Amy Shark
Credit: Max Doyle

I have a vivid memory of seeing Amy Shark perform in New York. It was the end of 2018 and riding high on the success of her single “Adore”, a then 33-year-old Shark and her honest and contemplative lyrics were enveloping every concert-goer inside the Irving Plaza on East 15th Street that evening. (You can experience the night here.)

Watching her belt out those now famous “I Said Hi” lyrics – I lay half awake thinking what’s it’s gonna take for my moment to arrive, so sick and paralysed – was nothing short of incredible, the crowd – mostly Australian who, too, had likely moved to NYC for their own moment – were moving as one with a sort of palpable national pride for the woman before them.

Shark has made no secret of the fact that it took her many, many years of knock-backs and pub performances to land a record deal. But that night, there was no denying her moment had indeed (finally) come – and the job at hand now was to capitalise on it. But when the pandemic thrust a momentary stoppage on travel, work, and definitely concerts, the momentum Shark had built in the US was also suspended.

Cry Forever is out now. Stream it here.

“I haven’t been to America in so long,” she tells GRAZIA over the phone last week. “I was a bit bummed out because I had done so much ground-work in building relationships over there and it felt exciting – and it’s been stalled a little bit. Prior to COVID, I had built a whole new team over there, and it was a shame to not get to capitalise on that. But it’s alright, everything happens for a reason and it’s more important that the world gets healthy – we need to put that first.”

“All you can keep doing is putting out new music.”

And that she has. Shark (real name Amy Louise Billings) has just released her sophomore album Cry Forever, an offering she wrote and recorded in the US, the UK, New Zealand, and her home studio on the Gold Coast in Australia – and one that debuted at #1 on the ARIA album chart last week.

“It’s still my signature sound, it’s just a little bit elevated,” says Shark. “It’s a lot more guitar-heavy and I tried not to overcook too many songs.

“There’s a lot of stories on this album that I felt needed to be heard – and not smothered in production.”

Ed Sheeran gave me the best piece of advice that I’ve ever been given: Give the song what it wants, not what you think it needs,” Shark continued. That piece of advice was given to Shark when she and her husband Shane Billings were invited over to Sheeran’s place for a dinner with his wife Cherry. The foursome spent the evening at a pub that Sheeran had built on his property.

“[Ed’s advice] was so true. I’m forever looking at songs, thinking ‘it needs this’ when realistically if a song is good enough, it just stands on its own – you don’t need to overcook it, it just shines,” says Shark. “So I stripped some songs back on the album and it made such a difference. But it’s still got some bangers on it.”

Amy Shark
Amy Shark performs to a sell-out crowd inside the Irving Plaza in New York City in 2018. Credit: Tali Gordon/ GRAZIA.

Those who have listened to Cry Forever will know Keith Urban features on the track “Love Songs Ain’t For Us”.

“He is such a legend, such a massive icon,” says Shark. “He asked me to perform with him at the 2018 ARIA Awards and we to get along really well. Whenever I meet anybody like him or Ed, I try really hard to keep them in my circle as a friend. When I wrote the song with Keith, he made it so easy, he dropped in his elements and made it even better, which I knew he’d do.”

Shark also worked with Travis Barker who she describes as “the sweetest, sweetest dude in the world. “He was totally accommodating. We were going back and forth on text and email and he was shooting me lots of ideas for songs,” explains Shark, who co-wrote “C’MON” with Barker. “Travis did this really fast tempo for a track that I loved, and it sort of sounded like The Prodigy, but my label had a heart attack because they thought it wouldn’t get much airplay, so Travis and I had to find a medium. He did this, like, hybrid drum beat – and he was really great about it! I’m so glad I got him!”

(And yes, like most GRAZIA readers, Shark was following Barker’s online flirtations with one Kourtney Kardashian. “I’d seen some news about them online and thought maybe something was up!” she smiles. “You know when you can just tell the energy online when someone keeps liking a person’s sh*t and commenting? They were all over it and I didn’t want to say anything but it was so obvious. They are pretty sexy couple!”)

Amy Shark
Credit: Max Doyle

Perhaps part of the reason Shark’s performance in New York stayed with me for the last couple of years comes down to her ability to capture the hard truths in her lyrics. Cry Forever is no different.

Cry Forever is out now. Stream it here.

“That’s the only way I enjoy writing music. If I started writing about nonsense or characters, or of things that are not close to me, it’s not going to come across the way the others songs have and that would be obvious to my fans,” she says. “There’s plenty of stuff that I’m working through myself and I’m not scared to write about it, but yeah, it’s scary to put it out. But it also feels really great.”

“I feel like I’ve got out all of these problems and used it as a big therapy sessions and now they are everybody else’s problems!” she continues, laughing. “People can relate to it the way they want, and know that they aren’t alone.”

Case in point: Track number 13, titled “Amy Shark”. “It’s very personal. I walk everyone through my life from a very young age and the frustrations that come with this life.”

“It’s easy to romanticise getting a record deal. It’s the ugly parts that no one wants to talk about.”

“I wasn’t going to put that track out, but the more people around me that who heard it thought that if this can help someone else around the world, I should release it. So I did.”

“It’s a heavy song to play. But that’s who I am. I can’t hold back now or I wouldn’t be me.”

And, when the time is right, imagine the moment this song will have when Amy Shark gets to play it in New York.

Cry Forever is out now. Stream it here.