Interview: Yorke, An Artist on the Rise

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Photos by Kristy Smolcic

Australia’s indie-pop scene is thriving, and leading the charge is up-and-comer Yorke, who has been capturing the attention of music fans over the past year. Her incredible debut single ‘First Light’, which was released late last year, was an impressive introduction to what she has in store. We sat down with Grace Hughes (Yorke) to have a juice and chat about her latest single ‘Thought I Could’, home and what music means to her.

When Yorke talks about writing and creating music, you can feel the joy and fulfilment it brings her. Though she only currently has three singles to her name, including ‘First Light’, ‘Wake The City’ and ‘Thought I Could’, she’s been writing songs since childhood. “I started writing when I was about eight," she said, “I used to just come home from school every day and sit down and write on the keys every afternoon and write a new song.”

Home for Yorke growing up was the picturesque surroundings of Byron Bay. Now-based in Sydney, she made the move to experience surroundings that were different from what she was used to growing up. After spending a lot of time in Sydney, she decided that it was the place for her. “I love cities, and I got really inspired by being in a city,” she said on her time in Sydney before moving. “I'm just spending all my time there, so it's nice when I finally made that decision to go down for a solid period of time and just focus on what I love.”

Living amongst the fast-paced nature of a big city appeals to Yorke. "I love cities, and I get really inspired by being in a city.” Though she loves her hometown, she felt stuck creatively, which is a feeling she channels on her recent single ‘Thought I Could’. “I love Byron with all my heart and always will.  Small towns can be claustrophobic at times, and I feel like you always want the opposite of what you have, and there wasn't much musically for me to do in Byron.”

After spending time in Sydney, she’s found a healthy balance between being inspired by living in a major city and switching off and spending time at home. “I think it's taken me some time to realise that I really enjoy being able to come back home and just switch off when I'm in Byron, so now I'm really happy with the balance of when I'm away, and then when I come home, and I think it's really helped with my own mental health just being able to do that.

‘Thought I Could’ was written on the same night ‘First Light’ was released, and the feeling of finally having her debut single out in the world was a bittersweet moment for Yorke. Written during a night session whilst ‘First Light’ was being released, and the stress that came along with that moment spurred her to start writing ‘Thought I Could’. “I was stressed out of my mind watching it [‘First Light’] come out on Spotify and all the digital platforms whilst trying to write this song, and I think it really added to the angst and the emotion behind the song.”

“It was quite conflicting, but I think the meaning behind the song really fits in with what I was feeling as well in terms of getting the strength to leave your hometown and do what you need to do to further your career.”

For the video, she wanted to capture her love for Byron Bay, and how she views home — not the tourist or typical imagery that’s usually associated with the area. “I just really wanted to show off a bit of Byron, but not too, 'Oh, it's a tourist video for Byron’. It wasn't too stylised, it was just really casual and quite nostalgic as well, which I think really suited the song.”

It might be early on in her career, but she’s had the opportunity to play an array of shows, including intimate headline shows to sold-out sets during Ruel’s tour. Playing live allows her to experience what she felt when writing the music in a completely different way. On what she loves about performing, she said, “Just seeing people's reactions, and just being able to really feel all the emotions of the songs all over again. I feel like when I'm performing, just the very first raw emotions of when I wrote the song just come back up, and it's refreshing for me”

“Doing the Ruel tour and stuff was the most insane experience ever,” she said, “I’ve never had an opportunity like that, it was crazy, his fans are amazing.” At the time of the tour, she had two singles to her name, “I only had two songs out at the time, but they'd try and learn the lyrics to them, and then by the end of the songs they were singing them back to me, and I'm like, ‘My mind is blown right now’. It was just so incredible seeing them react like that.”

The moving reaction by Ruel’s fans is the same feeling you’ll have the moment you first hear Yorke’s music. Though she writes songs based on her own experiences, fans of her music connect with her words and the experiences she shares. She admits that seeing responses to her music can be overwhelming, but also gives her purpose. “Just knowing that someone is able to take the emotion that I was feeling and then relate it to something that they've gone through, it makes me really happy.”

After a moment to think about my question and take a sip of her juice, she admits with a thoughtful smile, “To be honest, I think it's exactly why I do what I do.”

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

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