Alice Skye is a delight. The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter is talking with me as she is hustling to another interview. She is frazzled, searching for her Uber. She answers the phone breathless and apologetic, and tells me she will call me back in 5 minutes. She calls me back, sans Uber, as she patiently waits for the driver to find her. Even amidst this chaos she is a sweetheart.
Alice arrived back in Australia last night. She’s fresh off a gig in Taiwan, performing at the Yirramboi Festival. She’s had a big year. Her debut album, Friends With Feelings, was released in April. Since then she’s been touring the country and playing internationally. Alice is full of gratitude for her success. After all, she never thought her songs would leave the voice memos on her phone. We spoke to her about song writing, her love of Missy Higgins and her show at Melbourne Music Week this Sunday.
What has life been like since you released your debut album Friends With Feelings, earlier this year?
Different! I’ve been a lot busier, so that’s nice. It’s nice to be busy. It was a really long wait before releasing the album, so it felt nice to let it go.
Have you made friends with your feelings yet?
*Laughs* No. I don’t think that is a thing I will ever be good at. That’s okay That’s part of it I suppose.
What’s been your biggest ‘pinch me’ moment in your career so far?
I never thought I would do this with my life, so everything is always pretty surreal. I get to sing songs in front of people. It’s really special. I’m also really excited about going on tour with Stella Donnelley. She’s an artist I really like. So constantly things are happening that shock me! I’m grateful for the kind of life I get to live.
Speaking of ‘pinch me’ moments, you have your own show on Sunday as part of Melbourne Music Week. What can we expect from your show?
It will be really fun! We’ve got a young Indigenous Australian girl, Kee’ahn, performing. She’s been performing lots around Melbourne recently. She has such an insane voice. Every time I hear it I get goose bumps, it’s kind of crazy. We’re also going to play a set with our friend Georgia Maq, and Jackson from the band RAThammock will also jump up for a song or two. We are yet to rehearse, so I’m really excited to see what it’s going to be like. I think it’s going to be very wholesome.
Which artists inspired you to start writing music?
I really loved Missy Higgins when I was a kid. Like, crazy obsessed with her. I always really loved sad songs, even as a kid that was what I was into. And Missy writes such beautiful, heartbreaking songs. I play piano too, so I would just copy her. I also loved Regina Spektor around the same time, because she was also doing the piano thing. But lots of people inspired me!
What’s your favourite Missy Higgins song?
Oh that’s hard! Maybe a song on her first album. It’s called ‘They Weren’t There’. It’s so sad, and the piano is beautiful.
Have you met Missy Higgins yet? Have you happened to cross paths with her?
No, I’ve never ran into her before!
We need to make that happen Alice!
I want to meet her, but I’m so not chill around people I admire. I’m such a dork.
I think being a fangirl is good! Caring about people and their music is good. I’m all for fangirling.
*Laughs* I think the right amount of that is good. Just the right amount…
How did you go from playing Missy Higgins and Regina Spektor song on piano, to writing your own songs?
I’ve always loved writing; short stories, poems, songs. I loved playing piano and I loved singing. I started doing them together when I was in Year 7. My first songs weren’t very good. They were pretty embarrassing. But that’s okay. All my first songs were just like me writing about what I thought heartbreak was at 12 years old, which is very funny now.
In 2016 my sister saw a competition for CAAMA for young Indigenous singer songwriters. You had to submit 2 songs. I didn’t even think I would be eligible to do it, but my sister encouraged me to do it. I downloaded an app on my phone that put reverb on your voice. So I put reverb on my voice and then submitted that. I did not expect to hear back. It must have been such low quality compared to other people’s. But I was lucky enough to hear back from them! They invited a girl from each state to Alice Springs to record a song. After that, CAAMA asked me back to record my own EP or album. That’s how it all started.
Had your sister heard your songs before you entered the contest?
No she hadn’t! She knew I was writing them. She told me to do it without even knowing if they were any good.
That’s an A+ supportive sister right there! How has she and the rest of your family reacted to your success?
I think they’re really proud. They’re really happy that I’ve found something that I really love doing.
What is your song writing process like?
I love writing, so I’m constantly writing things down in my phone books or notebooks. I’ll lose them for a couple of months and then find old songs that I have forgotten about. It’s usually very lyrics motivated. I’m not a super complex composer because I spend so much time thinking about the words. Sometimes a melody just gets stuck in my head. I’ll be at the supermarket with a melody stuck in my head, and just try to discreetly sing it into my phone so I don’t lose it. Then I’ll go home to try and work out the chords. Song writing happens a lot when I’m in transit. I spend a lot of time on public transport. I’m always nervous that I will forget an idea, so I have to make sure I have it recorded. But I don’t want to get caught recording it! *Laughs*
As a young Indigenous woman, how has your culture and heritage influenced your music?
It is obviously a part of who I am and I am very proud of that. I spend a lot of time thinking about identity. I feel like a lot of Indigenous people do, because it can be a challenge to navigate ourselves through life. We have to do it differently. I think a lot of songs on my first album were me figuring out my identity, but I didn’t really realise that they were to do with that part of me until I listened back to my album. I have a lot of self contemplation to do now.
Looking towards the future of your music, what is your biggest goal?
I’m really bad at setting goals because I’m anxious person and that freaks me out. I just want to do music for as long as possible. Just travel and play music forever. That would make me so happy.
Okay, final question for you. Which song do you wish you had written?
Oh my god I think about this so often. I’ve been listening to Lucy Dacus recently. She’s an American singer who just released an album called Historian. Literally every single song on that record I wish I had thought of. The lyrics are so clever. There are so many one liners on that album that I wish I had thought of. One of my favourite lyrics on the album is from the song ‘Next Of Kin’. It’s: ‘I used to be deep inside my head, now I’m too far outside of my skin’. That’s just so beautiful and relatable. The whole album is amazing. I highly recommend it.
As Alice and I say our goodbyes, I’m struck by her sincerity and gratitude. She is only one album into her career and has so much ahead of her. As the saying goes, good things happen to good people, and Alice is one of the good ones. Here’s hoping she finally found her Uber!
Catch Alice at her show, Alice Skye and Friends on Sunday 18th of November from 4-6pm at MPavillion. No need to purchase tickets – her show is free!
Check out the full line-up of Melbourne Music Week here.
Speaker TV will be covering MMW 2018. Keep an eye out for our live reviews and interviews with Melbourne artists.