To say Alice Ivy is just a “collaborator” is an unjust understatement, yet adding “hyper” before the word might get you a little closer to the truth. The young producer is a wunderkind for joint work having teamed up with some of Australia’s brightest and most well-known musicians. It’s a trait that holds a certain pliability, and when applied to her music cultivates an ever-evolving, boundary-pushing result. However, nowhere close to new is this characteristic.
From her careers conception in 2016, to her debut album release ‘I’m Dreaming’ in 2018, then to her latest record of 2020, ‘Don’t Sleep’, Ivy’s diverse collection of voices has always found a way to champion that left-of-centre stage while also creating funky, hip-hop inspired tracks amassing hundreds of thousands of fans nationally. Not going unrecognized, it’s with this sense of musical community that Alice Ivy has been chosen to feature as part of New Balance and Footlockers NB Collective campaign.
With the aim “To ‘enerigze a generation by sharing the story of an inspiring young person who’s making a positive impact within their own community,” Alice Ivy stands as the forerunner. A fecund producer not only in her personal musical work but also her output in her local surroundings, the years have seen Ivy lead all-female/non-binary production classes, involve herself in organisations like The Push and plough space for those who wouldn’t ordinarily have one.
With 2021 now in full swing ACCLAIM were lucky enough to sit down with the multifaceted producer to talk her latest involvement in the campaign, while discussing the ebbs and flows of her career, the importance of local community and collaboration, and hardier topics like the issues of non-male representation and need for diversification in the music industry.
So let’s take it back to the start. When did you first get into music? Can you remember the moment when everything clicked for you?
For sure! I guess I always had a connection with music. My parents, if we’re going all the way back, used to always have Queen, or Pink Floyd, or lots of Super Tramp playing. We used to go on really long road trips and mum and dad would always have that music blaring. So from a young age I was always surrounded by music. I didn’t really pick up an instrument until I was 11 or 12. I really wanted to do it but I never had the opportunity to, and then my Uncle taught me a couple of chords on the guitar. I just became absolutely obsessed and I just wanted to get better and better. Then I picked up guitar lessons and from then on I practiced and started playing in bands. I realised when I was a teenager that I really loved it and I was really happy and I always felt like that was definitely the path I wanted to go down.
Back then I was also really collaborative, I was always trying to work with as many people as possible and I always felt comfortable with another writer in the room. I thought collaborating was so much more fun than sitting in my room playing guitar to myself. So, I guess I didn’t know it back then but I sort of had this whole collaboration thing happening without me realizing. Then I got into uni and that’s where I was first introduced to music production. Just being able to do anything by yourself, on your laptop and make whatever you want and have the freedom to just do anything, work with anyone. That’s when I kind of realized that’s the specific path in music that I wanted to take, rather than just playing guitar in bands.
Who were some of those driving influences growing up, inside music and outside of it as well?
Well first of all I grew up listening to and playing Soul Motown music. So definitely that genre has had an influence on how I make music today. Artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Temptations. When you look at Soul music, you’re listening to a song that literally has 50 stems on it but everything works with each other. It’s like a lovely collage of sound, and it’s got soul and meaning and it kind of hits you in the chest. I guess that those kinds of artists definitely have a way they sound and specific production that influence my production today. My music has a lot of layers, there’s a lot to digest, so I guess strictly music-wise those artists have definitely had a massive influence on where I am today.
In real life, I guess the first person that comes to mind is my Great Auntie who recently passed away, but she was 90. She was such a go-getter, she was still doing yoga, still driving, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not though(laughs). She was always the rock of the family, very much like you get yourself up, you keep going, you keep doing it. I love those people that have that constant drive, that have so much energy and there’s so much goodness around them. So I guess my great Aunty is another one that comes to mind. Also other people just real quick, growing up to like Kanye West and Frank Ocean, artists that are literally pushing the boundaries and not following someone else’s path, they’re paving the way in pop and electronic music. So those artists as well, rule breakers I guess.
So Congratulations on being a part of the NB Collective Campaign. What’s it been like?
I feel like what I really love about the messaging on this campaign is that the shoe is bold and colourful and kind of powerful and it makes a statement, and that’s definitely something when I look at my career that I keep wanting to do too, make statements. Help a listener feel empowered and give them energy as well. I feel like that’s a very mutual comparison between me and the shoe (laughs). I hung out with New Balance for a day last year and we walked through what my daily routine was, I’ve got my cafe that I go to, and one thing that I also did in lockdown was get a dog, so I went for a walk every day and that really helped with my mental health. And yeah making music at home, so we spent the day together shooting this thing, and yeah it was amazing, I feel like it’s a pretty cool campaign to be involved in.
Local community seems to play an important role for you. From the beginning to the present stages of your career, how has your local community helped shape you as a person and your opportunities in the music industry?
