'Our Vision Is Bigger Than Western Sydney': A.GIRL Wants To Go Worldwide

“I've been pretty vocal about what my message is: bringing the west together, bringing my people together."

Western Sydney’s A.GIRL is an artist with two sides: “Angel” for her friends and family, “A.GIRL” for the rest of the world.

Born Hinenui-terangi Tairua, A.GIRL has a warm, amicable presence – somewhat detached from the hard-hitting bars in her music. It’s a juxtaposition split soundly between two personas. To tell the difference you just need to look at her wigs.

“It’s like wearing hats,” she says with a slight smile. 

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“Whenever I’m rocking green or purple, that’s Angel. Pink is definitely A.GIRL.”

“I can really be caught up being A.GIRL and I can bring her home. And I talk to my family like A.GIRL…they don’t deserve that. They deserve Angel or Hinenui-terangi. So I try and differentiate the two as much as I can.”

When A.GIRL slips on her pink wig, usually at gigs and during photoshoots, the artist's ego comes out. She’s a bit more outgoing, a bit more accessible, a bit more heart on sleeve. She’s loud, open and bubbly. When she’s Angel, her shyness is obvious. She becomes more introverted. It’s also when “more of the west” comes out.

Photo by Kumehanik

“When I'm A.GIRL, I try to lose that mentality. The goal is to be worldwide,” she says.

Tucked away in a songwriting camp somewhere in NSW, A.GIRL appears on-screen in a green, shoulder-length wig tucked under a forest green beanie. Long, pink fluro nails appear in and out of shot every so often. It seems, today, we have Angel.

Her reason for being out of the city is simple: she’s making new music.

Though A.GIRL’s first track, “2142”, was released in 2019, the artist is no novice to the Australian music scene. At 14, she found beginnings on the reality talent show, X-Factor, and before that could be spotted singing classical repertoires in the blue robe and yellow collars of the Australian Youth Choir (remember that Qantas ad with the kids?). Realising she wanted to sing music that was “cooler” she also found solace in her family’s reggae band.

“I remember we did our first proper gig,” she says, “and I just looked around at the lights, the stage, and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”

X-Factor might have provided an early platform – one that saw her confidence grow exponentially – but Angel says there are better ways to get attention now.

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“Literally set your laptop up, record yourself, put it on YouTube,” she says. “The TV Show thing was just a fad, like, everybody was doing it. And it was a proper way to get yourself out there. But there's so many more opportunities now with the internet being so accessible.”

Photo by Billy Zammit

While the lights of stardom shone down on Angel from an early age, between the ages of 16 and 18, the young artist took a break from music. It wasn't a break that she wanted, but one she had to take.

She pauses, taking a deep breath before recounting those years, “It was a break that was forced upon me because life just threw itself at me.”

In her late teens, balancing music with the curve balls of love, loss, growing up, and rebelling, proved difficult. 

“I got really scared at one point,” she says. “I was like ‘fuck, I hope I can come back to music’. That’s the only thing that keeps me going.”

In 2019, Angel returned to the industry– but this time with a new name: A.GIRL. Initially put off by the superhero-adjacent sound of it, the new moniker grew on her, a mix between A for Angel and Girl, which translates to Heni in her family's language.

“I love how powerful the name feels,” she says. “But becoming A.GIRL, I really had to mould her, I had to make her from nothing. And it’s still being shaped and made. I feel like the foundation is all there.”

When the conversation turns back to her current stint at songwriting camp she describes the experience as similar to a therapy session. Holed up with two of her producers, the comfort has created an environment necessary to express the inner sanctums of her mind. 

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“When you get on the mic, you can’t lie, ‘cause it’ll come across and it’ll sound a bit shit to be honest.”

“So to be able to do that, the producer has to be able to tap into that with you…So they became my therapists,” she laughs.

“We talk about everything: About love issues, about personal mental health issues. But I find them to be the best sessions: where we talk about shit first and then go into a song and it just magically happens.”

From expressing her connection to Polynesian Maori culture while spreading love to the community, to being open and honest about mental health, to being a woman in music in general, the essence of A.GIRL’s work centres, importantly, togetherness.

A couple of years ago, during a bullish and hard hitting performance of “Vision” on Red Bull 64 Bars, she rapped:

I’m good with everyone / don’t pick a team / stand in the middle / I float in-between.

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“I've been pretty vocal about what my message is: bringing the west together, bringing my people together,” she says.

She’s referring to the music divide between Sydney’s west, an area that in the last few years has been pumping out Australia’s best artists in hip-hop and its sub-genres. She cites ONEFOUR dominating the drill scene, and Youngn Lipz, a head of R&B, as circles that make up the area. 

“I think there’s some things we can’t understand about their lifestyle, or what’s going on behind closed doors. Or what happened before music took off, so we can’t disregard that. I think it’s easy for people outside of the west to be like ‘Just get over it’, but you’ve got to dive a bit deeper into their personal lives to understand why it is the way it is,” she says.

“But I don’t know, even though I’m from the West and I have an understanding of our mentality and how we live, I’m still like ‘Okay, I get it, but fuck let’s move forward’.”

These days, the scene is not so much as divided as it is cliquey, yet A.GIRL maintains that if artists from the west came together they could take on the world.

“Our vision is bigger than western Sydney, for sure.”

For now, her future roster includes performing at Split Milk, playing aside artists like Stormzy, Genesis Owusu, and Toro Y Moi, and as the next few years roll by there’s just one thing on her mind.

To go worldwide.

Follow Julie Fenwick on Twitter and Instagram.

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Tagged:

Australia, A.GIRL, Western Sydney, r&b

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