Often I find when I give an issue a little bit of space, I find myself seeing it differently and maybe making a better decision ...
When we were 18-years old, most of us still had no clue what we wanted to do with our lives. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time deciding on your future, but theirs a certain level of admiration that we get when we see a young go-getter kicking goals from a young age. For Sunshine Coast musician Ayla, a career in music was a no-brainer. When Ayla was 18, the immensely talented songwriter broke onto the Australian music scene with ‘Wish I Was’, a song that ended 2014 as number 15 on triple j’s most played list. Since then, Ayla has been going from strength to strength – releasing a debut EP and touring the country twice. In a few months Ayla will be unveiling her second collection of songs on a follow-up EP, with her newest single ‘Shallow End’ already earning praise around the country, the stage is set for the star-in-the-making to take the next step in her career. We caught up with Ayla ahead of her national tour supporting ‘Shallow End’ to talk music industry myths and career highlights.
You were only 18 when you made waves with ‘Wish I Was’, but take us back even further – do you remember the pivotal moment when music hooked you creatively?
It was something that was always a big part of my life and I feel like it was just a natural path. When I was younger, the first and (and only for quite a while) movie we had was The Sound of Music. I would watch it on repeat and sing along. Then I got into ukulele and guitar at school and started writing songs and singing them at school events as well as doing a bit of busking. I just kept going from there and started getting paid gigs and ended up doing music full time. I’d always loved music and knew it would stay a big part of my life, but, as I went through school I was always thinking it would be second and I would have another career focus. In year 11 – after considering a variety of different career options, from journalism to accounting – I realised there was nothing else that drew me and made sense like music did. That was around the time I was starting to get more paid work – including doing a little bit of music teaching – and I realised that maybe music was something I could make a career in. Since then I’ve just been taking it as far as it will go and enjoying the ride!
People have been going nuts for your newest single ‘Shallow End’ – what can you tell us about that song and how it came to be?
This one was a bit of a process. I was lucky enough that Glenn Sarangapany was keen on working together on a track. We went into a studio in Sydney to start recording at the beginning of last year with a producer called Nathan Sheehy. It was a really fun collaboration where we just spend the day in the studio shaping the song. Soon after that process, I began to work with Sam Cromack on the production of some other tracks. Again I felt so fortunate to be able to work with someone so well respected in the industry, and who is an incredible songwriter and just lovely guy (like Glenn). I was really happy with the few songs Sam and I had finished off, and ended up sending him through ‘Shallow End’ to see if we could take it just that little bit further so it could sit a little more smoothly with the tracks we had recorded. The adjustments we made brought the tack to a place where I was really happy with it, and ended up wanting to release it as the single – a year and a bit after beginning work on it!
What sort of advice did Glenn and Sam offer during the creation process?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to work with everyone I got to on this track. Sam and Glenn are both phenomenal musicians and awesome people. It wasn’t really advice offered, but it was really cool to see the huge level of fun and enthusiasm that Glenn puts into a musical creation and it was definitely inspiring to look at that and know how huge it is to love and be excited by what you do. Sam is such a laid back kind of guy and I think I took from working with him the idea that it’s all about the music. I was asking him at one stage whether he thought one of the tracks we were working on could be a single, and he said (something along the lines of) “I try not to think about that and just let the songs dictate themselves”, which I thought was a really good way to approach it.
You’ve performed some big shows in your career, and you are about to hit the road again – do you have any pre-show rituals?
Usually the band and I go grab some food together – maybe with the other bands on the line-up too if they want to join us. Some good nosh is always a good way to bond I think.
What’s been your most memorable gig in your career so far?
We were lucky enough to play the Woodford Folk Festival at the end of 2015, which was an incredible show. The set had an amazing atmosphere and one of the best crowds we’d ever had.
What would you say is one of the biggest myths about being a musician?
Some people seem to think that musicians must play for food and be living on the dole, and some seem to think that it must mean you get recognised everywhere you go, with people throwing free things your way and that you’re rolling in it. I think there’s a scale and there definitely are some musicians from both columns, but when people think that either of those apply to me – that’s a myth. I put a lot of time and energy into music and have been a ‘professional’ musician for the last six years, but I live on the Sunshine Coast with my two chickens and two cats and like to garden. I’m definitely not living a Kardashian life, which suits me fine!
We are all about relaxing so we’d love to know –what is your ideal way to spend a weekend?
My parents have recently moved to Agnes Water, which is this super relaxed beach town – I guess similar to the Sunshine Coast, but like, 50 years ago. It’s got amazing beaches, bush walks, markets nearby, a tennis club, and even a kangaroo rescue where you can feed and pat the little fellas. Along with a home-cooked meal and hanging out with my parents, it’s basically all my favourite things in one place. Definitely a great spot for relaxing and recharging!
Finally, what are some words of wisdom that you live by?
I think a good one is ‘sleep on it’. To me, it means to stop for a minute and think before speaking or doing – even to put yourself in other people’s shoes, or to question whether anything needs to be done at all. Often I find when I give an issue a little bit of space, I find myself seeing it differently and maybe making a better decision.