Who is FINLAY?
Growing up in a large, multi-ethnic southern city like Houston, Texas, Paige Finlay (pronounced /fin-LEE/) was drawn to music performance at a very early age. She started playing the piano when she was only six years old and began singing and writing songs as a teenager, her parents often celebrating and supporting her musical exploration in the mainstream pop and electronic genres. In 2009, she uprooted to California for undergrad, jumping into the heart of entertainment by studying film & media production in Los Angeles.
In the summer of 2012, Paige’s whole world abruptly changed in a single moment, when she was viciously attacked by a bull shark on a surf trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Threatening her future career and passion to become a top industry performer, Paige struggled desperately to release her fate and future as the doctors reported that she had less than a 50% chance of keeping her left leg (where the attack occurred) or making it through her recovery alive. After many days of heartfelt prayer and extreme treatment, Paige survived the attack and has since dedicated her youth to continue making her musical dreams a reality, incorporating her love for the ocean in her unique artist style, serving as a piercing voice of joy in the pop world.
In late 2016, Paige, known as FINLAY, released her debut single “Always There,” followed by a sophomore single release, “TIDES” on March 3, 2017. NPR Music recently featured FINLAY in their annual 100 Artists to Discover at SXSW, calling the single “fizzily insistent pop… worthy of Carly Rae Jepsen.” Paige will be headed to Hawaii later this month to film the official music video for “TIDES” which will be released later this summer. Paige says, “The creative concept of the video will communicate a clear and uplifting message about what it means to break through personal fear with a deep confidence & feminine strength, both in and out of the water, and highlights the story of how I regained the courage to ‘get back in the water’ (both literally and metaphorically) after overcoming a shark attack injury.”
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
While you’re originally from Houston, you made the move to LA in 2009 for school. Did you learn any important life lessons out in California? What made you decide to move to Austin?
I have always had a special passion and heart for entertainment, so moving out to Los Angeles was the most natural thing to do when it came time to make the next big step toward furthering my education. I attended film school in Southern California for nearly four years, graduating with a degree in Entertainment Production before making the move to Los Angeles-Proper in 2015. Living in the city for nearly six years really gave me so much, namely a deep and intimate understanding of the music industry; the history, the culture, the artists, the producers…all of it captivates me. As my career in music began to blossom upon the release of my debut single, I chose to move to Austin to create a quiet bit vibrantly wild home-base that would provide tons of opportunity musically while still allowing me to rest with my family between tour & travel dates.
In 2012, you were attacked by a shark in the Gulf of Mexico while on a surf trip, with doctors telling you that you might not be able to keep your leg. What was the recovery and healing process like? What helped you get through the traumatic experience?
Truthfully, the recovery process was both terrifying and life-changing. On the eve of receiving the news after the attack, I began imagining myself without my left leg (or perhaps with a prosthetic), attempting to dance and entertain an audience on-stage. The idea of it was purely shocking. Would music, touring and the rest of my life ever be the same again?
Though the outcome looked dire, in that moment I promised myself that if I were given a second chance to keep my left leg, I would choose to pursue the one thing I felt gave my life a purpose far greater than simply holding my lips to a microphone. In the hospital, I began imagining how my music career could begin to impact the poor and those in need. When I caught this glimpse of the potential to make a profound and special impact on the music industry, I began to feel complete peace about my leg, regardless of the outcome. The next thing I knew, doctors left and right found themselves surprised and dumbfounded by how quickly my body began to heal. Just seven days later, I was released from the hospital without any need for physical therapy whatsoever. My survival humbles and influences my music to this day, and this second chance is something I’ll never forget.
Even after everything you’ve been through, you still have a love for the ocean and incorporate it in your music and artistic style. What does the ocean mean to you?
I absolutely do. I’ve really been in love with the ocean my whole life; the sounds and the imagery. It’s just something that consistently inspires and fuels my artistic sound. A second promise I made myself during recovery was that I would never lose sight of the ocean’s beauty or grow resentful at shark & ocean life even though I still experience flashbacks of the attack. Rather than allowing hate to grow, I made an active choice to continue admiring the ocean for all that it gives; not just for what it can take away. To this day, sea life unlocks bounds of creativity in me that continues to inspire & impact me as an artist and musician (not to mention I’m a die-hard World Surf League fan, so you can often find me at home live-streaming The Women’s Championship Tour on my laptop with a smoothie).
