up to all that time beforehand. Here’s a quick run through. Her musical aspirations started in high school and at one point she was in an all-girl pop punk band (more on that later). More directly prior to taking on the stage name of Amy Shark she recorded and performed under the name Amy Cushway. Naturally, most records of her earlier output have been washed away, deleted or swept under the rug but not all good reader, not all.
Spits On Girls, Single (2014)
When Shark completed ‘Spits On Girls’ she was more than rapt. The track was a mixture of guitar and beats which sounded like nothing she had ever recorded before. In Amy’s mind, she had finally arrived at a sound that she had always wanted. Her debut single as Amy Shark it was a fitting signpost for what came next.
Drive You Mad, Night Thinker (2017)
‘Drive You Mad’ was the final single from Shark’s 2016 EP Night Thinker. Dealing with unrequited love and Shark’s own arrival at the realisation that she can be a bit of a hard case, it’s a dark moment but one with a message which is ultimately empowering. It’s not really about being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back as much as a big ‘sorry’ to all those loving people around her who put up with her at her worst. It’s her favourite song off of the EP.
Teenage Dirtbag, MTV Unplugged (2018)
When Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ dropped all the way back in 2000m Amy became obsessed. It was the theme song to her high school life and also motivated the young musician to keep on with learning the guitar. Brendan B. Brown’s high pitched nasally vocals didn’t just penetrate her head but her heart as well. Her love for Wheatus may have taken a backseat for a few years but it eventually found its way back into her live set.
Don’t Turn Around, Love Monster (2018)
‘Don’t Turn Around’ is about that all too common feeling of wanting to run into somebody you have a history with and still have feelings for.
Blood Brothers, Night Thinker (2017)
Underrated and under-appreciated. “I start work at 1PM/So we just fuck around ’til then.”
All Loved Up, Love Monster (2018)
Produced by Lorde and Taylor Swift’s hitmaker Jack Antonoff, ‘All Loved Up’ is one of the leading singles from Shark’s bestselling album Love Monster. It’s earnest, that’s what sells it. “Every lyric is real and from my life. If you have ever hurt me, let me down, drove me home, been drunk with me or fallen in love with me – you’ll be on this album,” Shark shared in the record’s accompanying press release.
Weekends, Night Thinker (2017)
‘Weekends’ is an incredibly personal song. It started as a musical fragment, a sparing guitar figure Amy had been playing around with for five years before she finally produced a set of lyrics she thought were good enough to accompany it. It’s about counting the minutes on the clock, hanging out and not having a whole lot of responsibility past a part-time job that pays too little and you’re not too great at. Being young.
I Said Hi, Love Monster (2018)
A funny thing happened when Amy finally found success. All those people who had told her ‘no’ or simply ignored her started calling around to arrange meetings. Old doors once firmly closed now swung open. Even her extended family stopped questioning her about when she was going to get that real job and those friends who had never bothered to show up to gigs all of sudden phoned her looking to score free tickets to her shows. ‘I Said Hi’ addresses all of these people with a simple and eloquent message: “Tell ’em all I said hi.” What better way to launch the biggest-selling Australian album of 2018 than with a polite fuck-you?
Adore, Single (2016)
‘Adore’ is Amy Shark’s coming of age and it’s her breakout single. To top that all off, it’s also the moment that changed her life. When questioned by Junkee about whether she feels tired about constantly having to revisit her biggest single Shark said this: “I’m never gonna be one of those artists. ‘Adore’ isn’t ever a song that I’ll ever be embarrassed about, it’s really timeless and beautiful and I’m so proud of it and it’s the reason I’m here with you and it’s the reason I’m doing music full time.” The first love song she ever penned ‘Adore’ is about hopelessly being in love. Amy Billings was hopelessly in love with her dream of being Amy Shark, and it paid off.
Amy Shark is currently on tour around Australia, more info here. Her debut album Love Monster is out now.
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