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Allday is not the same rapper you remember

Words by Eliza Sholly

Allow us to reintroduce you.

Three years ago, Tom Gaynor needed no introduction. His debut album was on high Triple J rotation with tracks like ‘You Always Know the DJ’ and ‘In Motion’ getting a consistent spin at house parties across the nation.

In 2019, however, it would appear that a new Tom Gaynor has emerged, and with him comes a mature, insightful album that implores you to take note.

ICYMI, Tom Gaynor is the name on the birth certificate of Australian rapper, Allday. The Adelaide-born musician made modest waves with his debut album in 2014, Startup Cultfollowed by Speeding in 2017. 

With very little promotion coming his way through commercial agencies, he turned to alternative methods to promote his work. Through a concoction of social media strategy and whisper campaigns, Allday was able to build a cult following, enchanting a demographic of listeners that were just like him.

He made the big move to LA two years ago. There, he’s been perfecting his craft and has produced an album featuring the brooding lyricism that made fans take note in the first place.

The album in question, ‘Starry Night Over the Phone’, is a perfect storm.

Where the old him zigged, he now zags. His classic rap style is intertwined with melodic vocals. Songs that were once filled with lyrics about drugs and partying have been replaced with musings on heartbreak, separation and politics. It’s a welcome resurgence, and a true testament to the personal and creative maturity he now exudes.

When I learned I was interviewing Allday, I thought back to when I first heard his name in 2014. He was the kind of Australian up-and-comer you’d regularly hear on the radio, but would also stop to sign your friends left boob at a club gig in Melbourne. A man of the people.

He really gained credibility for me when I watched him deliver a nervous yet astoundingly impressive freestyle on the iconic hip-hop radio show Sway In The Morning, the maker and breaker of some of the biggest names in the genre.

We had a lot to talk about.

‘Starry Night over the Phone’ is a great name, when did you start writing it? 

The first song I wrote was ‘Restless’, the one featuring The Veronicas. That was the only one I wrote when I was still in Australia. The rest were written after moving to LA.

Was the process of writing the album overseas different to writing here?

I think one of the reasons I thought it would be a cool idea to go overseas was because I was getting in my own head about writing and I was overthinking things so much. I knew that in LA artists just go into sessions with strangers and write a song in an hour or two. That felt like something I needed to do.

Are you a self-deprecating by nature, or just when you’re writing?

Oh yeah, my process is very self-loathing.

Was it hard to find people to work with?

A little bit. It’s hard because, in Australia, people have an idea about ‘Allday’ – which opens me up to people who mightn’t ordinarily be in my genre, but will work with me. In America, I’m a bit further down the ladder, so it took me a while to find those people.

I know you’ve said in interviews before that you don’t consider yourself a natural performer, is that still true?

I mean, sometimes I think that and then sometimes I’m on stage having a good time and I think,  “Hey, I’m okay at this.”  I think we’re so quick, as humans, to label ourselves and say “I’m an introvert, I’m an extrovert,” but we’re probably all somewhere in between.

What’s your star sign?

I’m a Pisces. What’s yours?

I’m a Taurus.

Ah, my rising and my moon are Taurus.

Have you done Myers Briggs before?

I have. I’m the one you’d expect, the one that writes poetry and is over-sensitive.

Do you write poetry?

100%

Are you oversensitive?

Fuck yeah, I’m oversensitive.

I’m interested in how much time you spend communicating with your fans.  You’re someone I see doing it regularly. How important is it to you?

Talking to my fans all the time was such a big part of how I tried to wedge my name into popular consciousness.

I think it comes from the fact that I didn’t come from a classic musical background; I started with rapping. I wasn’t even brave enough to have the desires or dreams to make music a career, so when it became apparent that people were enjoying the stuff I made I was just deeply fucking thrilled.

I just wanted to be like, “Thank you, you’re a person who gives a shit about what I’m doing and I love it.” And I still feel that way, but I don’t think I’m that good at Instagram anymore. I want to be better at it but now I’m a bit older I don’t even know what to say sometimes.

But is it something I’ll keep doing? Yes. I always want to be the cool artist who’s a dickhead to interviewers, giving two-word answers. I’m always like, “Oh, it’s so cool when Liam Gallagher is rude in interviews.”

Do you actually think that’s cool though?

I mean, you’re a journalist, so I’m not looking at it from a sympathetic-to-journalists point of view. I’m looking at it from the perspective of myself as an artist who always rambles. My answers don’t always make me look cool, they’re just always honest.

I am sympathetic to the fact that you have to sit here all day and answer the same questions about your work, but don’t you think it’s cool to be nice?

I do. And that’s why I do it. I can’t make myself be a dick. But there’s something cool about the artists who just live their persona to every degree.

You can be that guy if you really want to.

Sure, but that’s not me.  These people I’m talking about don’t give a shit about the interpersonal relations between them and the interviewer – the moment doesn’t matter to them. They’re just thinking about the big picture.

When you first started rapping, were you nervous about what people were going to say?

Yes but you have to break out of that. It’s hard to receive criticism from your peers, but it’s also hard to know what to take on.

I’ve got a pretty tough shell by now, and I feel like I take on the good parts. There was one time where I put something out and a friend of mine wrote a disparaging text message about it, and accidentally sent it to me.

She said, “This is so corny.” And the thing is, I felt that way as well. Criticism really only hurts when you agree with it. If you really believe in what you’ve done, and you know it fucking rules, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says.

Do you feel like that about this album?

There are moments that I love, and sometimes where I think, “I could have done better” but that’s just how it goes. You want to love every song, and you do love every song at one point. Maybe one day I’ll make an album where I love every song.

Your performance on Sway, and even appearing on the show, was a really big deal. Out of all the things you’ve done – music, freestyling, moving halfway across the world – what are you most grateful for?

Honestly, when that Sway thing happened, I was so happy. I grew up watching those freestyle videos. I think I was in America for the first time, driving on tour supporting someone in like Kansas, and my tour manager calls me and asks, “Do you want to rap on Sway?”

I’m almost going to cry thinking about it – it was fucking amazing. I thought he was saying the wrong word. It was pretty special. I hope I get to go back. This album isn’t very rappy, so maybe the next one. I think about it a lot.

Outside Sway, what’s another big moment or goal for you?

There are some big American festivals I’d love to play but to be honest, I should be more specific about my goals, because you’re supposed to put them out there.

I swing between two things: one is being goal-oriented and figuring out what I want to do and doing it; then, on the other hand, music is so esoteric. You’re trying to capture lightning in a bottle, so to attach these ladders and goals just feels like you’re trying to access something from the ether and put it into a song.

So for me to say I want to do this and that, that stuff comes when you just make something good. I should write them down though…

Last question. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?

Oh God, there are so many awful things. Crimes, even. What have I stolen? I’ve stolen a car. I’ve stolen a few cars actually.

Let’s try and think of something that’s a bit more cheeky-naughty so I don’t look like a nutcase. People like mid-level naughty.

Oh, I have one. If we didn’t like an artist at a festival we used to go and get their bottles of alcohol from their room while they were on stage and drink it. How’s that?

You can catch Allday (not stealing artist’s alcohol) at Splendour In The Grass, or on his ‘Starry Night Over The Phone’ Australian tour.

Tickets on sale here

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