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Meet Yorke, The Pop Newcomer Mixing The Intimacy Of Byron Bay With The Ambition Of New York

Yorke

When you name yourself after the most exciting city in the world, you're laying out your ambition from the start. That's exactly what 20 year-old Byron Bay local Grace Hughes has done, calling herself Yorke, inspired by a deep love for the city. Byron Bay and New York may be world's apart, literally and figuratively, but it's that juxtaposition between the big and the small that defines Hughes' music best.

She burst onto the scene just a month ago with her debut single First Light. It's a raw, warm pop song that's powered along by thundering percussion in the chorus. Her voice is gentle and finessed but she packs a surprising amount of power into the song's delectable hook. Just like the difference between Byron Bay and New York, First Light is familiar but ambitious, the work of a young artist who knows exactly the sort of artist she wants to be.

Over the past few months, Yorke has relocated to Sydney where she's been working on the follow-up tracks to First Light. She's also starting to plan her live show and while she's excited about working with a band, she's also motivated by the idea of having a pop show as theatrical as Taylor Swift somewhere down the line.

Continuing with the theme of firsts, Hughes has also just dropped her debut video. Filmed in rainy Sydney, it's a lo-fi, intimate look into a day in the life of Yorke. It was directed by Jaen Collective who have also worked on videos for the likes of Paces and Nicole Millar. It's a gentle introduction into Yorke's world and one that she'll no doubt continue to reveal as she shows us more and more.

We spoke to Yorke ahead of the release of the video about ambition, exploring new cities and the artists she admires the most.

Does it feel like you're over the first major hurdle after releasing your debut?

It's such a relief. Words can't really describe. I was so anxious in the lead-up to the release but it's so nice to finally have it out.

Was it hard for you to decide which song you were going to put out first?

Not really. That one just felt really right. The day that I wrote it with Chris Collins (Tigertown) we were pretty much like, "ah, this could be the one." Then we worked on it some more and it ended up falling into place.

It's one of those songs that immediately feels like we know you as an artist.

That's great.

What comes after this for you? Are you looking at an EP or an album?

We'll definitely be releasing lots of new music, maybe an EP and we're going to start doing lots of gigs which is really exciting.

Have you started thinking about translating these songs into the live arena?

Personally, I've been playing around with my guitar and keyboard but I'm going into pre-production in the next few weeks. I'm really excited about getting a band together.

I really like that you find so much inspiration in a city like New York when you live in Byron Bay because they're very different places. Is it the juxtaposition that draws you to New York?

I grew up in Sydney and moved to Byron when I was 8. Having originally been from the city and although Sydney is nothing compared to New York, I've always felt connected to a city setting rather than a country setting. I've visited New York a few times and I've absolutely fallen in love with it. I guess, it's where I want to end up even if it's just for a little period of time in my life. Byron is very different but it's cool having those polar opposites.

When you put Yorke in your name, your tattooing it on yourself. The ambition is laid out.

Definitely.

You can walk just two blocks in New York and get 10 pieces of inspiration. There's always something strange going on.

It's amazing. I was there in February and I was just walking around, I was there with my parents, I had my phone out trying to sneakily record voice memos and I was constantly writing in the notes on my phone. It's an amazing city.

There's no way to dress or act or behave, it's what you wake up and feel like doing.

I feel like with Yorke, the way I wanted it to come across is everyone seems to get something different out of it. Everyone's experiences are so vastly different, I thought it would be so great to create a sound that everyone can get something different out of and that can be what they attach on to. That's sort of where the name came from.

Do you feel like you've achieved that with First Light?

Yeah, a lot of people think it's a love song. It's not. It's more about looking after yourself and being able to look after the people around you, your friends and family. It's not necessarily a romantic love. A lot of people seem to get that out of it which I thought was pretty cool.

Are you an artist that takes inspiration from other artists whether they be around you or huge artists you've never met?

I try and shy away from it. Naturally, it's infused by what I'm listening to at the time anyway but with First Light we didn't say, "let's listen to this song and make it sound like this." We just wanted to create a new sound with it being a debut.

Is there an artist whose career trajectory you look at and think you'd love for that to happen to you?

I've always been a pretty big Taylor Swift fan in terms of her writing. That's pretty far fetched. Maybe Lana Del Rey would also be a pretty cool example. Even Broods.

Taylor Swift is an interesting one to mention because before she went in a more explicitly pop direction, some of the stuff she was making went into the indie, alternative realm.

Yeah, and they're probably my favourite albums of hers anyway. Her stuff is really cool. I'm seeing her tonight.

Obviously seeing Taylor Swift is very different to, say, seeing a band at Enmore Theatre. Can you see the Yorke project turning into something that's more performative and grand?

If I could, definitely. I feel like having the name Yorke, you can think of New York when you think of Yorke and it's so big and bold and quite theatrical with all the Broadway stuff. As a performer, I've always done musical theatre. Obviously I'm not going to do a whole musical theatre show but it would be really cool to be able to do something like that in 10 years maybe. Make it more of an experience rather than just a band playing.

So often I speak to new Australian artists and there's expectation that new artists fit into a more modest, alternative box. It's cool to hear you from the outset with this ambition to go as big as you can.

That's pretty much it summed up.

What's studio life for you like at the moment?

I've recently temporarily moved to Sydney to focus on writing. I've been there for about three weeks so far and it's amazing. I'm loving it. Next year, hopefully I'll be able to do a few writing trips over to the States and maybe the UK too. I'm getting heaps of material which is really exciting and working on the next couple of singles.

Are you finding some good collaborators there?

Yeah. I've worked with some really amazing people in the last few months. Ever since the Yorke project started I've been able to work with some really amazing producers. That's been really inspiring.

If you could jump into anybody's DMs on Twitter and ask them to produce for you who would you choose?

I would love to work with M-Phazes. Maybe Jack Antonoff. Maybe one day, who knows?