We’re very blessed in Melbourne, we do have a very tight local music scene. Melbourne is home to so many incredible artists. I guess I’ve always felt comfortable being able to approach people, particularly in the early stages of my career. Even if it’s just like hitting up an artist and saying, “Hey I love your work, would you mind if we got a coffee”. There’s a lot of support. From the early stages of my career, I was really involved with organisations such as The Push and I was doing a bit of work once I got better at Ableton. Community radio is also incredible like PBS, triple R, they’ve always been so supportive for me from the get go. I also feel like it’s really important to remember that as an artist in your home town it’s your duty to understand that the roles are somewhat reversed in a sense, there are young artists coming through and now it’s your job to support these young artists. I just feel like it’s really important to stay true and stay grounded and you know Melbourne is everything to me.
Before you were talking about how Alice Ivy’s a very collaborative project, what inspires you about collaboration? But also how do you find the common ground with the artist you collaborate with?
What I love about collaborating is that it’s unpredictable. I love that. It’s so weird, especially if it’s an artist you don’t know, you kind of have to break the ice a little bit but I feel like once you’re on the same page and the same level it’s amazing what can come out of collaboration. What I think is going to happen doesn’t necessarily happen, I love the excitement of it. Also I feel like the more you collaborate the better you get at songwriting. Both artists are in the room putting their songwriting skills on the table and you know you take things away from the collaboration like, “Oh maybe I’ll do it this way next time.” I just feel like it’s a really exciting and refreshing way to write music, especially as a producer. I do contribute to melody and lyrics but obviously making music is my main thing. But also finding the common ground in that can be tough with artists. I feel like being on the same page with references and playing each other music, and trying to understand, I feel like it’s honestly like a tinder date. You have to get to know this person really quickly, and then it’s like, “cool, alright we’ve had a couple of drinks and you know we’re telling each other deep and meaningful stories”, that’s what songwriting is like, you know. You get to know each other and then you have a coffee and then it’s like, “alright, so we’re gonna pour our hearts out onto the page”. It’s a strange situation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I feel like that’s the amazing thing about collaborating, it keeps you on your toes.
How do you choose who you collaborate with? Is there a process?
Again, I’m really drawn to artists that are doing their own thing and are paving their own way and are unique in their own sense and who are true to themselves. If you listen to ‘Don’t Sleep’, my last record, there’s a lot of diverse artists on it. I’m a massive fan of all of them and I guess the common thing about all of those artists is that they are unique in their own way. And they’re all so true to themselves and that’s what draws me to working with them.
You often seem to champion voices that aren’t centre-stage in broader society, especially in your latest release ‘Don’t Sleep’, was that a purposeful decision?
To be honest I just really wanted to work with artists who I fucking love and admire, and that’s how it worked. I feel like that should be a normal way of thinking, like literally, I admire and respect every single one of those artists and I’m so blessed that I was able to work with them. I had a collection of 30 songs and I chose the ones that I connected with the most and so that’s how it all came together.
What has the project meant to you personally? And what do you want fans to take away from it?
This project honestly took 3 years to write. It means so much to me and I’m so humbled that people really connected with this record. I feel like I want people to listen to every song on this record, each song has a unique story and artist behind it. I want the people listening to the record to go deep on that artist as well. Taking away I really want people, especially in music, to be more open to collaborating with really diverse artists. I feel like it’s also really important to understand, especially in electronic music, that you don’t have to do things the same way everyone else does. Understand that you can try something new, be more open to collaboration in a more diverse way.
One thing I noticed between your first project I’m Dreaming and the second Don’t Sleep is that titles are contradictory. Was there a shift in mentality in the time between the two records?
I love that you noticed that! I think that I’m Dreaming was my first point on the map. It was my debut record so it was playful, it was fun, I was not really serious about it, and that record opened up a lot of opportunities for me. From then on I was on back to back tours in 2018, I got to be in the room with so many dope artists and then on Don’t Sleep I feel like I really matured. I feel like being able to work with incredible artists and being able to make this record definitely has been a step up for me in songwriting, and in one sense too I’m hitting the ground running, like ‘don’t sleep on this shit’. I’m Dreaming is like, to put it in simpler terms, is my head’s in the clouds but Don’t Sleep is like we’re hitting the ground running.
So what do you think the third one’s going to be called?
I don’t know (laughs). It’s weird going through a pandemic, sleep cycles are a bit strange but I’ve got my head deep into new music and starting to turn a page in 2021, so we’ll see what happens.
So you came onto the scene early 2016, a lot must have changed since then. Do you think you’ve changed much since those early days?
