Upcoming EDM artist ARY’s first ‘cut and run’ single was an uptempo, beat-driven pop number called Higher which not only propelled her onto the Norwegian scene, it also got her namechecked by a plethora of international music publications. A runaway Spotify success it garnered the twenty-something singer several accolades and awards.
But there was no follow on. Nothing, for a whole year, until finally in August 2016 word came that a new single was imminent. Sure enough, a few weeks later, The Sea a stark, melancholy filled dirge copper-fastened by brooding beats, was announced as the theme to Nobel, NRK TV’s major new blockbuster.
Since then, there has been a flurry of releases both solo and collaborative, and with each new song it has become apparent that the Norwegian was right to halt the conveyor belt and concentrate on playing her in-studio A-game. Three singles were released in as many months including the Supervention2 film soundtrack The End and a recent collaboration with electronic whizzkid Synthomania called Darling (and it is).
Jewel in the crown though is the singer’s #1 chart smash Childhood Dreams the success of which has propelled Ary into another league, as well as the sights of Hollywood glitterati such as Chloe Grace Moretz, who recently posted the track online to her 3.15m followers. Now that’s what I call SEO.
A cheeky little number with a teasing vocal and sashaying bass, flirting against the backdrop of a ticking clock to mark the passage of time from childhood to present day nostalgia. Oh, if you’re wondering what the distorted, ‘man-made’ vocal effect is in the mix, it’s an uber ingenious sample of Russian witch-chant. Kudos for originality.
Earlier this year in a very cold and snowy Oslo, I caught up with the ever-vibrant Ary who was more than happy to chat about writing Childhood Dreams, her time in a cocoon and why constant evolution is key to finding her ‘sound’.
“It can take years to create something great. I’m still evolving, and I hope my listeners enjoy the various versions of me as my sound is far from finished.”
Hey Ary, congratulations on your latest chart topping single Childhood Dreams. It marks a change in direction from some of your other recent singles. It somehow seems more everyday modern and a lot more youthful. Did you deliberately go funky in a bid to ramp it up from the more ethereal (The End) and deep ‘n dark (The Sea)?
Absolutely! Since starting out I’ve worked predominantly with 120bmp as it’s in those more up-beat electronic landscapes where I feel most at home. The Sea actually started out as a house-ish song but was turned in to a dark ballad by my producer. Although I really like the way it turned out, I’m definitely more comfortable making music I can dance to.
Whilst confident and energetic, the single is also reflective and thoughtful. At its core is the notion of looking back to move forwards and never giving up on your ‘childhood dreams’. I ask Ary when she wrote the track and if it reflects how she feels now?
I wrote the first draft a year ago when I had just signed with Petroleum (records) and for the first time I had to confront the idea that I might actually be in the music business for the long haul.
I started working with Coucheron (electronic producer), trying to figure out which sound I was reaching for and this was one of the first songs we wrote. It definitely reflects how I felt at a time when I was trying desperately to get some balance between achieving my ambitions and staying on top of my personal life. It represents the hunt for something more, and while I still feel like that sometimes the song doesn’t define my life anymore. What I would say is that Childhood Dreams is the most truthful song I’ve released so far.
Childhood Dream’s shows a more playful side to your personality. Do you think it’s important that people who don’t know you get to see the different sides to you as a person?
Completely. It’s important to me that I grow, evolve and improve along the way. I used to strive to be the best I could before I’d even released any music. Then I shut myself away in a kind of ‘cocoon’. During that cocoon phase I was constantly working and learning, and trying to hone my skills.
Then after a year had gone by, I realised I’d put my life on hold. I’d been reading a book about tech-start ups in which one of the key pieces of advice was to just get your stuff out there, bugs, mistakes no matter. Just get it out. Keep working on improving, but do it publicly. You’re creating awareness but at the same time people can see you’re constantly trying to get better.
It can take years to create something great. I’m still evolving, and I hope my listeners enjoy the various versions of me as my sound is far from finished.
The music is quite a menagerie of myriad styles and moods, a journey through a diverse jungle of sonic curios and noises. How did you and Coucheron come to decide on the various elements and how they should be arranged?
Hmm. Well it started with the bass and a kick, and then came the opening melody. After we first made a draft of the song, I think we pictured it as a typical pop song. But the more we listened to it and worked on it we saw how simple it needed to be. I really like it because of its simplicity. I don’t really feel like we worked it too much. Sometimes you can overwork music to the point where it loses its magic.
I tell Ary that her voice has improved and matured significantly in the last twelve months. Her vocal shows a new found strength, particularly on the intro where it is completely exposed.
You sound as if you were in a really good place when you were laying down that vocal. It’s a little bit teasing, a little bit playful and very confident and controlled. You sound as if you’ve found your vocal niche – kinda urban with bluesy undertones. Are you happy with your vocal development and do you think you’ve found your sweet spot?
Thank you, that’s so kind of you. In the beginning I just loved to sing. Just hearing my own voice with reverb on it felt overwhelming.
There are so many things you can do to edit vocals these days, and I think that is one of the reasons I like Childhood Dreams so much. In many ways it’s a song without effects, a song in which my voice sounds honest in the sense that this is genuinely what it sounds like.
I feel like I’ve come quite far vocally in the past two years, and it makes me so happy to keep making progress. I’m not sure if I’ve really discovered my sound yet, and I hope not. I love being able to constantly evolve and to explore the different aspects of the music I make.
When we met Ary had just started a nationwide tour so naturally the conversation turned towards her live performance. I asked the singer if having developed a confident vocal along with a more dynamic style had helped with her live performance.
I’m not sure if it helps me.. Being in my studio and messing around with sounds is something so different from being on stage. When I’m on stage I go into a trance. Actually I’m not sure what happens to me, but I lock everything else out. It’s like I black out. Then suddenly the show’s over and hopefully everything has gone well.
You’ve made a video for the song … is that something you enjoy?
Yes, very much. I love throwing around ideas and being creative visually. The video will be finished soon and I can’t wait to see it. It was a great working with Niels Windtfelt again (director who also made the video for Higher).
The publicity shot for the single is full on vamp with a floral twist. Who came up with the concept?
A photographer I’ve started working with called Ida Bjørvik. We did my first beauty shoots in a proper studio and it was so much fun! Ida is great to work with, very creative and the flower was her idea. I enjoy making visual stories to the music, and I feel like the cover can convey a different side to the same story.
And finally any plans for Ary to tour UK&I?
Absolutely. I’m playing Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on 30th May (details https://m.facebook.com/events/398379800547731/ )
Ary’s single Childhood Dreams is available on all digital channels via Petroleum Records.