Last week Howl and Echoes attended Red Deer Festival, and had the pleasure of sitting down with Sunshine Coast songstress Ayla.
Having enchanted crowds at the Triple J unearthed stage at Bigsound, Ayla took on Red Deer Festival in preparation for her upcoming headlining tour and the release of her debut Ayla EP. One of Australia’s finest young singers and drawing comparisons to artists like Daughter and Lana Del Ray. We sat down to talk to her about poetry, the Sunshine Coast, and following in the footsteps of Sarah Blasko.
So you played at Bigsound – how was that?
Yeah it was awesome, we played last year, and we won the sunshine coast council showcase, but this year was our first official showcase. And it was really awesome. We loved seeing all of the other acts that were on that night as well.
How is the Sunshine Coast to live in, and to be a musician?
I really like it. There are more venues and everything in the bigger cities, and a lot of opportunities, but I just really like living on the coast.
I think the crowds though, they come out for people in the Sunshine Coast, people really support the local artists.
Yeah, when you’ve got a bunch of different artists playing different venues every night you can be spoilt for choice and you don’t go out as much.
So obviously with your lyrics there’s lots of poetry and you’ve said Wish I Was was originally a poem, is that something you tend to do regularly – write a poem and sometimes it makes its way into your music?
That was probably the most prominent time that’s happened, I’ve done it a couple of times before but mostly I just write a song, lyrics with melody, I’ve written a couple of poems, but they’re just poems.
We might see them make their way into your music at some point.
Yeah, you never know.
So the Ayla EP is out on November 6th, talk us through the process of writing it.
Well it’s going to have the three tracks I’ve released so far, so Wish I Was, the one I released last year, then two that I’ve released this year, then another two I’d already written. One of the ones going on that hasn’t come out yet – I wrote it this year, not too long ago actually. But I’m just always writing songs really, I didn’t write them for the purpose of the EP.
So it’s more than you select some of the songs you’ve written and go “these are the ones I’m going to release”, but you have other songs to write just because.
Yeah! And then hopefully release them later. I wrote Wish I Was when I was 15.
Yeah, so you can always take songs that are old and…
Find a new meaning for them and stuff like that…
I think you mentioned when you were doing Wish I Was, you worked with the A&R Department in sort of constructing your brand, and trying to emulate some aspects of Daughter in particular. Is that an artist that you look up to?
Yeah, I really like their music and for that track particularly it’s a good reference.
Definitely. The full sort of sound.
Yeah, I really like their stuff.
You have a powerful voice so it’s easy to make comparisons with artists like Florence and the Machine, and Lana Del Ray, but I hear little bits of Wilco in your music amongst other things. Is there any other influences that wouldn’t be immediately apparent?
I dunno, I listen to lots of different stuff so I think you take on a little bit of whatever you listen to sub consciously and take it all in and it comes all out in a jumble.
So you won the Billy Thorpe Scholarship at the Q music awards, how was that?
They said my name and I just sat there in the seat for a few seconds being like “Really?”
Then you used that money to record the EP?
Yeah, the rest of the tracks, and the film clip I just did for Waiting. And that’s been absolutely amazing.
So you’re nineteen now, how does it feel being so young and already touring the country? One of the quotes I read before the interview was “Ayla makes everyone feel bad thinking about what they’d achieved at her age.”
It’s definitely not in my bio! I didn’t write that!
No no, it was written about you. You are an example of someone so young doing well, that a lot of people would look at you and say “oh my god! When I was nineteen I was just being ridiculous” so how does that feel for you being in that situation, only nineteen and touring and performing? Is it a bit surreal?
I don’t know, I’ve always sort of put a lot of pressure on myself I guess, I’ve always just wanted to achieve things and then they… I don’t know. (laughs)
Is music something you’ve done from a really young age?
I’ve played music professionally doing a couple of gigs a week kind of thing for about four years. And I still do some gigs around like that, but it’s been fantastic to get out of the state and do some interstate stuff. We’re playing in Melbourne in November, which is going to be our first Melbourne show; I’m really looking forward to it. And last year we did a bit of touring down to Byron and the Gold Coast.
So music has always been in your life?
I’ve always been writing songs. When I was 5 my parents bought me a tape recorder to record my first song. It’s always been something that I’ve done, I always thought that I’d have it as a hobby and do something else until I realised I didn’t want to do that, and I just wanted to do music.
You’re studying at the moment?
I’m studying a Bachelor of Music at QUT in Brisbane. I was living in Brisbane for a year but not anymore, now I’m driving down.
That’s a lot of work! You’re touring, and you’re studying as well!
I’m often considering dropping out of uni (laughs)
Where do you find the time?
I don’t go very much, when I go people say, “Oh I haven’t seen you for ages!”
So we talked about branding earlier… how conscious are you of that? Like the brand you’re “supposed” to build?
I think because it’s pretty new at the moment, I can create it still, and even after you create a brand you can evolve and change it. I guess branding as a whole includes the photos you release, your cover art and everything, but I pretty much just use what I like, and hope that other people like it too!
Is there a dream show or dream support slot you’d love to do?
It’d be pretty cool to support Sia or Sarah Blasko, something like that.
I think my campmates mentioned that Sarah Blasko played Red Deer festival a few years ago, so you’re kind of following in her footsteps.
Oh cool! And her album is being released the same day as my EP.
So I think that definitely means that I should support her on her tour!
Definitely! It’s perfect. Are there any plans for a full-length album after the EP?
I’ve been writing for ages so I’ve got a lot of songs, so yeah I’d love to record more of them, and I definitely will do that. I think we’ll start working on that possibly the end of this year maybe early next year and hopefully have one out next year.
You can catch Ayla in November at selected East Coast venues: