THE commercial success of Two Degrees and its hit singles Papercuts and Catch 22 turned Illy’s world upside down.
It gave the hip-hop artist a No.2 single, No.1 album, two ARIA Award nominations and rapidly expanded his profile among mainstream music fans, making him undeniably Australia’s biggest urban star.
What Illy (real name Alasdair Murray) says hasn’t been affected by his increased success is the man himself.
He remains the same lad from the south-east Melbourne suburb of Frankston whose love of music and rapping led him to release a mixed tape with his group the Crooked Eye Crew at 13.
“Not really, the shows are just bigger,” Illy says when asked if Two Degrees’ success has changed his life.
“I’ve been around a while beforehand and I don’t really do industry glossy things. I’ve gone to the same bars and played the same venues I did before really. I try not to get caught up in all that shit to be honest.”
Whether you like it or not commercial success does attract vultures.
In this social media age of fragmented audiences, record companies are more desperate than ever to latch onto an artist with actual money-making ability and the cult of celebrity is firmly-entrenched in our global society.
“There’s a little bit of it, but it didn’t happen overnight, so I’ve got my head on straight and my feet are firmly on the ground so I don’t get caught up in it,” he says.
“I have the friends I’ve made in music and the friends I had before music well before this started happening, so I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening.”
It didn’t happen overnight, so I’ve got my head on straight and my feet are firmly on the ground so I don’t get caught up in it.Illy
A more pressing matter for Illy is how to follow the success of Two Degrees.
He has begun the initial stages of the creative process and will travel to Bali next week to continue writing.
“I’ve got some early demos, I haven’t got anything finished yet,” Illy says. “There’s a few ideas kicking around and over the next month or so I’m spending a bit of time working in the studio.
“It’s pretty varied at the moment and all over the place. I think because it’s so early you’re just trying to get stuff done in whichever way and once there’s more work there the direction takes care of itself.”
Illy remains highly ambitious, despite his recent success. His latest single Oh My features the vocals of Jenna McDougall, from Sydney power pop punk band Tonight Alive.
Tonight Alive have toured the US consistently on the back of their single The Edge from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack. Cutting his own slice of that American market is a major long-term goal for Illy.
“I’ve never played the States,” he says. “I’ve toured Canada a few times and Europe a couple of times. The States is the next place to go to overseas, but I’d like to go there with more music down.
“There’s definitely more people aware of my music after Papercuts came out and then Catch 22 as well. There’s definitely opportunities to go there, but I’m waiting for the right time.
“You’re always going to be starting from square one with overseas stuff.
“It really comes down to picking and choosing the right time because you can definitely really slog it out if you’re not smart about it.”