Writing songs since she was 12, Auckland singer/songwriter Sally has had plenty of time to learn that being in the music industry is far from a walk in the park. Her new single, Better, isn’t the first song she has released, but the uplifting and self-confident pop ballad is a good reminder to hold your head high, and that there’s no such thing as a bad time for self-development. Better made it onto NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks playlist for July – while Sally was up north – in Denmark.
My full name is Sally-Anne Faherty. I play the guitar and the piano.
Vocal lessons at high school were the first steps in me learning I could use music to get out of ‘real’ lessons at school. So it was really important! I mostly hated school, so learning that I could get out of classes by joining every musical group or choir had me singing. I spent a lot of lunchtimes in the library, which I think is where I must have realised that I loved words.
I started writing about age 12 actually, but they were just little jingles that I’d sing to make fun of my family. Once I got a guitar I got more serious. As I think back on it now I’m sure my songwriting wasn’t that great at the time, but it was definitely a good thing that I didn’t know how bad I was. So I just kept writing and luckily, I improved a little, haha! I spent a few years having a more soft jazz / blues approach to music, I think they were actually just super, super slow because at that time I also smoked a lot of weed. I really enjoy the way I’m doing it now, where I still mostly write on the piano and then work with producers to bring it to life.
I was born a Sally and I’ll die a Sally.
Honestly, I think Better is beautiful as a song in its most minimal form, and that’s what made it stand out to me. The fact that I felt so awful when I wrote it, and something about every time I sing it I feel a sense of power – that is what made me choose it as a single. Also I played it to my best friend years ago and she keeps telling me that she always tries to sing the word ‘better er eh’ the same as me, so I thought if I release it as a single, Alison could get some practice and, honestly, she needs all the help she can get, bless her.
It’s kind of like a break up then wake up to yourself song. It’s like a glass of cold water or a slap to the face when you’re being irrational, self-pitying and self-destructive. I was just being such a shitty person and allowing myself to be like that, and then when someone told me they didn’t want to see me anymore I (metaphorically) looked in the mirror and was like, “fuuuuck, I don’t wanna see me either right now”. I guess the song is about the self-improvement and personal growth after that.
The bridge is generally my favourite part of any song but, with the bridge on Better I feel like I can explode and just unleash a whole lot of something emotional. I love that.
I wrote Better on a weekend at the studio, I love those weekends when nobody is there and I can sit on the kitchen bench and smoke out the window. (I don’t do that anymore if anyone from the studio is reading this, especially Luke!) I stood in the stairwell for about 15 minutes making noises and then just listening to the echo of my own voice. And then I thought, ‘Okay, I should write now.’ So I wrote about how I felt like I’d finally stopped being a shitbag. I produced this with Cymbol, and he actually did the vocal recording also on the night we went in to track vocals.
I’d had a huge argument with someone who said some of the most horrible things I’ve ever had to listen to, and so when I recorded it I was fucking furious and heartbroken, but also determined to finish the session.
As long as it makes somebody feel something then I don’t mind what the feeling is.
I can’t answer that one I’ve only put out two and both times it was terrifying. But I don’t really know what the criteria is. Maybe it’s just a little feeling.
I made the video with Abe Mora and some other great people, then it was edited by Commotion.
I’m actually writing this from the bedroom of a speedboat in a harbour in Denmark. I’ve been in Denmark and Norway writing for and with some really sweet and talented Scandinavians. I guess it’s not a project for myself but my other passion is to write for other people also. I was here last year doing the same. There’s a really cool up and coming Danish artist called Rosa and we’ve done a lot of work on new songs for her this summer.
I love these three:
I think music must be like 90% rejection and 5% banging your head against a wall – and then hopefully 5% success. I’m still learning, but the only advice that I could give would be to not fall into the trap of believing it’s easy. I used to see all the musicians I admired and I thought that someone discovered them, and then the next day they were Britney Spears. It’s so much harder than it looks, but it’s also pretty great sometimes. And also be nice to yourself and everyone else.