On The Record | Illy Talks Fresh Beats, Festivals And Finding His Voice

By Morgan Reardon
14th Nov 2019


We’re long-time fans of Aussie hip hop legend Illy so we’ve been champing at the bit to hear his new beats. Turns out, the wait was worth with it with singles Then What and newbie Lean On Me tearing up the charts and showing how much the artist has grown in his approach to music. 

While we’re hanging for his next album (hint: it’s looking like March) and tour, we’re stoked Illy’s hitting the festival circuit hard this summer, bringing his good vibes to regional Australia. The really good news though? He's also coming to Brisbane this weekend. Oh yeah.

The ARIA nominated artist will be heading to the Story Bridge Hotel this Sunday 17 November for KFC's 'Bucket. Why Not?' gig series, and best of all, it's completely free. You'll have to be quick to score tickets to the secret gig though—you can either sign up to the KFC newsletter here in the hopes of getting one of 300 guaranteed spots, or rock up to the Storey Bridge nice and early for the remaining 450 spaces. Time to grab the foldable chairs, looks like we're camping out.

We recently caught up with the rapper to talk about his new music, tour essentials and who he’s digging in Aussie music right now. 

You’re a festival fiend this summer, is getting out there on the road and performing all over the place one of the best parts of the job?

Absolutely! It's been a minute since I've been touring hard because I just haven't had much music out for the last couple of years. With the new songs that I've put out recently and the new album not too far over the horizon I’m getting exciting to spend summer doing these festivals. Hopefully next year I'll be doing a lot more shows because I really do miss being on the road. I can't wait to get started.

What's your fave song to perform live right now?

We've only played a handful of shows since Then What came out so it would still probably be Papercuts, but now that Lean On Me is out I think the next show we play people will like it—it's a good song for a festival.

A lot of the festivals you’re hitting, like Out Of Bounds, are regional, less big city, is that a deliberate choice?

Yeah 100%! If you look at my touring history I've always loved going regional. I've always been brought up on the mantra if there is somewhere you can go play a show, go there and play it. I've kind of held on to that philosophy throughout my career. For my last album tour we did a 41-day regional tour, we went to places I didn't even know existed. I know first-hand that crowds go equally as crazy in Exmouth as they do in Melbourne. 

Since you’re hitting the road again, what are your top three tour essentials?

I hate to be boring here but I have to say my phone, my Nintendo Switch and a couple of Yankees hats. Nothing too wild or crazy for me.

Your latest release, Lean On Me, has got a bit of a pop vibe to it, is that something you want to explore more with future music?

To be honest it’s something that I've always kind of been open to—I actually find it really challenging to write those kind of songs. Even on my very first mixtape there was a melody where I was pushing that side a little bit more than the people [in hip hop] around me were. It's not something that I've just decided one day to flip switch and go down that pop route but I think I've just gotten more confident with it. I think I'm better and more capable at writing good songs now that aren't just typical boom back rap tracks. This new stuff is just continuing that trajectory. People get funny about pop but it's really fucking hard to make a pop song so I find it really challenging and then really rewarding when I finish it. 

The film clip is rad! What’s the story behind it?

I wrote the song for someone really close to me that had gone through some shit. It's not about me, so I didn't want to be in the video, performing to camera. The idea behind it was to remove me from it and focus on the choreography, which is something new and pushes me to a different place. It's probably my favourite video that I've ever put out so I’m really glad I stuck with my idea for it and saw it through. 

You’ve got Robinson on the track, what's your process like for collaborating with other artists?

Basically I'll write the song and have the demo with me on the hook and then it's going out and finding who is going to bring their magic to the track. It's a different track to track but with Lean On Me, I had heard Nothing To Regret last year and I loved it and I hit Robinson up without ulterior motives just to congratulate her on that track. Then with Lean On Me for months I was just racking my brain over who I could get on it and Nothing To Regret came [on the radio] and it was like a sign. And she destroyed it, it wouldn't be the same without her.

Who would be your next dream collab?

My absolute dream would be Sia. She's incredible. 

Who are you digging in Aussie music that you want to shine a light on?

All Day's new album Starry Night Over the Phone was a great album that I feel like more people should get around. 

And finally, what's 2020 looking like for you?

It's going to be busy! The album comes out—it's looking like March—and we haven't properly toured in a few years so there’s going to be a lot of shows. It's going to be sick, I can't wait. 

You can catch Illy, plus The Rubens and Mallrat, at Out Of Bounds Festival 18 January. Head here for tix and info. 

Image Credit: Simon Upton

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

You May Also Like