Interview: Azure Ryder on Crazy With The Light, her family roots and songwriting

Azure Ryder‘s tale of discovery is beyond the wildest dreams of any musician. When a friend posted a video of the young singer at BluesFest on her Instagram story a few years ago, she captioned it with a line about Azure having “the most beautiful voice”.

By chance, her now-manager viewed the story and was instantly intrigued – who wouldn’t be? Talking to Azure, she’s instantly captivating. A simple DM to Azure, followed by a phone call and next thing she knows she’s being thrown into writing sessions with some of the greatest.

Only, her manager isn’t just your run-of-the-mill talent fosterer from off the street. It was Tim Manton of TaP Management, who boasts the likes of Dua Lipa, Angus and Julia Stone, Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey on his books. And it is fair to say that Azure is equipped with the talent to join those ranks.

She released her debut EP Running With The Wolves just this year, clocking up over eight million streams on Spotify. Her rich and vulnerable voice paired with modest production takes Azure’s listeners on an intimate journey, creating an instant connection that makes you want more.

Hearing this demand and having years of groundwork behind her to hit the ground running, Azure is backing it up with her next pristine collection, Crazy With The Light. We chatted with the 23-year-old ahead of its release about her collaborators, family and growing as a songwriter.

Azure, how are you? Where are you right now?

I’m good, thank you! I’m in Byron. Well specifically, I’m in Mullumbimby at the moment. I actually fly back to Sydney tomorrow. But I’ve just been up for about a week and a half staying at a friend’s place here, which has been nice. Nice to have a little space. Feels like a tropical rainforest home.

Are you just there for just a little relax, or are you doing any recording there? I know you’ve done some recording in Byron in the past.

Well, my producer actually moved up here from Sydney.

Oh, really? Is this Chris?

Yeah! Chris Collins. Oh my God, his place is literally magic mountain. It’s like overlooking Mount Warning. It’s closer to Tweed, Murwillumbah area. So I have been coming up a few times to work with him and I think I’m actually going to record something with him tonight, which should be fun. Little late night recording.

Wow, nothing like it while you’re in the middle of the mountains, that sounds dreamy! From what I gather about you, you’ve got a pretty amazing discovery story, but I want to find out about the roots of Azure Ryder. So you grew up in the Northern beaches in a large Lebanese-Australian family. Is your family musical?

No, they are not musical. Actually, my brother also has a very beautiful voice. I hear him singing in the shower and if he chose to be a singer, he definitely could be. He is a primary school teacher though…

I’m sure singing comes in handy in primary school teaching for sure.

Yeah, I think so. I think he’s done some of raps with the kids and stuff, so that’s pretty cool. But in terms of my mum and dad… Well, my grandma on my dad’s side was a piano player, so that’s the musical element, I guess. But I grew up being surrounded by music, for sure. From Sam Cooke to Elvis Presley to Norah Jones, all those beautiful artists. So there was no lack of music around me for sure.

You can hear those old school roots in your current vibe. What do your parents do?

My mum is an executive assistant for the Disability [Discrimination] Commissioner [under] the Human Rights Commission, which is pretty incredible. My dad is retired. Well, because COVID happened, he lost where he was working. So, he’s chilling at home at the moment. Chilling at home supporting me.

Yes dad! Have they instilled this love for nature and your environment into you?

Yeah. Well, obviously growing up by the beaches and lots of nature I definitely feel like it’s a massive part of me and that is the reason I am the way I am, and I create the way I do, because nature to me teaches us how to be human. You can’t look at nature and not see the reflection of life in it. Growing up there with my family has been a very special part of me that I feel very lucky to have and lucky to always come back to as well. I think this year has made me realise even more that I’m very much a wanderer and I will go wherever I need to go for my music and I love traveling, but knowing that Australia is somewhere I can always come home to. It’s very lucky. We’re very lucky.

It is a nice corner of the world, hey. We are very lucky that, in amongst this mayhem, we can just be here.

Where were you when everything locked down? You were overseas, right?

No, I just got back in. So I was living in London and then I… Literally, I was just putting my band together in London, just do a couple of shows there. And then my team was like, “We think we need to get you back to Australia now. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the borders.” And I got back in a week before the borders shut.

That is so lucky. Your little “wolf pack” band here is great!

It’s so great because my producer, Chris, he has a connection to each of them as well and they all knew each other and it was just this full circle thing that I just felt was very meant to be. And the first time I stepped in the room with them, I literally… My heart literally just bursted. I felt incredible tingles.

Who connected you with them?

The first thing I did was The Sound. I did a performance for that program and so I was up in Byron at the time with Chris actually, working on my third EP and everything was happening really fast and so [Joel Farland] was trying to find people and sending me through photos and stuff, and Luke and Rosie were sent through and I’m very energy-based, so I could feel even through the good vibes all that sort of stuff.

And I was sitting with Chris and I was like, “Hi Chris, do you know this guy called Luke?” And then I showed him, he’s like, “Oh my God, Luke! My friend Luke, he’s incredible. He’s the most beautiful, kindest person.” And then the same thing with Rosie, I was like, “This girl looks really cool.” and I was like, “Chris, do you know Rosie?” And he was like, “Rosie, my friend’s Rosie.” It was just this great moment and I just felt really special because Chris has obviously been an important part of this journey and having him connect to them as well and them playing our music…

That’s a good reassurance! So let’s talk about the music then. When did you start owning this as a career, because I know you started in church choirs? When did it become a legitimate pursuit?

