Interview with Meg Mac
Meg Mac is one of Australia’s most well-known voices. She was first heard on triple j Unearthed and was recently ranked #5 in the best 100 discoveries from triple j Unearthed.
Her debut full-length album Low Blows is finally hitting Australian fans’ ears this July & Amnplify’s Sean Wales was privileged to have a chat with Meg about the album, the recording process and what will be a crazy year for the young Australian singer.
Sean: Hey Meg, how’s it going? How’s your day been?
Meg: Yeah pretty good. I’ve been doing a few interviews and things.
You’ve had a pretty big year, have you been relieved to finally get more music out there?
Definitely! I spent most of last year making the album and I’m really, really happy to finally have music out. I think I’m more excited to start playing shows again and actually play the songs in real life.
How’s the live show coming together?
It’s good, I’ve been rehearsing lots and getting ready for Splendour in July and then I’ve got my tour at the end of the year.
Your sister is in your band. I’m assuming you guys get a long pretty well then?
Yeah! I live with her in Melbourne, she’s my house mate as well as my sister and my backing singer.
Have you guys been playing music together your whole life?
I guess we have always been singing. When I’m at home writing, whenever I can hear a harmony or if I’ve just written something new and I want to hear a harmony on it, I’ll just call her and get her to come down and sing a harmony for me. It’s really good having her around. She actually is singing on the album as well, you can hear her doing some backing vocals.
You’ve sold out the The Forum in Melbourne, how exciting was that for you?
It was pretty exciting because I haven’t done a show in so long and that was the first show I had announced. It made me feel really good to know people still want to come out and see me play. It’s always really nice when you know that it’s going to be a full house and you’re going to have a good show, so it’s something to look forward to now.
Did you expect it to sell out so quickly?
No I wasn’t expecting that! I think it was a week and a bit and it sold out. I was definitely surprised. The show is in September and we announced it now, so I was really surprised. I get to do two nights now so that’s really cool.
You’ve toured America before with D’Angelo, what was that experience like?
Touring with D’Angelo was one of the most inspiring things I’ve probably done. Being part of that tour was really special, I felt really special to be asked to do that.
Are you excited to hopefully go back to America as a different musician?
I just loving doing shows, it’s my favourite thing. The live part of being a musician is what I love the most. Being able to travel and do that is even better, you get to do more shows. So, any opportunity I have to sing I always take it.
I wanted to ask you about Grandma’s Hands, it’s an older cover you’ve done. Did you do that cover because you liked the song or because it resonated with your family and your experiences?
I think the first time I heard that song I just loved it and thought ‘I’m going to sing that song’. And everyone can relate to that song because obviously it’s about [Bill Withers’] grandmother. I started playing it at my shows and it was one of the songs people always told me they really liked.
I ended up recording it and put it on my EP, but I never planned on recording it or release it at all. I just wanted to sing it at my shows because I like singing covers at my shows every now and then. It turned out to be a special song and it’s always one of my favourite parts of the show when I sing it now.
Safe to say it will be part of your live shows this year then?
I’m not sure yet, I haven’t figured it out yet. Splendour in the Grass is my first performance and I’ll be able to play heaps of the album and definitely going to be playing some of the EP stuff as well. I’m not sure exactly which songs I’ll be playing but I’ll probably do Grandma’s Hands because it’s one of my favourites to perform live. So maybe.
How was the process recording this album different to the EP and other singles you have done?
I guess when I did the EP, I only had one song and I put it on Triple J Unearthed, and things started happening from there. I was doing one song at a time because I didn’t know people would actually listen to my songs. I didn’t know they would end up on the radio or anything, so it was really different making the album. I did it in Fort Worth, Texas and went there with all the songs to make the whole album. I went into the process knowing I was making a whole album but when I did the EP I was just like ‘I’m going to do one song and see what happens’. So it’s been really different, but it’s been good.
When you get more money behind you and more people become involved in producing, how do you still balance your own unique sound with the influences of other people?
I’ve been really lucky because I’m an independent artist. I’m signed to an independent label and I’ve been with them from the EP and those songs. I’ve always just worked with a small group of people and we spend a lot of time making sure I find the right people to work with. That’s why I went to Texas. I flew to Dallas and I went in the studio to spend a day with the guys to see if I liked them. So we did one song and we recorded it to tape and I’d never done that before. It was a really great experience and I loved it. Then I came back to Australia and that’s when I decided I’d go back to record [in America]. It’s been good for me because I got to make that decision myself.
How quickly did it come together once you went back over there?
Well I spent most of last year working on it in some way. It was kind of broken up into little bits. I was in Fort Worth, came home to Australia, then went back. I was also in New York at Electric Lady mixing and doing some additional production. Then when I got back home to Melbourne, I recorded two songs here. So, the last thing recorded for the album is a vocal tape on one of the songs which was actually done in my friends bedroom in Fitzroy, up the road from my house. It was spread out over a few different places and over a bit of time, but it’s all finished now.
Was it weird recording in a place like Texas, a place so far away and so different to Fitzroy?
It was very different. When you’re in Fort Worth, Texas, you know you’re very far from Australia. It’s a really different place. And the studio there was really cool. When you walk into the studio it’s kind of like walking into another world. It looks like a 70’s recording studio! It’s got all original microphones, vintage stands, everything in there looks authentic from the time. Tape machines, everything, the atmosphere in there is really old school. That was really different to just being at home.
‘Low Blows’ has gone crazy online. Was that always an obvious single for you?
Well the album is called Low Blows so it was always a song that summed up what the album is about. We thought it was a really good song to start with. I like to think of all the songs on the album as a little low blow in my life that inspired me to write a song so it seemed like the right track to be the first single.
Did you have more music up your sleeve that you had to leave off the album?
I never actually stop writing. I’m always working on new songs all the time; I never stop. There were definitely songs that didn’t make it onto the album. I went into the studio with more songs than I needed and we kind of chose while we were working what would go on the album. I definitely have lots of songs that I’m working on for the future.
Writing music so personal, you must get attached to these songs. How hard is it to not be able to include that on the album?
I guess as a listener if you know the songs are recorded that’s a song to you. But my songs, just because they’re not recorded doesn’t mean they don’t exist to me. I have so many songs I’ve never recorded before. So, I don’t feel like that about it because I can sing the songs at home, I don’t have to have a recording to hear them. I can always record songs later if I need to. There’s always a nice time to record and it’s got to feel right.
So you still find time to play for yourself in between recording and playing shows?
Yeah, I haven’t been touring in a long time. Since making the album I haven’t really done many shows so I’ve had to get my fix at home just singing. Singing at home, playing with my band, stuff like that is the reason I got into music in the first place, because I love singing. So, if I don’t have any shows I’ll find somewhere else to sing. I’ll just do it at home or something.
Well Meg, it’s been a pleasure thanks for talking to us.
Thanks so much, bye.
Meg Mac’s album Low Blows will be out on July 14. Catch her at Splendour in July and then in Melbourne and Sydney in September. For more information, please visit www.megmac.com.au.
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- Sean Wales