Ed Sheeran told Amy Louise Billings—monikered in the music world as Amy Shark—that if she wanted to be a pop writer, she needed to be more comfortable expressing romance. “Love Songs Ain’t For Us,” the second of several tracks from her sophomore album, CRY FOREVER, is “as loved up” as you’ll likely get from the Gold Coast native.
“When he asked me if I write love songs for my man, I turned bright purple. Love is not something that’s been easy for me,” she tells American Songwriter over the phone from Australia. “There’s been so much drama and heartbreak. The whole idea of that song is me growing so much as an artist, being a lot more comfortable with who I am and what I want to write about. Ed knows I come from a very alternative background, but he also knows I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to take on the world.” She laughs adding, “Especially writing with him, I’m like ‘teach me, master.'”
Heeding his advice, she struggled through the lyrical content—hence the title—and the product is an intimately timeless love song. “It’s so simple, but it says so much,” she beams proudly. “That’s what you get when you work with someone of Ed’s caliber.”
Sheeran is among a list of other noteworthy features on a genre-spanning roster of CRY FOREVER. Grammy-award winner and fellow Aussie, Keith Urban, joined Shark to record “Love Songs Ain’t For Us.” Urban’s harmonic support emphasizes the earnest sentiment behind her lyrical levity. As a self-declared BLINK-182 enthusiast, Shark’s collaboration with Travis Barker on the percussion-driven punk-leaning track, “C’MON,” was dream material.
“These guys—they’re all leaders of their worlds. Keith is a central figure in country music right now and has been for a long time. Travis will go down in history as the best drummer in the world. And Ed, he’s the greatest pop writer of our time.” She continues, “I learned so many levels of professionalism here, everything they do, they do so well and waste so little time.”
After self-producing her indie-pop for several years, Shark burst into the global music scene in 2016, Amy Shark’s 5-times Platinum single, “Adore,” put her on the map as one of Australia’s most formidable emerging songwriters. This was followed by 4-times Platinum and number one Australian Airplay Chart hit, “I Said Hi” and the 2019 2-times platinum single “Mess Her Up.” Shark’s breakthrough No.1 ARIA album and Platinum-certified LOVE MONSTER was recognized in 2018 with four ARIA awards—Album of the Year, Best Female Artist, Best Pop Release, Best Producer [Dann Hume]—and was nominated for another five. LOVE MONSTER went on to become the highest-selling album by an Australian artist for 2018.
Completed pre-pandemic, CRY FOREVER is a meticulous step forward into her artistry. As compared to LOVE MONSTER, her new collection leaves space in the production for her strengthened storytelling. There’s more room for tender, acoustic moments like “You’ll Never Meet Anyone Like Me Again” and “I’ll be Yours.”
Her debut single, “Everybody Rise” warns against worshipping false idols in a social media-dominated digital world. Produced by Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes), the hypnotic pop track won Shark an ARIA for Best Pop Release and an APRA Music Awards nomination. She says, “Joel is one of the best producers I’ve ever worked with. He just knows that slick pop sound that translates very easily into everyones lives.”
Another pre-released track, “Baby Steps” is a painful retrospect on “some really dark times.” She explains, “I really hit rock bottom at one point in my life. And every time I go back to The Gold Coast, I’ll run into someone who reminds me of days I’d rather forget.” She adds, “But what’s so great about it is I’m past that now, and this song slaps.”
“All Those Lies About Me” was an important pre-release, as it set the tone lyrically of the types of stories the breakthrough artist is now ready to tell. Co-produced by Sam Witte and M-Phazes, the song reckons with the journey of becoming a public figure, and the inflexibility involved with one’s image at that point. “You can’t speak up about every bullshit thing you read about yourself online,” says Shark. “And some days, I know it’s not worth the drama to engage. But on the bad days, I want to stand on a crate on the street, beat my chest, and announce to the world that those things aren’t true, I’m not like that.” She laughs, then continues, “It’s strange because I lived such a normal, pedestrian life for so long, so all of the chatter made me start second-guessing myself like ‘am I really an asshole?'”
Shark saved her most-telling tune for last—closing the collection with an intimate self-titled conclusion. She selected “Amy Shark” as the final track because “in a way this album closes so many chapters for me.” She continues, “I’m not mad, but I remember everything and some people just weren’t there when I needed them and unfortunately it’s just too late to start giving a fuck about me now.”
Photo by Jess Gleeson