CREDIT: Richard Freeman
Zimmerman dress, Gigi smeyes, temperament: phlegmatic. You could easily be fooled by 18-year-old Olivia “JOY.” McCarthy’s stolidly calm demeanour. And unless she’s upset that today is the same day The Eagles’ Glenn Frey passed away whom she was a fan, you’d assume McCarthy is rather shy. “You just met me when I was tired,” McCarthy laughs post-shoot. “I guess I am a bit quiet but then my friends would probably say differently. And then on stage, well, you amplify your personality, become a little bit cooler, a little bit more sassy.” As for the similarities to Hadid, McCarthy’s getting used to it. “I get it all the time, but only recently,” she explains. “It must be the way I do my makeup or something.”
But it’s definitely not just her strobing techniques. Right down to the intricacies of her style – “I like a crop track top and leggings” – McCarthy even has the Hadid facial symmetry down; wide eyes and baby cheeks. “I spend a lot of the time in the studio so I have a really big sneaker obsession. I collect them,” says McCarthy, “I’ll wear a Nike or Adidas sneaker with everything.”
Throughout her years of private schooling in Brisbane, McCarthy studied classical piano under the Australian Music Examination Board (AMEB) where she completed grade eight. “I don’t know how I passed the exams because I couldn’t really read music at all, I would just learn everything by ear.” Despite her sight-reading being poor, the singer-songwriter began studying composition via computer software and started producing.
In August 2015, she released her debut EP Ode, a chilled, dreamy and ethereal indie pop; her delicate vocals singing of love, lust and the pain of moving on that you would swear were not penned by someone so young.
“I’m a very observant person and I watch what’s going on around me always”
“Joy is my middle name and I enjoyed that it’s the complete opposite of the things I sing about,” she says. So easy is it to mentally escape while listening to Falling or lead single About Us, its youthful melancholia lusty and angsty. The tracks are an equal mix of something that will either appear in the next 50 Shades or help you unwind on an aeroplane in the meantime. Ode went straight to number one on the iTunes intense electronic charts (Ellie Goulding even played it on Beats 1 Radio), prompting a sold out headline tour around Australia. Upon release, About Us hit the Top 40 on the global Spotify viral chart. And it seems missing her high school graduation to do so put her in good company. Calls from Tkay Maizda, The Kite String Triangle, Dustin Tebbutt and Miami Horror with requests to support their shows began rolling in.
James Bay also called.
“It was definitely a highlight because of the size of the venues and the crowds,” says McCarthy, referring to Bay’s 2016 Australian tour. “It was totally surreal, the stages were massive and post-show, James, his band and I would hang out a lot.” “And what was his hair like up close?” I ask. “I don’t know I didn’t touch it!” McCarthy replies. “He’s always wearing a hat so you can’t really see it. It kind of looks…luscious?”
The year ahead is filled with lots of writing, a decision of whether to release an EP or an album and a lot of travel. “I’m playing a lot of shows at the end of this year and some festivals maybe.” Twenty minutes down and the shyness has almost disappeared. There’s laughter, there’s a spark. “I feel like in a lot of situations I’ve been in, I’m being tested to see if I can do things,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t trust that you can. People underestimate me a lot.”
Trust us, and get onto a good thing.
JOY WEARS:zimmermann, HAVOC DOTING PAILLETTE DRESS, $2200. shop now
Photographer: Richard Freeman @freemanphoto
Styling: Charlotte Stokes @charliestokes
Hair: Kieren Street @kierenstreethair
Makeup: Elsa Morgan @elsamorgan