«Me too,» Aarons deadpans over the phone, during a commute from a medical appointment in San Diego back to her Los Angeles home.
A natural introvert who once wrote off the possibility of a career in music, put off by «nerve-wracking» performances at end-of-year concerts and assemblies at singing school, her perspective shifted after learning about Australia’s other fame-averse hitmaker, Sia.
«I didn’t like performing or being in the forefront – of anything! I wanted to be in the background,» says Aarons. «So that was a sort of crossroads moment, when I found out Sia had written Diamonds for Rihanna.
«I didn’t even know that was a job,» she says. «I just went for it, zero to 100… googling all these local songwriters; I would email a hundred people a week.»
She crashed on friends’ couches in Sydney, supporting herself with part-time babysitting while diving into the songwriting thing. But, even after signing to Sony ATV gigs in Australia remain limited for songwriters who don’t sing.
«The only option was doing X Factor winners’ singles, which was so not my vibe,» says Aarons. «I would try so hard, but they’d never pick my songs.»
Outside the job, she kept writing songs in her bedroom. One of those became LDRU’s Keeping Score, which earned heavy airplay on Triple J and hit #14 on the ARIA charts in 2015. Eight months later, she headed to the States.
«That gave me a confidence boost, and people in the industry knew who I was and they respected it. But I had a moment, like, Australia’s so small – if I wanted to have a go at the bigtime, I just had to try.
«I knew I only had one chance in America ’cause the visas are so tight. I was like, I need to make enough of a mark that they need me back. On my second trip to LA, I wrote Stay (Zedd and Alessia Cara’s multi-platinum hit).»
Monday’s Grammys come amid personal trauma for Aarons. Since 6, she’s suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that causes pain and swelling of the joints. In November, just weeks before the Grammy nominations were announced, she found out she’d have her leg amputated.
«I nearly lost my mind,» she says of receiving the doctor’s advice. «They literally told me and were like, ‘So we do surgery on Tuesday or Thursday…’ I was like, are you f—ing kidding me? No one is prepared for that.
«But the few months before it were harder than after it,» she adds. «Everyone is quite freaked out I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m like, no, I was so sick last year. I was so unhappy. It was the worst year of my life, probably, which is funny because I also got a Grammy nomination. But I’m out of pain now for the first time in 18 years. I feel like I’m f—ing invincible now.»
Aarons says she’s been reticent to discuss her condition, lest her story be treated as inspiration porn, and angles around her disability dominate discussions of her craft.
«It’s gotten to a point where it’s such a big part of me and what I’ve done,» she says. «Like, at the end of the day, the turning point in my life was I was in hospital and a doctor was like, ‘Hey, you might want to apply for the disability pension because you’re not going to be able to work a normal job.’
«I was like, songwriting! It’s perfect. I’ve had multiple surgeries in the time I’ve been in the industry and I’ve still gone to sessions… I’m doing the rehab now and working at the same time, and I feel amazing. I’ve never written not sick, and this is the first time. I feel like I haven’t even started yet.»
I ask her what her hopes are for Monday’s ceremony, battling as she is against fellow nominees Drake, Lady Gaga, Donald Glover and Kendrick Lamar.
«I hope I can walk, that is it,» she says. «And I’ll probably to try to meet Beyonce, if I’m honest. I’m such a basic bitch and I love it.»
Robert Moran is an entertainment reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age