If you could spend 24 hours as a mermaid, what would your day look like?
That is a hilarious question — I heard a joke the other day about millennials and mermaids…I know there’s some correlation there. Seems to be a popular career wish these days. 😉 But given the opportunity, I’d likely spend it exploring the famous Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, the Maldives or the French Polynesian Atolls in the South Pacific. It’s one of my favorite marine locations on the planet and I can’t wait to visit someday.
Where does your inspiration come from for your music? Who are your musical influences?
When I began writing more intentionally for my first record in 2015, I drew heavily from the lyrical and musical mastery of Lorde and Sylvan Esso’s debut albums. Sonically, my most vibrant influences include Louis the Child, Purity Ring, BROODS, and ODESZA. My vision is to create a sound that seamlessly synergizes my artist brand with the popularity of mainstream pop music with unique and electric elements derived from albums that carry an airy topline female vocal over synth lines and back beats heavily-influenced by early hip-hop and 808 features. As a writer, I’ve been heavily influenced by the unhindered freedom that comes from Jack Johnson and Donovan Frankenreiter’s discography (which is where the ocean influence enters the mix).
Where is your favorite place in Austin to go and reconnect with nature?
There is a quaint, vibrantly green watering hole located just a few minutes from my home in Austin that I love frequenting. It boasts a small trail, rushing waterfall and a killer rope swing that serves as a perfect writing spot or nature getaway from the busyness of the city any time of year.
Later this summer you’ll be releasing the official music video for your single “TIDES”. What has the filming process been like? What’s been the best part of the experience? Any unexpected challenges?
Shooting the TIDES music video has been an absolute dream come true! Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of spending months of time in the Hawaiian Islands, so coordinating a dream team of locals & creative professionals to create what will hopefully become one of the most visually stunning videos from an independent artist this year is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve experienced in my career thus far. One of my favorite parts of this experience has been rolling back the footage and gawking over the beauty of Hawaii’s coastline and natural elements. We’ve had a few challenges working around the weather, so flexibility definitely comes with the territory. From self-producing the underground project and co-directing my team to physically preparing for surf scenes and learning choreography with my dancers, I couldn’t be more proud to create and share my unique, personal survival story through the lens of my debut music video as FINLAY.
What has been the biggest milestone in your music career so far?
TIDES recently broke 100,000 plays on Spotify! Each milestone is truly such a humbling and electric feeling, and I’m looking forward to hopefully many more special moments in the future.
Favorite spots to hear live music in Austin?
Empire Control Room (for all my favorite touring electronic acts) and Mohawk’s outdoor space (such stellar vibes of all that Austin has to offer!)
Are there any artists you’d love to do a future collaboration with?
As a vocalist, I’m currently dreaming of vocalist/producer collaborations, namely ODESZA, Cashmere Cat, Louis the Child and Calvin Harris.
How did you get involved with the Austin Music Foundation?
When I arrived in Austin from Los Angeles in October, getting connected to the local music community became one of my first priorities as an up-and-coming artist in the city. After a little research and help from my local friends & contacts at TuneCore, I was introduced to AMF and jumped into the office for an artist consultation. Loved meeting with the AMF Team & learning about this truly unique Austin artist community.
What does it mean to be named AMF Artist of the Month?
As AMF’s Artist of the Month, I feel so honored to be known in the city and to share my music with the Austin music community. Being named Artist of the Month has created opportunities for me to share my music, story, and passion with Austinites everywhere, especially as my career continues to expand to a national level. Staying true & connected to your hometown and local community is something I hold close to my heart, so being celebrated in Austin culture is incredible, especially as a recent transplant from Los Angeles.
What advice can you give to anyone who might be letting fear hold them back from achieving their goals?
Breaking through fear has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do and, undoubtedly, one of the most rewarding. Choosing to “get back in the water,” both metaphorically and literally, after my attack gave me the strength, inspiration, and audacity to keep my music career pumping. Every day I begin to second guess myself or doubt my progress in the industry, I imagine what it would’ve been like to give up and keep myself on-shore. Dipping my toes back in and diving head first into my fears was the best decision I ever could have made.
What’s next for you??
Be sure to catch my upcoming releases later this summer, including a new remix of TIDES by DJ Swivel, the TIDES Official Music Video and a brand new single this fall!