“I was ready to go to different places and get a little deeper,” Amy Shark tells Apple Music about her second album, which focuses as much on her past as it does her experiences during the last five years, since the Gold Coast-born singer-songwriter found fame after a 15-year journey. With help from everyone from Ed Sheeran and producer Joel Little to blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and country icon Keith Urban, her songs are as genuine as ever, but musically, they venture into new places. And while the last few years have, unsurprisingly, been as difficult as they’ve been rewarding, Shark (real name Amy Billings) trained herself to channel those feelings into songs.
“I just learned to capitalize on every hypersensitive moment, whether I was upset or tired or anxious or happy,” she says. “I just make sure that I pick up a guitar and try and get it out that way. It's a balance of wanting to be really raw and authentic and the artist that I want to be, but also not an idiot—I'm wanting to sell records. So I try and find a healthy balance of that world.” Below, she talks through each song on Cry Forever.
“The Wolves” “It was one of the hardest songs to write. I started writing it around the end of 2018, when I was really confused and bitter about working out the industry, working out who's on your side. By the time I finished it, I was like, ‘I think I'm good. I don't need anyone. I just need good songs. I'm just going to put out good music and not stress about all those things that artists stress about, because it just takes up too much time and too much emotion.’ So the whole idea of ‘The Wolves’ is just learning to run with the pack, to keep on my path and not really care about what everyone else is doing.”
“Everybody Rise” “It’s one of the biggest pop songs I think I'll ever write. I can thank Joel Little for that. He really turned my demo around. Even to this day, it sounds like such an uplifting song, but it’s a really emo unrequited love story that was a big part of my life for so long. It's still one of those things that I still enjoy writing about because it's not a nice feeling. Especially now, being a musician, people really adore everything that you do. And it's funny because I've just been that person where I've worshipped others. So it’s a tongue-in-cheek song about that as well.”
“Worst Day of My Life” “It rolls on from ‘Everybody Rise,’ but it’s a little darker, about having to witness this happiness of someone else being with someone else. I feel like there's been times where I've just tried to keep it cool, but you’re just continuously being let down or not being seen. It’s such a shitty experience.’”
“C’MON” (feat. Travis Barker) “I had felt myself turning into someone I just didn't want to be. The industry can do that to you. You just keep going and going, and one night I was so exhausted and just felt like I wanted to stop for a second. I hope I haven't pushed anyone away by being this mouse on a wheel, just running and running, for 15 years to try and get here. I loved every second of writing it because it's everything that I wanted to say. When we were building it in the studio, I thought it might've been a ballad, but the second we put a beat to it, we realized it was going to be an anthem. And I had Travis' number just burning a hole in my pocket.”
“All the Lies About Me” “It speaks for itself. As an artist, it's really hard to just take the bullets and sit back and let it all happen. There's been times where I want to get a milk crate, sit it in the middle of the city, and just scream everything I want to say. But you’ve just got to be cool and calm and not respond.”
“Miss You” “It’s the sexiest song on the album. It just reminds me of those super sexy times, when things were new and exciting and naughty. I’ve been through those times of just missing someone that is a little bit forbidden, and it's just those fun times. They don't last forever, and you’ve got to really think about them. As a songwriter, it’s like the one good thing about having this annoying memory where you’re able to think about things and teleport yourself there.”
“Love Songs Ain't for Us” (feat. Keith Urban) “I just learnt so much from Ed [Sheeran, who cowrote the song]. He just has such a good balance in his life; I think that's why he's able to work the way he works. He just keeps going. We hit a couple of stumps of, like, ‘I don't know where to go here,’ and I would usually switch it up and just change up the chords. But he loved the chords so much and just kept grinding and grinding until we got it. He’s just so in tune with not overcooking songs, and giving them what they want, not what I think they need. He was really strict with the production. And before I left, he was like, ‘Let’s keep this pretty bare-bones. It's a beautiful story, it’s a great melody. Don’t overcook it.’ And Keith was the icing on the cake. When he added that slide guitar and his melodies and the little country licks, it really took it to another level.”
“I'll Be Yours” “It's a cool love song and it's just got that big sound—I've been calling it elephant acid. It's the sound that comes in, explodes, and kind of crushes your heart, too. It’s like a sound of heartache. I didn’t even put a bridge in because that sound is just so powerful when it comes in. I absolutely love that song.”
“You'll Never Meet Anyone Like Me Again” “This is another favorite of mine. It was heading in a crazy direction until I decided to really pull back. It had a drumbeat and everything, but I thought about that Ed quote, gave it what it wanted, and it sounded so much better. I was trying to sum up who I am and how much I care about people. This song is me reconnecting.”
“That Girl” “I got really badly cheated on once, and I just hated her so much. My friends would be like, ‘It takes two to tango, Amy,’ but I was like, ‘No, he was tricked.’ You look back now and it’s like, ‘Jesus, Amy, you were just so obsessed with hating this girl that you didn't even realize how much of an asshole that guy was. You’re so blinded, you’re just seeing one side.’”
“Lonely Still” “It’s about not quite knowing how to feel whole, and reminiscing when I should be moving on. I've always been a bit of a melancholy person like that, and I'm constantly in tune with the dark side. ‘Lonely Still’ is exactly what it says: I’m still lonely. When is it going to stop? What's going to actually make everything happier? I'm sure people will relate, but for me it's personal and very honest and autobiographical.”
“Baby Steps” “It’s another piece to the puzzle of why I'm a little weird now. The song is about a time where I was just losing at everything. I was doing really shit at uni, losing jobs, my love life was horrendous. At home, it was all falling apart. I was obsessed with the wrong people and just into bad shit. I was home in the Gold Coast and ran into someone who kept reminding me about all these times, and when I got on a plane the next day, I couldn't stop thinking about our conversation. It’s just a life that I've left behind. So the second I got to LA, I was really keen to write this song.”
“Amy Shark” “If there's any song that describes a real, current feeling that I'm living right now, it's this. That's why I called it ‘Amy Shark,’ which I know it sounded weird and probably confused a lot of people, but it's just such a personal song. The journey to get here has almost killed me. It almost killed mine and Shane’s marriage. I needed help when I was struggling, I needed guidance, love, and support, and I didn’t get it then. Now, I'm stronger, I’m working, I'm busy. No one will ever understand the sacrifices, the things I've missed. A lot of the time I’m just a typical self-deprecating Australian, but here I just fucking went for it. I really have worked so hard to get to where I am right now. It hasn't all been fun, but let’s enjoy this bit.”