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Interview: Ayla


Sunshine Coast songstress Ayla is going from strength to strength after her performances at the just passed Woodford Folk Festival. She’s currently in the middle of an Australian East Coast tour and set to tour with Kate Miller-Heidke later this month. We picked her brain about life as a musician, stripping it back, and being yourself.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the music industry?

[I’ve been] singing and writing songs since I was really young, and I’d always sing in the car when we were driving and things like that. I kept singing and kept writing songs. [At my school}, we learnt ukulele and then guitar, and so I started doing more of that and having singing lessons. Singing was definitely the main thing, singing and song writing. It just was something that I was always doing and I just kept doing it.

Your triple j Like A Version performance of Hunters and Collectors’ Throw Your Arms Around Me was hugely popular. Do you have a favourite cover song to perform at the moment?

It’s still fun doing that one, especially since we did it on triple j because people have heard it. When we play it live they recognise it, so that’s kind of cool. I kind of like when I learn a new cover song. It’s just fun doing new ones.

True, you’ve got to keep changing it up! It was a while ago now, but which single from your debut EP ‘Wish I Was’ is your favourite?

That’s a tricky question! I like playing Wish I Was because it’s been out for longer and more people know that one. I also like House On  A Hill. That one just felt really good to write. It came really easily when I wrote it and it’s the most recent one on there so it’s a bit more relevant, I guess, but the others are still really great to play and I still really connect with them when I play them.

Have you been writing more music since you released ‘Wish I Was’?

Yeah, I’ve written a couple of songs lately. I’m actually doing some co-writing while I’m down in Sydney and I did some in Melbourne recently as well, so I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing.

Does that mean we’ll be hearing some new music from you soon?

Yeah, definitely.

What inspires you when you’re writing?

I was really lucky to grow up on a farm where we [actually lived in] a house on a hill, and we had a really great view, so it was a really nice place to write songs and an inspirational environment. Also, song writing has always been a way for me to express myself, so when I think of something that I think is an interesting observation, I’ll write it down and then turn it into a song.

So it’s really personal for you?

Yeah! Some times more than others; sometimes I just write things I like writing. When The World Ends…that one’s not really personal, it’s not really about anything. It’s just a song [I wrote] for the sake of writing a song.

Your song Talk About Home made it into the finals of the Teen category of the International Song Writing Competition in 2012 when you were only 16, and Wish I Was was a finalist the next year. How did you handle that success at such a young age? 

To be honest… they sent me an email saying, “Hey, you’re in the finals!” and I was like, “Oh, that’s really good!” and I was very excited, but it didn’t really change anything.

They didn’t throw you a party?

No, no party (laughs). That’s alright. It didn’t really feel any different. I’m just doing what I’ve always done, playing [and] writing music.

[That competition] must have started something for you, though.

Yeah, it was definitely an amazing and humbling thing to have happen, and really helpful.

How has your life changed since that early success?

It’s just been what I’ve always done, the music, but definitely around that time – probably a year before that – was the time when I decided that music was definitely what I wanted to do full-time and so I’ve been doing a lot more of it since then. [Since] I released Wish I Was which was in February 2014, I’ve done a lot more of my original songs and … more performing, and got a band together, and that’s been really fantastic to do as well.

Do you have any advice for kids who want a career in the music industry?

I guess it depends what kind of path they wanted to take – whether they wanted to be a songwriter or a producer…

Let’s say they want to be just like you.

I would say, “Don’t be just like me. Be yourself.” Definitely, for whatever path [you] want to take in this industry, just keep doing it, keep practicing. If [you] want to write songs just keep writing songs, and also to talk to different people who do it and get their advice and sort of work out how to go about it, because music is kind of a difficult one. It’s sort of hard to know what you’re meant to do and how you go about it all, so definitely talking to people that do it and have the experience is a really great thing to do.

Very true. You had a busy start to this year with your performances at Woodford Folk Festival. What was your favourite thing about those shows?

The whole thing was so fantastic. At the start of Woodford I was lucky enough to do some backing vocals for Katie Noonan at the opening ceremony, and that was amazing. It started raining, but it was still pretty amazing…watching the fire ceremony and everything from up onstage. Then we did our shows…we had a really great crowd…, it was a really good vibe and we had a lot of fun.

Did you learn a lot from the other artists who performed in the festival?

Yeah, it was pretty amazing to play with and do backing vocals for Katie Noonan – to see her in the warm ups and while she played, and to see all the other artists. I saw a couple of local artists from the Sunshine Coast, so it was really great that they had Sunshine Coast artists on the bill this year – I think they had about six from the coast. I also saw a Canadian band called the East Pointers, and a few others. It was a really nice vibe at the festival, and [it was] good to see lots of different acts.

I’m jealous, I wish I’d been there!

You’ve never been to Woodford?

No, I haven’t, because I have to pay for a ticket (laughs).

If you interview them, do you have to pay for a ticket still? Can you get a media pass?

Maybe, I’ll look into that! You’re halfway through a tour of the East Coast promoting your debut EP, how’s that going?

Yeah! I did a couple of band shows on the East Coast with the [EP release] and now I’m doing a couple of stripped-back shows, so it’s just going to be a duo tonight.

Do you prefer a stripped-back show or playing with a big band?

I like both. With a band it’s really fun [because of] all the extra energy and having a bigger sound up your sleeve, but  then I also really enjoy doing more stripped-back versions because I guess that’s more like how I wrote the song, and [it creates] a really nice connection and a nice intimate feeling at the gigs [that lets you] get up close with the audience.

Do you feel more exposed when you’re doing more stripped-back versions?

Yeah, I’ve been playing for four or five years now and I usually do solo, but after doing all the band shows it does feel a little bit more exposed than I was anticipating.

You’re going on an Australian tour with Kate Miller-Heidke this month. That must be so exciting!

Yeah, absolutely.

Have you met her before?

I haven’t met her yet, so I’m looking forward to meeting her and seeing her play.

If you could go on tour with anyone, who would it be?

I really like Sia, but she doesn’t tour. Maybe Florence and the Machine or Lana Del Ray… or John Mayer. It’s too tricky!

They’re all good choices! You mentioned that you’ve been writing more music, and there might be a new EP coming out soon. Have you any idea yet what it’s going to sound like?

[There’s] definitely a new EP coming out. It will be a surprise.

You’re not going to give anything away?

Nope (laughs). Still working on it all!

‘When The World Ends’ 2016 Tour Dates

JAN 17

Workers Club, Club

JAN 20

Café Lounge, Surry Hills

JAN 23

Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle


Gallery Bar @ OAF, Sydney


Treehouse On Belongil, Byron Bay


Bison Bar, Sunshine Coast

FEB 27

Mountain Goat Valley Crawl Festival, Brisbane

Get tickets HERE

Written by Jess Martyn