I don’t know. I definitely feel a lot more mature, that I understand things a little more. I feel like it comes down to working with different artists and going on tour, and understanding what tour life is and what working with a big team means. I’ve also realised that I literally just want to keep doing my own thing. I just want to make music that makes me feel really happy and passionate and emotional and I just want to keep working with artists. That’s one way I’ve kind of grown up, just trust your gut and keep doing what you’re doing and block out the noise, that’s something I’ve realised in maturing as a producer.
So what was a moment in your career that challenged you and how did you overcome it?
Ah, my god! I mean there’s the obvious, the elephant in the room, going through the pandemic. I guess it was a really big deal, and I guess it still is, going through at a point where I was about to put out my record then the pandemic hits and live touring stops for every single artist in the world. I’m a very collaborative person and in person sessions stopped instantly. Doing zoom sessions, and again I know that so many people had it so much harder than me, so I don’t want to make it sound like that was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through, but staying at home and becoming virtual and trying to understand how I can pay bills and earn money without my highest income stream, it was a very very stressful thing to go through last year. I guess I just realized life goes on and this is part of it and things that I did to overcome that was just saying yes to everything.
And has it been hard readjusting to collaboration in person again?
I feel like I’m definitely back on my training wheels. I feel like my song writing’s there but it’s a little bit like “oooh okay alright” you know, it’s a bit like “Yeah, cool I need to keep this verse on loop so you can write to it, I can’t mute myself”, you know, trying to do things quick like a fast pace. I feel like the world kind of slowed down for me a little bit last year in the sense that production-wise I’m so used to going into 8 hour days with artists and being like, “cool, we’re gonna write a song”, but now being like, it’s been four hours and I’m a little tired. But I feel like it will come back.
At least everyone’s in a similar boat.
Yeah totally, it’s the same with live shows though, I did this show and literally like 20 minutes before we were on I was like, “I’ve literally left all my laptops in the hotel room” (laughs). I was like I really cooked that. It was fine in the end but I was like I’m out of sync here, you know, I don’t have my shit together.
So before you mentioned that you were running all-female and non-binary production classes. Another thing I noticed is that you got nominated for a couple of ARIAS (Best Dance Release, Engineer of the Year) yet you were also the only female nominated for both. So I guess I wanted to ask a question surrounding how important it is for you to see the representation of women in production, and the music industry in general, rise?
Yeah, it means so much to me, you know, it’s one thing I really can’t get my head around. How big the gap is between on-male and male artists, particularly in the electronic field. I feel like it is really important to be really involved in local communities and be involved in helping young female non-binary artists get the confidence and feel comfortable and safe putting out music because it is a very male-dominated field. I did really appreciate the nod with the ARIA nominations but I think out of the dance category no female artist or non-binary artist has ever won, only groups, so no solo female/non-binary producer. Only one engineer has won for Engineer of the Year and that was about 20 years ago. So getting that nod was nice, and I really really appreciate that but I just feel like there are so many incredible female/non-binary producers out there where we need to create this space for them to be in the light as well. Off the top of my head Maribelle/ Vetta Borne, she is absolutely amazing. She’s an incredible topliner but produces as well. Ninajirachi, she makes some of the dopest dance music and she’s one of the most underrated producers in Australia. I could keep going, I just wish there was more light on these artists and I feel like the way to do that is creating a safe space for them, that’s it. Hopefully we’ll see a reduced gap in gender diversity in electronic music particularly, but across the board as well.
Currently as one of Australia’s top producers obviously a lot of young artists look up to you, but switching that around, who do you look up to and who is informing your work at the moment?
That kind of steps back into the question about influencers on my music, at the moment I’m focusing on those organic sounds and trying to stay true to myself and working with artists that I love and rule-breakers also. Artists such as -I’ll talk about Australian artists – bands like Cub Sport, I think they’re amazing cause they literally stay true to themselves and they make music that they believe in and they’re a fully independent band. Sampa the Great, we could talk about how amazing Sampa is all day, everything she puts out is flawless. In the past year anything that she’s recorded is absolutely incredible and what I love most about it is that she just does her thing. She blocks out all of the noise, stays true to herself and does her thing.
Hiatus Kaiyote, Nai palm, I love that Nai palm stays true to herself. Baker Boy, you know, incredible artist. Those people top my list.
So just one more question. What are your hopes for the next generation of music makers and what’s some advice you could leave them with?
I hope the gap closes between non-male and male artists in music. I really hope that we create a safer space for more diverse artists to come forward and be in the light, because there are plenty of them and they deserve that too. And advice that I’d give to up-and-coming artists is just to stay true to yourselves, make music that you believe in and also be humble, understand where you come from and your community and what that community has done for you, and when you get to a point give it back, understand that it’s not just one way. So yeah, stay true to yourself and remember where you’re from and just believe in the music you’re making.