By Monica Ng
AARYS is an incredibly beautiful and talented singer and songwriter. On top of that – she’s CANADIAN! If you’ve read my other interviews with musicians Stuck on Planet Earth, Neon Dreams, Craig Stickland, jFEROcious, and King Khan – you would know how much I love Canadian music and supporting Canadian musicians. If you haven’t read those interviews – chop, chop! Check them out under my “Interviews” tab.
I was about to sleep when I came across AARYS’ music. I saw her name mentioned on a post relating to Stuck on Planet Earth or one of their band members. AARYS’ sultry and powerful voice in combination with the music hooked me immediately – a true gem of a discovery. I quickly bought a few of my favourite songs (Bad Thing, Different Kind of High and Leave the Light On) and looked forward to listening to them the next day.
AARYS, originally from the Niagara region, has made Toronto her home. Her debut single, Echo, became a SOCAN Song of the Week, and was featured on radio stations throughout Canada (e.g. CBC Radio 3 as one of “3 Ontario Songs You Need to Hear”). Her debut album, Secrets, was written in both Toronto and LA and released on April 5, 2019. Since then, she has joined Toronto label Division 88 and released a slew of new singles and remixes, with much more to come…
AARYS lives with anxiety and has become a strong advocate for mental health – releasing her song, Talk, on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2020 and organizing a singer-songwriter event as a fundraiser for CAMH. She has also spoken on the subject of mental health and music in a TEDx Talk back in 2018.
Echo (single) – 2018
Secrets (album)– 2019, songs include: What My Secrets Are, Arizona, Bad Thing, Different Kind of High, Heavy, Echo, It’s Good to Be King, Leave the Light On and Goodbye.
Talk (single) – 2020
Body Heat (single) –2020
Uninvited Guests, Glenn Gould (collab album) (Ft. the songs “No Roses” and “Better”) – 2020
Me: AARYS, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. You radiate such a positive energy from your IG photos and videos alone and it’s been great having a chance to chat with you. As I wrote up this interview, I was listening to your music and added “Talk” to my music collection. What a beautiful song.
Congratulations! You recently released your new singles “Body Heat” and “Talk”. You wrote on one of your IG posts that “Body Heat sits in the middle of two themes that hit you in the peak of lockdown: 1) the fear of losing closeness with someone you love (emotionally or physically) and 2) our very human need to touch, see and physically be with each other.”
COVID has affected the whole world in such a horrific way, but at the same time I heard many comments about the “good” things that have come out of it – mainly, the realization that there are more important things in life than being part of the rat race.
What were you doing at the time COVID took over the world stage? And how did the pandemic affect you with respect to your music?
AARYS: Thank you so much! Before COVID first hit, I was making my living performing live full-time. I would play anywhere from 2-6 gigs in one week give or take, always commuting, and when I wasn’t gigging, I was out in the scene in some other way. I was very used to that fast-paced lifestyle, always performing and surrounded by people who would validate my talents with applause, although I would often burn out. The pandemic obviously put a complete stop to all of that. It was tough, mentally, to adjust and I got to thinking a lot about those themes in Body Heat as well as what I was going to do now. I wound up actually doing what I was always too busy to do before, which was learn how to start producing, as well as engineering my own vocal sessions. I’ve also been doing a lot of songwriting, getting tons of new stuff ready for release soon. And I actually enjoyed getting to stay put in Toronto all summer instead of being on the road. Of course, pandemic life still affects me mentally sometimes, but like you said there have been some silver linings.
Me: I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how did you decide on AARYS as your alias? It’s an odd but interesting name.
AARYS: My first name is Sarah, and when I was about 15 or so in my first band, my bandmate started saying my name backwards, pronouncing it like “heiress”. It stuck.
Me: I saw your posts about “Uninvited Guests”. Can you explain the story behind that project?
AARYS: Myself and a collective of amazing artists, released an album that we all worked on together called Uninvited Guests. Division 88, which is the label I am a part of here in Toronto, partnered with Sony Masterworks and Primary Wave to distribute this project that remixes the works of the renowned Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould. Gould spent his life doing things differently by creating his own interpretations of classical pieces; left the world of performing for the recording studio at age 31; and basically predicted our use of technology and the way we would be making and consuming music today. Billy Wild, as the lead producer and president of Division 88, worked for several years on being granted the rights to use Gould’s recordings, and along with a team of other producers and artists, created Uninvited Guests by sampling and remixing these classical pieces. The final result was an album that was a fusion of classical samples and modern, hip hop/electronic/ pop music. I’m featured on the songs “Better”, and “No Roses” (with Your Hunni and Ro Joaquim).