I’ve wanted this as a legitimate pursuit my whole life, but before Tim [Manton] found me, my manager, I was trying to do gigs here and there, weddings, cafes, that sort of thing. But in terms of my own music, I found that it’s so hard to find anyone to help and give me that hand.

And so, because I’ve always been a writer, I’ve always seen words in melodies and that sort of thing, but putting it to music is where I struggled… With the instrumental side. So before then, I was writing all the time but then when I met Tim, when he found me, literally the day after I met him, he had me the next morning in my first proper writing session. So it’s been three years now, I think, since meeting Tim.

Really?! “Dizzy” came out in March, didn’t it?

“Dizzy” was out end of February and then the EP was out in March, yeah.

So you’ve been really lining your cards up because for me, as a listener, I’m like, “This girl is just non-stop. She’s got a second EP of the year coming out, she’s crazy.”

I have a lot of music! Well, Tim, my manager made a joke at the start of working with him. He was like, “You’re going to write a hundred songs.” And I was like, “No, Tim, I can’t write a hundred songs, are you kidding me?” Now I have a hundred songs. I’ve got lots coming. As I said, I’ve been working on my production of my third EP right now. I was in Nashville end of last year and I’ve written half of my album and I’ve got no shortage in the music department!

Would you say that the song writing process comes a lot easier to you now? Are you more of a top liner or do have you learnt more of the instrumentation now? What’s it look like in the studio?

It’s definitely different in every room, but for the most part, I either will come in with some sort of idea or some little lyrics I’ve written or a melody that I’ve got or then, it could happen that I come into the room with nothing, but then… Say something is played on the piano and the guitar and then suddenly that sparks something for me. But yeah, I feel like I’m just getting more confident and stronger in just going with the flow and not putting crazy pressure on myself because I think definitely in the beginning, when I first got over to London and LA, I really put a lot of pressure on myself to think that every single session has to be amazing, every song has to be amazing. I have to leave with something incredible and that creeped me out a lot.

And then I came to the realisation that no one can do that. That’s not possible, no matter how great an artist someone is, they’re never going to be on a hundred percent of the time. I remember being on a train in London to one of my sessions after I’d been feeling not so great and just people-watching as you do and I’d seen a guy and he’s going to his nine to five office job and I’m like, “I get to go write a song today.” The fact that that’s what I get to go do is so lucky and so privileged in itself that I don’t need to freak myself out about it.

No matter what the product is, at least the process is such a privilege to have.

Yeah, and you’ll learn! I’ve learnt so much through every single experience I’ve been in, whether they’ve been bad or amazing. It’s all a learning process and a growing process and I want to learn and grow as much as possible, I think we all do. I’m just happy that I get to do this.

Hundred percent. Speaking of your collaborators, so you’ve got Chris Collins, but you’ve also worked with Dylan Nash who’s behind Dean Lewis, Eluera… Good name to work with! Who else have you been collaborating with? Is there anyone else behind Crazy With The Light?

Actually, Crazy With The Light is purely Chris Collins and Dylan Nash. So yeah, the duo. It’s really cool because basically Chris sandwiches the two Dylan songs, which I really love. So Chris is the beginning and the end and Dylan is the middle, and “Oh What A Relief” is part two to “Stronger”. This really feels like a beginning, a middle and end. I hope people can see that and feel that.

That’s beautiful. You’ve got gigs at the Oxford Art Factory [OAF] in December – what can we expect from your debut live show?

Oh, I hope that everything that people feel when listening to my music, they will feel in that room and they will visualise it and see it in that room. I think live is super important. It’s basically the most important part of this to me because it’s that real face-to-face connection. And so I just want people to be on that same, I guess, high with me, that wild, just free feeling that I think is… I don’t believe you can find that in any other space. I feel like live music, there’s nothing that can ever replace that. And to be doing this right now in the world with COVID, to be lucky enough to even start this process now is special within itself. So, I just want to make sure that everyone feels as free and open and just loved in that space as possible. So, bring some magic and some sparkle boots and yeah, go have fun.

Well, that’s the thing about you. I think you’re naturally a magnetising human and I feel like in an intimate space, like the OAF, in this sit-down setting, it really works in your favour. We get to see your first show with a little candle at table really close which is going to be amazing! Is there anything else in your world coming up that we should know about?

Next month is EP release and live shows. Just like everything is all guns blazing centred around all of that. So I’m just super excited to start this part of the journey.

And we’re excited to watch it! Azure Ryder, thank you so much for chatting with me. As I said before, you’re just a stunning, poetic human and I can’t wait to watch this phase of your career.

Thank you so much.

Crazy With The Light is available NOW.

Catch Azure Ryder LIVE:

December 2, 6:30pm | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW
December 2, 9:00pm | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW
December 3, 6:30pm | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW SOLD OUT
December 3, 9:00pm | Oxford Art Factory | Sydney, NSW SOLD OUT

Tait McGregor