Since the early days of her career in 2018, Shygirl has been bathed in sex-laden descriptors. Her music was “braggadocious”, “salacious”, “hedonistic” as her lyricism referenced an unapologetic want to get down and dirty. Get freaky in the sheets. Fuck.
It’s a well worn trope that’s attached itself to her and her music and in time became what she was known for. Yet it’s a theme that in her upcoming release, Nymph, doesn’t hold as much importance.
“Yeah, it’s definitely changed a lot.”
“I do feel like the topic of sex and relationships, and physicality is still something that I’m going to turn over for a long time because it fascinates me,” she says, barely taking a breath between sentences.
“And human connection fascinates me. But I want to make sure that I’m approaching it [the music] with something new, rather than the same energy every time.”
Rewind to 2020, and Shygirl’s EP Alias – a provocative dive into her four sub-personalities (Bovine, Bae, Baddie and Bonk) – had just been released. Filling the tracks were lyrics like “She came to fuck”, “Nasty filthy, moving your body” and “Daddy raised a wild one, daddy raised a fiend”. Anyone would be forgiven if they mistook the lines for simple sex-driven fodder – an aspect of her work that, since her early releases, has cast her as pioneer among a wave of female artists unapologetic about expressing their sexual escapades.
Though Shygirl doesn’t quite see it that way.
“The way I’ve engaged in life is I find that energy anyway. I never thought it was new. That’s why I’m always baffled by other people, they’re like, ‘Oh, your work is super sexual’. And I’m like, ‘Everything’s about sex’.”
“Maybe it’s on my mind too much. That’s what I see. I hear. Everything is about being desired or interacting with desire in some way. But maybe I just pulled it out a bit more and didn’t realise.”
To Shygirl, the ethos behind her work is obvious. It’s less about sex and more about a journey of self-reflection, and if sex seeps into that, then fine. With her upcoming release Nymph, however, she wanted to dive a bit deeper.
“I know I can do this type of song. That’s never kind of going away from me,” she says. “But what else can I do? How else can I approach the subject? I have people’s attention. How do I continue this conversation? I think that Nymph does do that. There’s more there. I want to make sure I can create and not have to push against expectation all the time.”
“I’m always kind of on an investigative journey about what I can do.”
Gaining much of her audience over COVID lockdowns meant that Shygirl couldn’t see the real world implications of her music: her fans were invisible and the crowds at shows non-existent. In her own words, it was one of the major talking points in her upcoming release, as well as the dissociation that came with a recent break-up.
“Being viewed publicly – and trying to figure out how I felt – I didn’t feel good all the time. I was having to present this image of a super confident, desirable woman. There was a point in December where I literally did not even want to look at myself, because I was so aware of myself, which is such a weird space to be in.”
“I was having to live with people being like, ‘Oh, you’re being super body confident’. And I was like, ‘I’m literally dealing with my own fat phobia’, but then having to be in a space of people just assuming that you’re good with yourself.”
Despite the pressures of being in the public eye and its influence on her debut album, coming out as a “real artist”, as she refers to herself now, has proven to produce highs that she’s only dreamed of before.
“I had dinner with Bjork,” she says, coolly.
She’s also collaborated with the likes of FKA Twigs.
“I feel like I’ve really been affirmed by people who have been inspirational points in my life. Twigs really made space for me to do whatever I wanted to do on that song. And that’s how I prefer to work. In a genuine collaboration.”
“I think that’s a big part of the story. The collaborators on Nymph are not just there sonically but are actually in my life. These people who genuinely did understand the development of me as a person during this time.”
While Shygirl’s sex-driven content may be on a slight hiatus in favour of introspection, the artist is in an era of important development, discovering who she is and where she’s going. And, most importantly, finding peace in being understood.
“I want to be connected to other people. I want to communicate constantly. I like being affirmed.”
“I’ve never had to be super explicit about my emotions. I’ve been crass, using sex as a crude analogy sometimes. But having people relate to the emotion of the songs. It’s nice to be validated in that way.”
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