Me: That’s really interesting. I’ll have to check out the new music. I watched part of your video where you were at Kensington Market shopping for a mannequin to burn for your Body Heat video. What is the symbolism behind the mannequin being burned?
AARYS: We were really just trying to come up with a unique way to physically represent someone’s “body heat”, so we made a body hot by lighting a fake one on fire!
Me: Where do you get your musical inspiration? And do you play any instruments?
AARYS: I play guitar, piano and can still rock the flute because I played all through high school and still have one of my own at home. I first got into guitar because of my Dad. He’s also a musician, so he was probably my earliest influence. I get my inspiration from my own life mostly – relationships, experiences and often my journey with mental health. I also get influenced by favourite artists of mine. Currently I’m most in love with Bishop Briggs, BANKS and Lennon Stella.
Me: How long have you been in the music industry? And what would you say was the “moment” where you determined your path as a musician?
AARYS: Well, I’m 25 now and I’ve been working as a musician since I was about 14/15 years old. I was involved in several projects and bands over the years, but I’d say the moment I determined my own path wasn’t until I started working on my album “Secrets”, with my first single as AARYS being released in 2018. That project was the first time I felt like I was finding my sound, and being myself, and it led me to some amazing people and opportunities. I also moved to Toronto because of working on that album, and that’s been the best move ever.
Me: Now that you’ve released Body Heat, Talk and Uninvited Guests, what’s next?
AARYS: Some cool things are still about to happen while we promote the Uninvited Guests project, so stay tuned for those. And next up, I have my next single on deck as well as another exciting collaborative project in the works.
Me: That’s is very exciting. Sounds like you’ve been very busy. My personal mission in life is to find happiness. I feel that life’s too short and you can’t keep putting off the things that you want to do, because it could be too late by the time you get hit with something unknown (like in my dad’s case, he always wanted to take the Transcanada train, but then he got hit with a life-changing stroke just months after his retirement). What are some things that you do to de-stress yourself and find balance in life?
AARYS: To de-stress, I need physical activity in my life. I just love weight training. I also go to therapy when I need to check in on myself, and always make time to have long talks with my family and close friends. Otherwise, I keep trying to find the balance between being so focused on my career, and just having fun as a 25 year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her.
Me: You are a big advocate for mental health awareness. You talk openly about your personal battles with anxiety and self-doubt. I enjoyed reading your comments about your album, Secret. Basically, the album was a medium for you to expose your deepest feelings and thoughts, while allowing the writing process and singing heal you. I completely agree that music has a way of influencing our brains and emotions. Plus I find that the world is too quiet without music.
I watched your short video on YouTube where you talk about your therapy sessions and the “thought replacement” technique that you learned. An example you gave was replacing a negative thought, in your words, “if I stand up for myself, people will think I’m a bitch” and replace the thought with a fact such as “I’m always empathetic, always care about feelings…and would never do anything that was mean, so why would they think I’m a bitch?”
I can relate to you, as I had a lot of self-doubt and emotional issues growing up and it took me decades to learn not to care what others think of me. What are your thoughts on mental health specifically relating to youth?
AARYS: I just think back to when I was younger, and very clearly living with anxiety, yet having no idea that’s what was happening until I was 21 and having a terrible breakdown. I think it’s important for mental health to be widely talked about and accepted so that youth can feel comfortable asking questions and learning about mental health early on. It’s always helpful to see how many other people deal with the same thoughts and feelings as we do.
Me: I ask this of every musician I interview – what tips or advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career as a musician?
AARYS: Try not to compare yourselves to other people, even though it’s hard when social media mainly shows you how awesome your peers are doing. Also, be as authentically yourself as you possibly can be, and you will be happiest with your art and find yourself surrounded by a lot of good people, in my experience.
Me: It was great discovering your music and having a chance to learn more about you. I’m proud of you for helping to breakdown the stigma surrounding mental health and sharing your vulnerability with others, in hopes that they can find a way to open up and get the help they need. It’s also amazing how you turned your negative thoughts and feelings into such masterpieces.
When the world ever returns to some form of “normal”, you’ll see me at your next live performance.
Is there anything else that you wish to share?
AARYS: You’re so sweet! Thank you for these thoughtful questions and I’m glad you’re a fan of my music! Last thing I’ll just reiterate is to stay tuned to my socials for a couple of online performances and upcoming releases being announced soon! Also, there’s a world-wide pandemic going on, so if anyone is feeling down or unmotivated, that’s entirely and completely ok. Check on yourself and talk to each other!